Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Kennedys Heard From

Caroline Kennedy pens an op-ed endorsement of Barack Obama in The New York Times and Uncle Ted signs on, too. But then Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend jointly write an opinion piece for The L. A. Times in support of Hillary Clinton.
Apparently this is not the end of this year’s battle for a Kennedy blessing. Look for these upcoming endorsements:

Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Sister of the famous Kennedy brothers and wife of 1972 Vice Presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, Eunice Kennedy has come out four-square for no one. "They’re all such fine candidates," said Ms. Shriver. "I think it would be a shame to give my support to just one." When asked if her communal support also applied to Dennis Kucinich, the Kennedy sibling quickly retorted: "Of course not! Do you think I’m crazy?"

Jean Ann Kennedy Smith
Perhaps the least known of the third generation of Kennedy siblings, Ms. Smith has a favorite in this year’s nomination races but she’s not saying who it is. "What’s the point," said the former U. S. ambassador to Ireland. "Who the hell cares what I think about national politics?" Ms. Smith may be selling herself short since her unstated preference for Mike Huckabee, if known, might well capture some interest.

Ethel Kennedy
Wife of the late Robert F. Kennedy, Ethel wants nothing to do with this year’s nominees. "Frankly," said the mother of eleven. "If I never see another Kennedy again it will be too soon." However, when pressed, she did express some grudging admiration for Hillary Clinton. "Anyone who can put up with a serial philanderer like Bill," said Ms. Kennedy. "Deserves at least some recognition."

William Kennedy Smith
Second son of Jean Ann Kennedy Smith, William was annoyed and angered by media attempts to discern his political preference. "Ever since my acquittal on rape charges in 1991," said Smith. "I’ve been trying to avoid you guys like the plague. If I give you a name, will you leave me alone?" In a desperate attempt to get rid of enquiring reporters, Smith finally expressed a preference for Hillary Clinton. "I’ve always had an eye for the ladies," said the physician.

Beauregard Kennedy
A distant cousin to the Boston-based Kennedy clan, Beauregard Kennedy is a longtime resident of Irish Corners, Kentucky where he has carried on for years in the family distilling business. "I always prided myself in being in the same industry as old Joe Kennedy," said Beauregard. "By making an honest living in the beverage business." As for his Presidential preferences, Mr. Kennedy simply said: "Like old Joe, I’ll vote for the man or woman who gets rid of these antiquated laws against alcohol manufacture and distribution."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

DJIA Travel Review

The following traveller review recently appeared on the TripAdvisor website:

SS DJIA Cruise - January 1-22, 2008
- January 24, 2008
(one out of five stars)

A. Market Investor
New York City

What a disappointment! My wife and I just got back after taking the cruise from hell. From reading the previous reviews on this site, I was sure that this three-week cruise on the SS DJIA would be my best vacation in years.

Since there were very few negative reviews, I was surprised that our holiday turned out to be such a disaster. After all, the glossy brochure we received in the mail promised all kinds of happy returns and special dividends. Needless to say, once on board, we didn’t see any of these advertised perks. In fact, there were almost no on-ship amenities at all including a woeful lack of life boats and preservers.

To be fair, there were a few positives. For example, when my wife and I boarded the DJIA on January 1st, everything appeared calm. Everyone on board was happy and relaxed and it seemed like we were in store for a pleasant trip. But by the middle of the second week, it was clear that things had gone awry.

Before listing the negatives, I think I should point out that my wife and I are not first time vacationers. In fact, we have been on a number of cruises over the years, both good and bad. For example, we enjoyed a wonderful ride on the SS NASDAQ in late 1999 and a not-so-pleasant voyage in the summer of 2001 on the M/S Standard & Poors 500.

But our trip this month on the DJIA was like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. No one told us but apparently the ship’s stabilizers weren’t working properly. Consequently, we were up and down like a yo-yo from one day to the next. I’ve never been seasick before but after experiencing these fluctuations, I was in agony. My wife was sick, too, and even went so far as to buy a gold skin patch which did seem to help a bit.

My parents told me about a cruise they took in 1982 on the DIJA which, by all accounts, was a complete horror show. They said that they avoided the cruise line for years after. But in recent years, it seemed to have bounced back and reestablished its sterling, long-term reputation.
As for our cruise, it was definitely the worst we’ve ever been on. Thanks to ship deficiencies, falling metal and foul weather, we didn’t manage to achieve even one of our desired objectives.
On some days, it looked like the seas would calm down and that we might even get a bit of sunshine. But just like clockwork, the next day we would again be tossed about like a bottle in the ocean.

I tried to complain to my travel agent but at first he wouldn’t answer his phone. When I finally did get through to him, all he would say was that our trip was a temporary setback. He claimed this was an industry-wide phenomenon and that cruises from Europe to Asia were experiencing similar troubles. He even had the gall to suggest that, since the DJIA’s upcoming cruise packages had been marked down, we should buy another one. Unbelievable!

In summary, don’t book this cruise. The SS DJIA sucks. I can certainly think of better places to spend my capital. If you’re looking for a safe and worry-free vacation, I strongly suggest checking out an old-fashioned, dependable train ride through the Rockies on the Long-term Bond Express.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Presidential Spare Change

According to the pundits and pollsters (and who else would you look to for meaningful answers?), the 2008 Presidential race is all about change. As in, who’s for change, who represents change and who can bring about change? Apparently, the candidate with the most pro-change qualifications and positions is a shoe-in for The White House.

Most voters say they want change and many claim to want fundamental change. Personally, I don’t think voters know what they mean when they express these opinions. After all, major change may affect some people negatively, many of them these very same supposedly change-loving folks.

I’m not saying I don’t want change, too. I’d like to see the next American president be someone who is comfortable with change. Not an agent of change, necessarily. Instead I want a president who doesn’t have to change all the time but, at the very least, is willing to change when necessary.

After eight years of "my way or the highway" governing from The Oval Office, it would be refreshing to have a president who carefully weighs all options before deciding. A president who asks not just his inner circle for advice but also a wide array of experts. And, most importantly, a president who can recognize when a decision has gone wrong and requires, you guessed it, a change.

In order to find such a president, I propose that all candidates be evaluated by this simple "change" test.

* Do you know how to change a tire?
* Have you ever changed a tire?
* Have you ever changed a tire for a stranger?
* Do you know what a change-up is?
* Do you know when to throw one?
* Can you actually throw a change-up?
* Do you give spare change to beggars?
* Are you ever conflicted about giving spare change to beggars?
* Have you ever needed spare change yourself?
* Do you like Bob Dylan’s song "The Times They Are A Changing"?
* Do you know the lyrics?
* Do you understand the lyrics?
* How often do you change your underwear?
* How about your socks and shirt?
* How about your stance on the issues?

If you can get honest and sincere answers from candidates on these simple questions, I think you’ll find it easy to choose the real change candidate.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Workplace Birding

"In her book [‘The Boss From Outer Space and Other Aliens at Work’], Ms. Addesso identifies 11 personality types that show up in what people value and how they communicate and approach their work. She assigned each trait to one of the planets, plus the sun, moon, and Pluto...."
- The Globe and Mail - November 2, 2007

Patricia Addesso’s planetary personality types range from the action-oriented, forward-thinking Mercury to the detail-oriented Neptune. I don’t know what kind of workplace Ms. Addesso is from but it definitely differs from any I’ve experienced. Instead of employing planetary personalities, I think it’s far more useful to identify workers using the following avian types:

The Brown-beaked Buttkisser
No matter how silly the suggestion, if it comes from the boss, the Brown-beaked Buttkisser will praise it to the heavens. Easily identified by its constant wing raising in meetings and its annoying, repetitive cry: "That’s great boss. That’s great boss."

The Ididit Warbler
Native to most workplaces, the Ididit Warbler carefully monitors the workload of other birds in search of worthwhile accomplishments. Upon spotting any such success, its strident cry "I did it! I did it!" can be heard throughout the office.

The Two-faced Backstabber
This attractive bird has an unusually beguiling song. But beware of its fierce attacking style when out of sight. Even when confronted with the damage it has done, the Two-faced Backstabber will continue to praise its victim fulsomely and deny any wrongdoing.

The Ruby-faced Supervisor
The Ruby-faced Supervisor is a bird that’s really a fish out of water. Long since promoted beyond its level of incompetence, when the going gets tough, this bird quickly becomes hysterical and blames others. Its repeated cry of "He did it! She did it! They did it!" sends subordinate birds scurrying for cover.

The One-legged Snafu
This poor flightless bird can’t take a step without falling flat on its face. No task is too routine or too easy that it can’t trip up the hapless Snafu. Often preyed upon by the Ruby-faced Supervisor.

The Gold-plated Nepotee
Much like the One-legged Snafu, the Gold-plated Nepotee has little or no work-related abilities. However, unlike the Snafu, the Nepotee typically snares a top-ranked position and salary due primarily to its biological relationship to one or more of the senior birds.

The Nearsighted Neophyte
This is the new bird on the perch. Inexperienced in the ways of the working world, the Nearsighted Neophyte fails to see how things really work and possesses an almost preternatural naiveté. Known for its overt overeagerness, this down-covered rookie eventually learns to shut up and keep a low profile.

The Smooth-voiced Delegator
Native to any large organization, the Smooth-voiced Delegator has an innate ability to pass on unwanted tasks to other birds. Even birds looking to avoid work find it hard to resist its siren-like call with its promise of money, success and promotion. If you unexpectedly find yourself sitting in for someone in a meeting, you probably succumbed to the Delegator’s charms.

The North American Acronymophile
Known for its amazing ability to convert any organizational plan or goal into an acronym, this bird seeks to intimidate and dominate its adversaries by its use of indecipherable abbreviated phraseology. Some mature Acronymophiles are reportedly able to speak almost entirely in buzzwords, slogans and acronyms. Sadly, this bird’s ability is inversely proportional to its rate of abbreviation usage.

The Soon-to-be-superannuate
An older, wiser denizen of the working world, this bird tends to avoid other birds and to defer tasks and assignments indefinitely. Seldom willing to share its acquired knowledge with others except when it comes to pension-related questions. Known for its uncanny ability to count backwards from its retirement date.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Polipalooza 2008

Remember Lollapalooza? It was the pop culture music festival that travelled across North America for much of the 90s. Now there’s Polipalooza, a quadrennial, multi-state touring festival featuring the best in modern American politics. Some of the acts you’ll see include:

Barack Obama
Performing with his backup group, The Agents of Change, Barack Obama produces some of the newest, coolest political vibes on the campaign trail. Obama is half African and half American yet, ironically, he may not be African-American. Nevertheless, his smooth anti-war chops are attracting fans from ghettoes to gated communities.

Hillary Clinton
As a backup singer, Hillary Clinton helped her husband headline his political tours in 1992 and 1996. Now she’s on her own, sort of. Hillary sings from the same song sheet but still sometimes needs the backing vocals of husband Bill to get the crowd on its feet.

John Edwards
Having played second fiddle to Big Bad Al Gore in 2000, John Edwards is now looking to hit the big time with his own populist stylings. Although Edwards has the look of a young Jack Kennedy, he can belt out the anti-corporate ballads like Ralph Nader himself.

Rudy Giuliani
He may not have the golden pipes of a Ronald Reagan, but Rudy Giuliani does have one thing: consistency. By always performing to a unique 9-11 syncopated beat, this former New York City cat is, as the kids say, scary cool.

Mitt Romney
Here’s a performer who knows how to please a crowd, any crowd. With an uncanny knack for sensing an audience’s mood, Mitt will tailor his set list to suit any political venue. From the small "l" liberal favorites preferred by his former constituents in Massachusetts to the hard right standards loved in the South, Romney always gives his political fans just what they want.

Mike Huckabee
Polipalooza 2008 promises political performances of all types and stripes and Mike Huckabee is no exception. Not only does "Two-buck Huck" perform the old gospel standards, he does it in such a pleasant and charming way that he can even get non-believers to sing along.

John McCain
He’s the oldest performer on the tour but still the most unpredictable. One day he’s the star of the show; the next day he’s threatening to leave the tour. But whatever he does, McCain figures to be around for a long time, maybe even as long as that late, great perennial quadrennial Harold Stassen.

Polipalooza 2008 promises you the best in modern political entertainment. We’ve got it all from the hard right fundamentalist croonings of Mike Huckabee to the loony left stylings of Dennis Kucinich. Get your tickets now because you won’t see this group of amazing acts again until at least 2012.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Closed Captioned for the Politically Impaired

It’s primary season in the U. S. and potential voters are being deluged with televised debates featuring the various Democratic and Republican candidates. Sadly, many of those voters are political neophytes and don’t know how to interpret the true meaning of the candidates’ statements. But there is a solution. What if televised Presidential debates were close-captioned for the politically impaired?

"My opponent has been in office too long. He’s out of touch with the voters and is beholden to Washington-based interests."
(Tom was able to raise way more money from lobbyists than I was.)

"This is not the time to keep trying the same old things. The same old things simply aren’t working. It’s time for a change."
(I’m the new guy with less experience. Only new guys say it’s time for a change.)

"I’m not a big believer in polls. The only poll that’s worth anything is the one on election day."
(When you’re twenty points down in the latest survey, what else are you going to say?)

"With all due respect, my esteemed colleague is not accurately representing my position on that issue."
(The s.o.b. is lying.)

"Of course we all have the same goal: to defeat the Republicans in November."
(So long as I defeat these guys in February and March.)

"Thank you very much for that interesting question."
(Damn! That’s the one question I didn’t prepare a canned response for.)

"Last year, she was for the war. This year, she’s against the war. Which is it, Senator? You can’t have it both ways."
(Boy, I hope nobody checks my voting record on abortion.)

"I have served in government for 32 years. I’m the only candidate with the experience to lead this great country."
(I’m the only candidate who desperately needs a nap and a hip replacement.)

"I don’t believe my opponent has the moral fortitude to serve as President of the United States of America."
(Dick is sleeping with his secretary.)

"Who would you rather have in the Oval Office? A man who loves spending time with his family and playing football with his kids? Or a candidate who supports the arts and wants to subsidize wine growers in Napa Valley."
(Harry is a gay alcoholic.)

"If you entrust me with this high office, I promise to spend every minute of every day making America better."
(And every other minute making my friends richer.)

"When I see Americans without healthcare, veterans without benefits and homeless people on the streets, I know we can do better."
(And when I see gullible voters, I know I will do better.)

"What makes America great is people like Clarence Riley who started a new widget factory that provides fifty new jobs. Or Lance Jamison who helped start a new seniors’ facility in his hometown. Or Mildred Apple who home schools seven foster children."
(I hope my research team got those names right.)

"I’m not saying my opponent is un-American or unpatriotic or even unqualified. I’m just saying that I can do a better job of protecting America."
(Bob is an unqualified, unpatriotic communist scumbag.)

"I’m not against immigrants. Heck, we’re all either immigrants or descended from immigrants. This country was built by immigrants."
(I’m against immigrants.)

"Like you, I’m tired of the government taking more of my money in taxes."
(Although in my case, fortunately it’s the government of Turks and Caicos.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

E-Z Mortgage Loans

You’ve reached the E-Z Credit Line of the First Bank of China. Please note: to ensure the highest level of quality and for training purposes, your call may be monitored and/or recorded.

"Hello, this is the First Bank of China. My name is Liang. How may I help you today Mr. USA?"

"I’m looking to consolidate my debt and I was wondering about taking out another mortgage on my property."

"Well, let’s get some basic information, shall we? Do you own your own home, Mr. USA?"
"Technically, yes. I believe I still have title."

"Now, are there any other encumbrances on your property?"

"There’s a first mortgage for three trillion dollars and a second mortgage for two trillion dollars and there might be a lien or two for unpaid foreign oil bills."

"That’s quite an exposure you’ve got there, Mr. USA. What kind of money are you looking for in terms of a third mortgage?"

"Not a lot, really. Just a small amount to tide me over until I sort out some minor financial difficulties. A couple of small wars and an impending recession. Things like that. I figure half a trillion should do the trick."

"Half a trillion, you say. Now you realize, Mr. USA, that we’ll have to send an assessor around to ensure that your property still retains enough unencumbered equity to support a third mortgage."

"Sure, no problem; I understand. But could you make the appointment for the weekend? If you do the assessment on a weekday, my markets get a little jittery. You know how it is."

"Fine, fine. Now, Mr. USA, I’m going to have to ask you some personal financial questions to update our records.. What is your approximate annual income?"

"People tell me I’m worth $14 trillion give or take a few hundred billion."

"That’s nice. But what about your current account? How is your balance of payments?"

"My balance of what?"

"You know, the amount of money coming in versus the amount going out. Do you have a surplus?"

"Not exactly. But I’ve got a lot of good ideas and I know I’ll be back in the black soon."

"Perhaps so, Mr. USA, but from what I’m looking at here, you’ve been running a deficit with us for a number of years. What can you offer in the way of collateral?"

"Well, ah, there’s some mines and minerals out west, a bunch of farms and I think I still own at least part of New York City."

"Mr. USA, I’m going to have to pass your file on to my supervisor. Your first and second mortgages are coming up for renewal and with the increased monthly payments you’ll be looking at, I doubt we can offer you a third mortgage at any rate, much less at subprime."

"But what am I going to do? I’ve got payments to make and oil to buy. I need a bailout now."

"I’m sorry, sir. I don’t think we can do much for you today. Have you considered trying the Bank of India or maybe even the Seoul Money Mart? Perhaps they can help you out with a payday loan. Goodbye, Mr. USA, and have a nice day."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

W's 2008 Retrospective

At this time of year, columnists of every political stripe are looking back and analysing the events of 2007. But only one man, George W. Bush, has the courage to give his extraordinary retrospective on the year ahead:

"My fellow Americans, as I look back on the year to come, I note with prideness the many accomplishments of my Administration. Building on the successes of my first seven years in office, it should not have been surprising that 2008 would be my most successful year ever.

"As you know, there were many naysayers. But naysayers only know how to say nay. They don’t know how to say yeah or even hey. But I do. And I’m proud to say: ‘Hey! We did it!’

"Looking back on the year 2008, I take great pride in establishing a modern democracy in Iraq. Those who supported me through the difficult times can now rejoice in the final result. Unlike the naysayers, you knew that the troop pre-surge in February, the troop up-surge in March and the re-surge in April would inevitably lead to victory and the eventual return home of all American troops in September.

"To those who say that our victory in Iraq affected the outcome of the November election, I can’t disagree. Some claim that the revelations about Hillary Clinton’s drug use, Barack Obama’s terrorist training in Afghanistan and John Edwards’s secret gay love child were the deciding factors. But I say that Dennis Kucinich was a formidable Democratic presidential candidate and it took a strong Republican contender and my sterling eight-year record to retain control of The White House.

"I am proud of my little brother Jeb for winning the election. The fact that other Republicans dropped out of the race due to various alleged financial, political and sexual improperieties does nothing to diminish the enormousty of his victory.

"I can’t say enough about the work of my financial advisors. Again, there were those who pointed to the huge national debt and claimed that our country was on the brink of a depression. But just as I promised, my tax cuts for the rich finally did the job and kick-started the economy.

"Thanks to the explosive economic growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, we are on track to not only eliminate the annual deficit but to entirely erase our national debt by the year 2010. The state of the union as of December 31, 2008 is truly strong.

"These past few months have indeed been historic. From the complete rebuilding of New Orleans to the unprecedented advances in our public schools to the total capitulization of Iran and North Korea, the accomplishments of my Administration during the final days of my term have been nothing short of amazing.

"Now some say I am looking back at 2008 through rose-colored glasses, that none of these things really happened or ever will. All I can say is that those naysayers are probably the same ones who refused to acknowledge the discovery of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction outside Basra in October.

"Which brings me to my final point. I would be remiss if I did not note the successful end of the War on Terror. With the capture of Osama bin Laden in July and the eradicalizing of Islamic terrorism worldwide in August, we can close the book on America’s first full-scale war on a concept. To those who questioned my resolve, I would like to simply reiterate: Mission Accomplished."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Canadian Puppet Scandal

"Two of the most enduring characters in the history of Canadian children's programming, Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe, are about to quit the building. The children of actor and Friendly Giant creator Bob Homme, angered by the CBC's recent treatment of the loveable puppets, are removing them from a museum at the public broadcaster......"

- The Globe and Mail, November 27, 2007

The removal of the iconic puppets was apparently precipitated by their unauthorized appearance in a mock clip at the recent Gemini awards showing them in a retirement home. The voice-over narration reportedly described the cherished hand-operated characters as sitting around drinking, smoking and having sex.

Despite the protests by the Friendly Giant’s family, it appears that there was more to this story than first reported. A recent telephone interview with Rusty the Rooster and Jerome the Giraffe may blow the lid off what could be the CBC’s biggest scandal ever.

"Yeah, we lived in a retirement home," said the aging, diminutive cock. "CBC brass called it a museum and that’s being generous. The place was a real dump."

"That’s right, Rusty," said his long-necked sidekick. "After 26 years of giving our all for the network, we end up in a dingy place without even a chair for two to curl up in."

"Hey, it’s not like we were complaining or anything," said Rusty. "We had a good life although it would have been nice to realize at least a small percentage of the residuals. Those shows didn’t write themselves, you know."

"Yeah, I didn’t mind that much either," said Jerome. "As long as they kept providing us with booze and smokes, it wasn’t all that bad."

It turns out, however, that Rusty and Jerome’s precipitous departure wasn’t just at the behest of Friendly’s family. The rumours about gambling, drugs and sex at the CBC retirement home were apparently not all false.

"Look, I’m not saying we were saints or anything," said Rusty. "When you’ve got time on your hands, things are going to happen."

"But we weren’t the instigators," said Jerome. "It was those other puppets who started all the trouble."

Asked to elaborate, Jerome was initially reluctant to say more. But Rusty didn’t hold back.

"Jerome’s right. We didn’t start it. You might want to ask Howard the Turtle about his part in all this. Sure, kids loved him but there was a dark side to that ‘Razzle Dazzle’ crowd, too."

"I’m afraid to say too much," said Jerome. "But if you contact Suzie the Mouse from ‘Chez Hélène’, I think you’ll find that she’s still dealing with a severe drug addiction thanks to Howie."

"That’s OK, Jerome," said Rusty. "The truth has to come out some time. Eventually people will even find out about Casey and Finnegan. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with cross-dressing but it sure wouldn’t have helped the ratings for ‘Mr. Dressup’ if that ever got out."

"Just don’t look too closely at what’s in the Tickle Trunk," said Jerome. "That’s all I’m saying. Rumor has it that the bodies of Fitzgerald Fieldmouse and Grandmother Frog from ‘Maggie Muggins’ are buried under all that junk."

"Some folks say the bodies were in my sack," said Rusty. "But I had nothing to do with it, I tell you. If you want some answers, I suggest you talk to Pokeroo."

When asked to comment on Rusty and Jerome’s revelations, CBC President Hubert Lacroix would neither confirm nor deny that a public enquiry into the puppet scandal would soon be launched.