Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Next Two-and-a-half Years

How to spend the next two-and-a-half years

* Sell your cowboy boots.
* Be prepared for more Presidential interviews on "Larry King Live."
* Invest heavily in oil companies.
* Buy sun screen in bulk.
* Consider reopening your 1950s basement bomb shelter.
* Don’t despair; there are still three more month-long August vacations.
* Be careful of the "spread" of democracy in the Middle East.
* Get those "Ralph Nader for President" buttons out of storage again.
* Deny voting Republican in 2000 and 2004.
* Practise saying "liberal" without sneering.
* Reminisce about the good old days in The White House with Bill and Monica.
* Try to locate Terror on a world map.
* Convince yourself that Hillary’s really not that bad and, hey, you’d get Bill as part of the package and, let’s face it, Bill’s nothing if not fun.
* Promise yourself not to vote for any more southern governors.
* Ask your accountant to explain why all those tax cuts left you with less money.
* Pray that Cheney doesn’t get a hate on for another Middle Eastern country.
* Check out your cousin’s condo in Vancouver, just in case.
* Keep your embryonic stem cells in cold storage for now.
* Begin slowly converting your IRA to euros.
* Take Bush at his word that he’ll leave problems like Iraq to future Presidents.
* Double check wording of the 22nd Amendment to make sure it really does prevent a third term.
* Write apology letters to Al Gore, John Kerry and the nation of France.
* Don’t vote for anyone named Bush no matter how regular he seems.
* Swear you won’t get fooled a third time.
* Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ten-digit Dialing

Ten-digit dialing is here. As someone pushing sixty, I have to admit that it’s difficult at times to keep all the numbers straight. But I’m adapting and I’m sure I’ll eventually catch on.

I’m even getting used to the phone company’s recorded message that plays when you forget to include the area code. You know, the one that goes something like this:

"The local number you have dialed must be preceded by its area code. Your call will now proceed."

But I think Bell Canada may have gone a bit too far when it added the following supplementary recorded messages:

"The local number you have dialed must be preceded by its area code. That’s A-R-E-A C-O-D-E. If you don’t know what it is, ask someone or please get off the line."

"This is a local call. Do not dial "1" or "0" before the number you are dialing. If we wanted you to do eleven-digit dialing, we would have asked."

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Nice try but you still have to dial the area code."

"631? 631? Are you dyslexic or just pulling my chain? This is Ottawa. Everybody knows the area code is 613."

"You’re trying to call someone in Hull, right? Here’s a little hint. Their area code is 819 not 613. Think you can remember that? And by the way, in case you didn’t know, it’s now Gatineau, not Hull."

"You just have to add the same three numbers to each call. How hard is that? You’re probably the type of person who can’t balance his chequebook or gets someone else to do his income taxes. Maybe it’s time you coughed up the extra bucks for a phone with speed dial assuming you can get someone to program it for you."

"Look, we’ve warned you at least a dozen times. You have to use the area code now. Next time we’re going to route your call to Bangladesh and put a long distance charge on your monthly bill. Yeah, we can do that. We’re the phone company."

"If you forgot to press the area code, hang up and try again. We’ve even trained monkeys to do it so we’re sure you’ll eventually catch on. If not, you can always try e-mail. Oh yeah, you’d have to be computer literate to do that."

"Ha-ha. Very funny. 123-456-7890. You think you’re the first joker to try that one? How funny do you think it’ll be when your service is disconnected?"

"We have to admit; that’s pretty amusing. You’re remembering to include the area code but once you get to the last three digits, you’re completely lost. Have you tried writing the number on your hand or maybe getting a nine-year old to do it for you? Come on; it’s not rocket science."

"I believe you dialed 911. Even if this is an emergency, that’s no excuse for not taking the time to include the area code. 613-911. Even an idiot can remember that. Just kidding; we’ll put your call through now. But it better be a real emergency. If you’re just calling to ask for the area code, remember, we know where you live."

Monday, July 24, 2006

America's Business

George W. Bush is America’s first MBA president. Thus, it’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t considered these business-based solutions to the nation’s current problems:

Privatize the Iraq War
The U. S. has already taken some steps to privatize its position in Iraq. Private firms provide security for the private contractors rebuilding the war-torn country. The bottom line dictates that Mr. Bush take the next logical step and outsource his nation’s military commitment. What better way to bring the troops home than to replace them with mercenaries hired from the likes of Bechtel and Haliburton? As they stand up, we’ll stand down.

Subcontract extraterritorial prisons
The President is taking a lot of unnecessary heat for his extraterritorial prisons, especially the one at Guantanamo Bay. That’s a costly option given the distances involved and America’s inexperience in the field. The rational option would be to subcontract the job to a professional like Fidel Castro. He has more than forty years of experience in torture and the extrajudicial suspension of civil liberties. Plus, most of America’s "non-combatant" prisoners are already in Cuba. Who knows? If the price is right, Castro may even be willing to take on America’s secret prisons elsewhere in the world.

Outsource nuclear testing
North Korea has nuclear weapons and Iran is very close. Instead of fretting about the situation, just remember: when life hands you gators, make Gatorade. Make the two remaining evil axes an offer they can’t refuse. The U. S. military can conduct their nuclear testing for them for half the cost. With America’s leading-edge technology, it’ll be a money maker and we can finally keep a close eye on what those two crazy countries are up to.

Sell New Orleans to Disney
Rather than sinking more money into a municipal black hole, sell New Orleans to the Disney Company. They’ll clean up the downtown area in no time and turn it into the first-class amusement center it was always meant to be. Forget spending billions on the levees; once the rest of the city is under water again, the Disney folks will create the biggest water park in the world.

Sell off low-performing assets
The balance of payments deficit with foreign trading partners is bad and it’s getting worse. Japan, China and India own dangerously high levels of American currency. The easiest way to balance the books is to liquidate underperforming assets. From Maine to Mississippi, there are a number of states that aren’t carrying their weight and could be sold off to retire America’s debt. After all, do we really need two Dakotas?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

New Canadian Mottoes

There’s a move afoot to change Canada's national motto. Nothing major, mind you. In order to recognize our national Arctic Ocean border, some politicians would like to see one more "sea" added to "a mare usque ad mare" to make it "from sea to sea to sea."

But if we’re going to go to the trouble of changing our motto, why don’t we make it worth our while? Forget the new triple-sea slogan. Instead, let’s come up with something new, something more reflective of our national identity. Like one of these candidates:

* We’re NOT Americans!

* One Nation Underdog

* Canada: The Committee-Created Country

* Corn Flakes / Flocons de Mais

* 40 Billion Acres and a Mule

* We Asymmetrical Federalism

* The 19th Century Belongs to Us

* We’re Number Two!

* We Actually Like Curling

* Peace, Order and Lots and Lots of Government

* Two Loonies Make a Twonie

* Canada: The Dysfunctional Mosaic

* Mounties, Maples and Medicare

* Skates, Skis and Ski-Doos

* Ten Provinces and a Lot of Empty Space

* It’s Not So Bad, Eh?

* Two Months of Tough Sledding

* Deux ou Trois Nations

* The Defederated Federation

* Alberta Plus

And while we’re at it, why not re-write our provincial mottoes, too? As in:

Newfoundland and Labrador: Cod Help Us

Nova Scotia: Canada’s Pogey Playground

New Brunswick: Just Passing Through

Prince Edward Island: Spuds ‘N Suds

Qu├ębec: First Among Equals

Ontario: We Know Best

Manitoba: Wheat, Water & Winnipeg

Saskatchewan: Even Tommy Douglas Left

Alberta: Just Try and Stop Us

British Columbia: Everyone Ends Up Here Eventually

Monday, July 17, 2006

Greatest Political Quotes

As part of its ongoing promotion of the movie industry, last summer The American Film Institute released its list of the hundred best movie quotes. Not to be outdone, The American Political Institute came up with its own record of the hundred best American political quotes from the last 75 years.

Not surprisingly, number one on the list was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous wartime admonition: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Also high on the list at number three was John F. Kennedy’s exhortation: "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

American political observers will recognize many other famous quotes from The American Political Institute’s list like number thirteen, Richard Nixon’s "I am not a crook" and Harry Truman’s "The buck stops here" which came in at number twenty.

But there are a number of entries on the list that may not immediately ring a bell for most Americans:

No. 6
"Iran, Iraq — it doesn’t matter to me, Dick. So long as we bomb somebody." George W. Bush - November, 2001

No. 17
"That steno pool’s some bay of bigs, hey Bobby?" John Kennedy - March, 1961

No. 27
"Listen Eleanor, it depends what the definition of ‘is’ is." Franklin Roosevelt - September, 1935

No. 33
"Cambodia, Vietnam — it doesn’t matter to me, Henry. So long as we bomb somebody." - Richard Nixon - October, 1969

No. 47
"There I go again." Ronald Reagan - May, 1986

No. 69
"Six thousand and six thousand, carry the one — Hey! What happened? We lost Florida." Al Gore - December, 2000

No. 72
"I should have picked that damn dog Checkers as my running mate." Dwight Eisenhower - September, 1952

No. 88
"Sixty billion and sixty billion, carry the one — Hey! What happened? We’re a trillion dollars in debt." George W. Bush - June, 2001

No. 92
"Listen Rose Mary, I’m not asking you to lie. Just hold your finger on the delete button for fifteen minutes or so." Richard Nixon - November, 1973

No. 99
"zzzzzzzzzzz" Gerald Ford - 1974-77

No. 100
"Don’t wait up for me, Hillary. Something’s come up here again in the Oval Office." Bill Clinton - March, 1996

Friday, July 14, 2006

Football On Ice

Now that the World Cup of Soccer is over, there remain but a few unanswered "football"-related questions. Like, why do they call soccer "football" everywhere except in Canada and the United States? Who would have been the more insufferable winners, the Italians or the French? And why did Zinedine Zidane head-butt that Italian guy in the chest?

As for the first question, if you’ve never been exposed to real football, it’s understandable that you’d call a game where you kick a ball with your foot "football." As for the second question, the French probably would have been more insufferable but we’ll likely never know given their penchant for losing.

As for the final question, why are we even asking it? For non-soccer fans, Mr. Zidane’s head-butt was the most exciting part of the game. Personally, I had settled in for a nap about thirty minutes into last Sunday’s match only to wake up half way through the overtime.

That unexpected head-butt finally got me into the game. As a died-in-the-wool North American sports fan, here was something I could understand. Two guys loping down the field yapping at one another until finally one guy snaps and takes a shot at his opponent.

Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a head-butt. I’m more used to a crack block, a cross check or a charge. But a head butt, although unusual, was still something I could relate to.

So imagine my surprise when the soccer world (pardon me, the football world) universally heaped scorn and pity on the French midfielder (whatever the heck that is). What to me was a reason to celebrate was apparently to most a reason to mourn.

It seems that Zinedine Zidane is a feted veteran noted for his stellar and sportsmanlike play. Apparently this physical foul in his last professional game was most uncharacteristic. All I can say is "more’s the pity."

If that’s what it takes to rouse me from my nap and make soccer interesting, then let’s have more of it. No wonder we North American sports fans consider soccer one big yawnfest. With scoring in the range of 1-0, 2-1 or even 0-0, is it any wonder we get excited by an actual shot to the chest?

Let’s face it; if Mr. Zidane were a star hockey or football player, he’d be praised for his unusual form of retaliation. Drive a player into the football field or crush a skater into the boards and you’re celebrated big time. No one here would be musing over the tragic end to an otherwise glorious career. They’d be universally shouting "Way to go, Zinedine!" or "Attaboy, big Z!"

I won’t bore you with my sensible suggestions to liven up the game of soccer. Needless to say, it doesn’t look like FIFA is going to adopt three downs, goal posts or a penalty box any time soon. But until they do, don’t expect me or any of my North American buddies to sign on to a game that makes an Al Gore speech seem exciting by comparison.

In the meantime, I’d like to extend an invitation to Zinedine Zidane to cross over to the world of North American sports. He may be a little long in the tooth, but a man of his obvious athletic ability could surely adapt to football, basketball or even hockey.

Hey, Big Z, put on some shoulder pads, a helmet or even some skates and play a real man’s sport. We like big scores and we like big hits. And if you want to butt a guy in the chest, go ahead. The worst you’ll get is two-minutes or fifteen yards for roughing. Plus you’ll get all the endorsement deals you can sign. That’s the North American way.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Welcome to Washington

Dear Mr. Harper:

Thank you for your recent e-mail enquiry about Washington. We here at the District of Columbia Visitors and Convention Bureau are happy to assist you with your upcoming travel plans.

In answer to your first question, the address of The White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is centrally located and is easily reached by taxi or Metro.

Like you, many of our visitors express a desire to meet with the President. A few, such as yourself, even indicate that they have a lunch date with Mr. Bush.

We’re sure that you can appreciate that the President is a very busy man. Although he would like to personally meet and greet every visitor to The White House, time constraints and the duties of the office make that impossible.

Enclosed is a brochure listing the scheduled times for tours of The White House. Please ensure that you arrive at least thirty minutes early in order to comply with current security measures.

Although you will not be able to lunch with the President, please note that there is an onsite cafeteria for your convenience. And who knows? You may be one of the lucky few who actually get to meet Mr. Bush as he has been known to occasionally drop by to say hello to visiting tourists.

It appears from your itinerary that you only intend to spend part of one day in our great city. That is your prerogative but we strongly recommend that you extend your visit in order to take advantage of the many great attractions in the D. C. area. Plus, a longer visit will likely avoid the necessity of phone taps and FBI surveillance.

We notice that you are arriving from Ottawa. Is that the Ottawa in Kansas or the one in Illinois? On the off chance it’s the one in Canada, don’t forget to bring your passport. It’s not an absolute requirement yet but it will definitely decrease the chances of an unexpected delay or full body cavity search at the airport.

As for suggestions for a present for Mr. Bush, a birthday gift is not required. The President is just honored that a fellow citizen would take the time to visit his home in Washington. In fact, the Secret Service prefers that you not bring a gift as that, too, can result in delays and more full body cavity searches.

From the questions in your e-mail, it appears that you have a strong, if not singular, interest in the presidency. Of course, The White House will be your preferred main attraction. But have you considered the many other Washington-area presidential sites? From the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, the D. C. area is chockablock with things presidential. We strongly recommend adding one or more of these stops to your itinerary if for no other reason than to avoid being labelled an obsessive and receiving special treatment from the FBI.

We will be pleased to pass on your best wishes to Mr. Bush. The President always appreciates support for his position on Iraq. On the other hand, for security reasons, you may want to keep it to yourself that you recently visited Afghanistan.

Frankly, we are somewhat mystified by your comments about beef, cod and softwood lumber. Again, in order to avoid unwanted attention from the FBI, we suggest you not share these concerns with others.

Enjoy your trip to the nation’s capital. The City of Washington is proud to be the repository of many of America’s monuments to freedom and liberty. To minimize your surveillance and maximize your personal freedom and liberty, we hope that you will take an extra day or two to visit our great city.

Sincerely,

The D. C. Visitors and Convention Bureau