Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mars and Venus

"In his speech, [Kevin Lynch] told bureaucrats he was ‘greatly troubled’ by the view that Ottawa is isolated and out of touch with Canadians, like ‘they're from Venus and we're from Mars.’"
- The Ottawa Citizen - Feb. 21, 2008

That’s the Clerk of the Privy Council speaking recently to a group of federal public servants. Mr. Lynch, the government’s only CR-43, thinks that criticism of the federal bureaucracy is overblown, that the gulf between us and the public is far narrower than between Mars and Venus.

Frankly, I’m not so sure. As a 26-year veteran of the federal public service, I think the Mars versus Venus comparison may not be so far off the mark. In my experience, we public servants are different from other folks.

The Mars and Venus analogy is, of course, the creation of pop psychologist John Gray who has used it for years to describe the great divide between men and women. Mr. Gray acknowledges the differences between the sexes and prescribes remedies to help minimize the problems that can arise from those differences.

In the words of pop psychology, I think Kevin Lynch has to recognize that denial is not just a river in Egypt. It’s time he accept that we and the public come from two different worlds and that the best way to deal with the situation is to adopt John Gray’s prescriptions and apply them to the government setting.

First of all, like Venusians, the public likes to talk and express their needs and emotions. They’re constantly calling up government workers and asking us to listen to their problems and how they "feel" about them.

We’re from Mars; we don’t like listening to problems or discussing someone else’s feelings At the end of the day, we just want to retire to our cave or cubicle, decompress, surf the Internet and unwind. Life in government is stressful enough without people constantly demanding our attention.

A related problem is the Venusian public’s desire to meet with someone face to face or to at least talk to an "actual person" on the phone. The public seems to think that it’s their right to have an interpersonal contact with a government employee whenever they want.

We Martians don’t like interpersonal contact. We’re firm believers in the old saw: "Familiarity breeds contempt." It’s not that we want nothing to do with you. But can’t we just restrict our dealings to fax, voice-mail, e-mail or, better yet, a good old telephone tree?

The public also displays their Venusian-like personality by trying to impose their to-do list on others. They’ve got forms they want completed or decisions they need rendered or questions they want answered.

We’re not averse to dealing with these matters but we’d rather do it on our own time. After all, what’s the rush? Do you really need that passport this month? Won’t your savings tide you over until your pension cheque arrives? How important really is that certified copy of whatever? Surely you can wait just a few more weeks to cross that chore off your list.

Then there’s the public’s desire for change. Change, change, change. If that isn’t a Venusian mantra, I don’t know what is.

We’re from Mars; we don’t like change. If we liked change, do you think we’d be working for the government? Like that old, torn t-shirt or that hole-filled pair of underwear, we like things pretty much the way they are.

That’s not to say we won’t consider change. Even Mr. Lynch knows that the federal bureaucracy periodically implements new initiatives designed to overhaul the bureaucracy. Initiatives like La Réleve, PS2000, the Universal Classification System or VASE, the Visions and Strategies Exercise.

But I think it’s a little unreasonable of the public to expect that something useful will actually come out of these exercises. Let’s all just agree that looking at change is worthwhile but that actual change may not be such a good thing.

Think of the last time a policy, process or plan in government did change. Did it make things easier for you? Did it help answer your questions or deal with your problems faster and more efficiently? Exactly. See what I mean?

So let’s all take a deep breath and think about this problem. Heck, let’s take the afternoon off and really give it some thought. Surely we can come up with a mutually satisfactory solution. But not today. How about I get back to you, say, in a week? And remember, don’t call us, we’ll call you. Promise.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Watson's Elementary

Now that the writers’ strike has been settled, it looks like things will soon be back to normal with new episodes of popular medical and legal dramatic series like E. R., Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order. But during the strike, the networks had apparently turned to replacement writers to create equally exciting new shows based on other workplace settings just in case. Sadly, we’ll now never see these brave new offerings:

Watson’s Elementary
Grade one teacher Julie Watson wanted adventure and excitement. She got that and more when she signed on with New York City’s P. S. 101. From the school opening at 9 A. M. to well after the 3:45 closing bell, Ed Koch Elementary is a beehive of dramatic activity.
On her first day of teaching, Julie is faced with one crisis after another. Missing construction paper, an overturned glue pot and non-stop kiddie washroom breaks test Julie’s skills and patience. And then there’s Brad.
Brad is the handsome young grade four teacher who has caught Julie’s eye. Trouble is, he’s married and gay.
The show’s cast also includes Leslie, the steroid-taking gym teacher; Kevin, the drolly amusing maintenance man, and Miss Blanchard, the crusty but benign school principal. From the stress of parent-teacher interviews to the pressure of circle time, there’s seldom an excruciatingly dull day on "Watson’s Elementary."

Chicago Credit
Newly-minted chartered accountant Justin Seaver bags his dream job at the downtown Chicago firm of Steuben, Miller & Fillmore. Firm life for Justin is an exciting mix of corporate accounting and long-range individual tax planning. Every day brings a new adventure as he tackles everything from deferred capital gains to annual depreciation allowances on non-capital investments.
Young curvaceous CA Heather Moore has her eye on both Justin and the Western Electric account. Funny guy Jack Jackson keeps the firm laughing with his non-traditional suits and ties and his hilarious attempts at creative accounting.
But not everything goes smoothly at Steuben, Miller & Fillmore. Crusty but benign name partner Tom Fillmore is experiencing incipient senility and sometimes inadvertently switches credits and debits with potentially disastrous results. No one has the courage to point out his errors until Justin steps forward and sets things right. Will he be chastised for his insolence or given a healthy year-end bonus for saving the firm from embarrassment? Stay tuned to find out.

Golden Gate is a boutique engineering firm in San Francisco. Jesse Black is a recent engineering school grad from a small, mid-western town who’s looking for a career in the big city in the exciting field of civil engineering.
Golden Gate has built a solid reputation as a reliable builder of small to mid-size hotels and apartment buildings. But Jesse has grander ideas. He wants to design and build modern museums and flamboyant bridges.
Crusty but benign senior partner Jim Miller likes to build it "old school" and squelches Jesse’s grand ambitions. Tensions flare as the old guy and the new guy butt heads over everything from materials management to load bearing guidelines. The drama is non-stop as the firm’s denizens fret about which high-rise construction method will minimize code violations and maximize profits.

Addison’s Actuaries
Addison & Sons is a family-owned actuarial firm in downtown Palm Springs. Joe Addison is the crusty but benign patriarch who rules with a rigid tabular approach. But there’s trouble brewing as sons Cain and Able joust over eventual control of the business.
Younger sister Sarah joins the firm and tempers flare as she pushes to remove "& Sons" from the name. But that’s not all. Sarah has her own wild, modern notions of how to calculate present value, optimize asset allocation and apply arbitrage-free, risk-neutral valuation.
Joe Addison stubbornly sticks to traditional mathematical models and finds Sarah’s forays into data mining and ruin theory crazy and unproductive. Will Cain or Able take over the business? Will Sarah beat out both of them or leave in frustration and start her own new age actuarial firm? Don’t try to calculate the odds. Just tune in every week and follow the wild world of California’s craziest number crunchers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is There Life After the Super Bowl?

It’s been more than two weeks and the first signs are setting in. Sunday afternoon arrives and you’re a little edgy. Actually, you’re a lot edgy.

You turn on the TV and madly surf up and down the channels looking for a football game. But all you get is a golf tournament, a bowling show and a bunch of old movies.

I’m speaking, of course, of football withdrawal. If you’re like most men, Sunday afternoon is your time or at least it was until February 3rd. The TV, the remote control, your beverage of choice and several football games. It was your manly oasis in this sea of stress we call life.

But now it’s over. The Super Bowl is finished and therefore so, too, is the entire NFL season. Luckily, there was last Sunday’s Pro Bowl which helped ease the transition to a football-free life. But the Pro Bowl’s not a real game. It’s kind of like giving methadone to a heroin addict. It’s just a temporary substitute to help make getting clean a little less painful.

So what’s a guy to do? The first preseason game is almost six months away. How are you expected to last that long?

Well, as Vince Lombardi might have said, when the going gets tough, the tough get cable, as in the NFL Network. With 24/7 coverage of everything football including old games, gridiron news and nonstop analysis, it’s the true addict’s summertime fix. It’s not the real thing but it may be enough for some.

But what if you don’t have cable? Or what if reruns and replays don’t do it for you? What then? Are you expected to survive on a diet of basketball, baseball or even hockey? Not likely.

A real man will look fear in the eye and he won’t blink. He’ll suck it up and play through the pain. He’ll give a hundred and ten percent. After all, no one said it would be easy but it can be done.

First, check to see if your wife or girlfriend is still there. If she is, that means she really loves you despite your obsession. Maybe you could do something nice for her. Give her some flowers, say, or take in a basketball game together. In other words, show her that you care.

If you have kids, don’t forget; they can be lots of fun. Consider taking them to a hockey game or maybe even on an afternoon outing to a sports bar. Nothing says family like time spent together.

When all else fails, try tackling a few of those household chores you’ve been putting off. Maybe now’s the time to repair that leak in the roof or replace the missing skylight in your bedroom.

Have you thought about cleaning out the moldy contents of your basement after last summer’s flood? If you’re not a handyman, how about a little politics? Luckily for you, there’s a Presidential election this year with all kinds of exciting primaries and nominating conventions.

I know it’s not football but it’s tough and it’s nasty. Plus you can bet on it. Phone up your friends and suggest putting together your own political fantasy league. (Here’s a hint: Don’t pick Mitt Romney or Dennis Kucinich.) The best thing about politics is that by the time it’s all over, we’ll be well into the next football season.

I know it looks bleak right now. It’s the middle of winter and there’s no football in sight for months. But if you’re the kind of man who can watch three football games at once week after week, then you’re also the kind of man who can do without.

If you feel yourself faltering, just call a football friend for support. Remember, we’re all in this together, there’s no "I" in "team" but there is one in "quit." Hang in there and I’ll see you in the fall.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dear Dr. Shrink

An occasional column dispensing psychological advice to our readers in need:

Dear Dr. Shrink,

One of my employees is an elderly man who used to work for my dad. "Dick" used to be a nice, reasonable guy. But over the years, he has become increasingly aloof and belligerent. Because he has a bad heart, I tend not to confront him about his behaviour and I just go along with his suggestions. Lately, however, his suggestions have cost us a lot of money and we’ve lost most of our customers. What can I do?

Confused in the Capital

Dear Confused,

Without knowing more, it’s difficult to assess your situation. However, it appears that your employee has deep-seated anger issues. Is it possible that "Dick" harbors some resentment towards you or your father? Is there some unfinished business from the past that he feels compelled to complete? Until "Dick" resolves his anger issues, I strongly advise you not to implement any of his suggestions. Otherwise, you run the risk of simply "going to war" over and over again.

Dr. Shrink

Dear Dr. Shrink,

My husband is a loving man and a good provider. However, "W" has one flaw that threatens to undermine our marriage: he always has to be right. A few years ago, he started a renovation project and tore up the entire garage. Rather than stop and get some professional help, he simply declared "mission accomplished" and kept on stubbornly making a mess. Now he’s threatening to renovate the kitchen. I’ve told him that it would be crazy to tear apart the kitchen until he’s fixed the garage but he just won’t listen. Any suggestions?

Wit’s End in Washington

Dear Wit’s End,

It appears that your husband is suffering from a mild case of megalomania. His delusions of grandeur and constant need to be right affect those close to him. At this point, it sounds like his actions are creating problems only for you. If you can moderate his behavior for the next year or two, it’s possible that his symptoms will subside and he will lose interest in imposing his will on others. However, if his condition worsens and his actions inconvenience friends, neighbors, co-workers and even strangers, it’s time to get professional help.

Dr. Shrink

Dear Dr. Shrink,

I’ve been married to the same man for over thirty years. "Bill" is a bright, ambitious man with an engaging personality. However, he has a huge ego, lies all the time and has been unfaithful on a number of occasions. I know that I should leave him but he does sometimes help me in pursuing my career goals. What should I do?

Waffling in Westchester

Dear Waffling,

At first blush, I’m tempted to say that you and your husband are co-dependent. In other words, you’re both using one another to meet your own needs notwithstanding the harm that is caused to you and those around you. Sometimes divorce is the only answer in such situations. However, in your case, I suggest that you first seek counselling. Who knows? Maybe "Bill" will spend more time helping you with your career aspirations and even be willing to assume the number two position on your matrimonial ticket. And if not, you can always dump him after you’ve reached your goal.

Dr. Shrink

Dear Dr. Shrink,

I’ve been dating "Rudy" for awhile now and things are starting to get serious. But I don’t know if we’re a good match. I want kids, monogamy and a couple of handguns. He, on the other hand, has some disturbingly liberal views. Yet when it comes to crime and law and order, he’s my kind of guy. Is he a good candidate for marriage?

Right-wing Republican

Dear Right-wing,

That depends. If you want someone who shares your views, then this guy may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a winner to help you get that white house of your dreams, he may be your only choice.

Dr. Shrink

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tattoo You

Unbeknownst to most voters, many major Presidential candidates in this year’s nomination races are tattoo afficionados.

This revelation might never have come to light but for the surprising results at the Body Art Expo held in January in Pomona, California. Most attendees weren’t even aware that the candidates were present until the grand body art show-off held on the final day of what is advertised as the World’s Largest Tattoo Expo.

All the candidates threw caution to the wind and stripped down to their skivvies to display their prize winning skin paintings. Runner-up awards went to both Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee for their unusual inkings.

Mr. Giuliani wowed the crowd with his original skin creation comprising a two foot “9" on his chest and an equally large “11" on his back. “I didn’t just survive 9/11,” said the former New York City mayor. “I eat, breathe and sleep 9/11.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was no slouch either as he tore off his shirt to reveal a 360 degree body trunk homage to the Bible. “As you can see,” said Huckabee. “My pecs display scenes from the Pentateuch and my back is almost entirely devoted to apocalyptic visions from the Book of Revelations.”

John McCain was also a crowd favorite with his original old-school tattoos from his days as a Navy fighter pilot over forty years ago. Sadly, however, the 71-year old U. S. senator was beginning to show his age as sagging skin turned his “Anchors Aweigh” plus anchor print into an embarrassing facsimile of a smiley face made up of the letters “AA” above the bottom curve of the anchor.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama snagged an honorable mention for his unique ghetto chest. Finally putting to rest the question of his black bona fides, the Illinois senator strutted the stage to rap music while showing off his street slang-covered front. Yo, Barack! You da man!

The big winner of the night, however, was Hillary Clinton. For those who wondered why the former First Lady always wears pantsuits, the final show-down answered that question and many more. Ms. Clinton’s legs are two curvaceous canvasses featuring a tattoo history of America. By the time the crowd was treated to her stars and stripes derriere, they were already on their feet cheering the candidate on.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bill Gates's Recent Google Searches

Bill Gates’s recent Google searches:

JANUARY 11, 2008: "prime computer takeover targets"

Prime Computer over-targets company objectives
Fast food company targets prime rib takeouts
Prime numbers key in computer company takeover
Sub-prime market targets company buyers

Sponsored link: Target has great sales on prime computers.

JANUARY 17, 2008: "on-line search company for sale"

On-line sale of company searches for buyer
On-line sales spur company growth
Company Sells On-line Searches
Yahoo on-line search business undervalued

Sponsored link: Yahoo store’s new on-line setups start at only $44. Billions available.

JANUARY 25, 2008: "Yahoo share price today"

Yahoo trading in high teens - down from top share price
Yahoo! Rated "Strong Sell" Today
Investors CRAZY to buy Yahoo shares
Abort! Abort! Abort!

Sponsored link: Have you received your fair share of savings from today?

FEBRUARY 1, 2008: "long-term growth projections for Yahoo"

Yahoo long considered to have growth potential
Yahoo considers growth projections proprietary info
Yahoo balance sheets no longer available on-line
Wassup Bill? Why all the enquiries about Yahoo?

Sponsored link: Not lasting long enough? Try Viagra for real long-term growth and make your spouse say ‘yahoo!’

FEBRUARY 5, 2008: "Microsoft’s offer for Yahoo"

Back Off Gates, Yahoo’s Ours
Bill Gates is Satan of Computer World
Your Google Account is Suspended

Sponsored link: Avoid Windows Vista like the plague. Microsoft sucks big time. That means you Gates. Google rules! See you in computer hell.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

New Bathroom Sex Code Unveiled

One little-noted repercussion from Senator Larry Craig’s misadventure last summer in a Minneapolis public restroom has been the widespread dissemination of the heretofore secret bathroom sex code. Now the whole world knows the foot-tapping, hand-waving motions that signal a desire for inter-stall sex.

"It’s not that we don’t want everyone to know our secret bathroom body language," said gay spokesperson Rod Longley. "But if heterosexuals are going to start muscling in on our territory, there may not be enough gay sex to go around."

"After all," said Longley. "Larry Craig says he’s not gay and there may be millions more like him who want to have man-on-man sex in public washrooms."

To stem the potential tidal wave of non-gay males toe-tapping and hand-signalling in public restrooms, the gay community is considering the creation of a whole new bathroom sex code.
"It may be the only way to solve the problem," said Longley. "Otherwise we are going to have more and more incidents of gay men unknowingly having gay sex with heterosexual men which is going to be embarrassing for everyone involved."

When asked to describe the new code, Longley adamantly refused, pointing out that revealing the new code would defeat the whole purpose of the measure. Some have speculated that the new inter-cubicle signalling system involves an elaborate series of coded references to Judy Garland, Cher and several well-known Broadway musicals. Speaking from his hairdressing salon in San Francisco, Longley would neither confirm nor deny such speculation although he expressed annoyance at the continued emphasis on certain hoary gay stereotypes.

"Of course there’s no guarantee this new code will solve the problem," said Longley. "And if it doesn’t, we may have to vacate the bathroom stall sex scene altogether and leave it to the straights."

As for rumors that the gay community has secret plans to infiltrate public bathhouses instead, Longley simply smiled, tugged his left ear lobe, tapped his right foot twice and issued a terse "No comment."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Square State Saturday

February 5th is Super Duper Tuesday in this year’s Presidential nomination races with over twenty state primaries being held simultaneously. With big states like New York and California holding their contests on that day, smaller states are likely to get lost in the shuffle. That’s why some jurisdictions have apparently decided that four years from now they’re going to join together for their own special days in early February:

Square State Saturday
Wyoming holds its primary in January. But the remaining square states have decided to band together and jointly hold the first primaries in February. Colorado, Kansas and both Dakotas take pride in everything square from their dancing to their voting. No lily-livered, oddly-shaped liberal states need apply.

Guns ‘N Nuts Sunday
The gun-loving, government-hating citizens of Idaho, Montana and Texas will reluctantly cast their votes for their least-hated candidate on the first Sunday of the month. No Democratic primaries will be held as only the Republicans dare ask for support from these true American mavericks.

Hillbilly Monday
On the day before Super Duper Tuesday in the year 2012, America’s mountain folk will have their say. Kentucky, Arkansas and West Virginia will cast their votes for their favorite political varmints. Double Xs will be the order of the day as most residents use only one letter to mark and sign their ballots.

Western Wednesday
By Super Duper Tuesday, most of the lower 48 will have spoken. But four years from now, that won’t stop America’s two westernmost states from joining in the electoral fun. Alaska and Hawaii will still insist on holding primaries although by the time their results are compiled, it will already be Thursday in the rest of the country and, frankly, no one will even care.

Protectorate Thursday
Most of us forget that U. S. territory doesn’t end with the fifty states. That’s why far flung protectorates and commonwealths like Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico want to take time to make their presidential preferences known. Since no electoral votes are at stake, however, they’ll be lucky to get a visit from Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul or even Ross Perot.

Forgotten Friday
By the end of the first week in February, chances are that the nomination races will be all but over. However, don’t tell that to the stubborn inhabitants of America’s forgotten jurisdictions who will still insist on exercising their feeble franchise. Four years from now, Forgotten Friday will allow Rhode Island, Delaware and D. C. to add their tiny inconsequential voices to the presidential primary cacophony.

Hillary Ate Glue

The use of dirty tricks in the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns has begun, as it does every four years. The Clinton camp, for example, recently played up Barack Obama’s self-admitted use of cocaine as a young man. More recently, anonymous tricksters have tried to besmirch John McCain’s reputation with allegations that, as a young POW in Vietnam, he sold out his Navy comrades.

As the nomination contests heat up, one thing is certain: political tricksters will be digging even further into the candidates’ pasts to come up with embarrassing revelations. In fact, several unreliable sources have revealed the following shocking exposés already in the works:

Hillary Clinton Ate Glue in Kindergarten!!!
It’s true! Former classmate Hilda Bumpers confirms on camera that Hillary Rodham, her five-year old classmate at Park Ridge Elementary, regularly ate both paste and glue. "It was unbelievable," said Ms. Bumpers. "Every time our teacher, Miss Smithers, put out the paste pot, Hillary would help herself to a couple of bites." "I’m not saying she was addicted," said Bumpers. "But I swear I even saw her once sniffing the glue!"

Rudy Giuliani Wore Dresses in Grade Two!!!
Check out these pictures! The former New York City mayor claims his cross-dressing was confined to adult costume balls. But the pictures don’t lie. Apparently his fetish for female attire goes way back. "Yeah, Rudy would come over to our house to play," said childhood acquaintance Mildred Purcell. "And he’d always put on my older sister Lorna’s skirts and blouses." "One time he even tried to get into my mom’s makeup case," said Purcell

Barack Obama Had to Change His Underwear in Grade One!!!
It’s shocking but true! The so-called candidate of change has a history of change he doesn’t want you to know about. "I know for a fact," said school chum Rodney Peters. "That he wet himself on at least two occasions and had to change his underwear." "I bet he was even a bedwetter and someone else had to change his sheets," said Peters.

Mitt Romney Kissed Three Girls in Grade Four!!!
Now the truth can be told! Although his Church foreswore polygamy over a century ago, young Mitt didn’t seem to get the message. Throughout grade four at Bloomfield Hills Elementary, Romney tried to have as many girlfriends as he could. "It was heartbreaking," said former girlfriend Rita Buford. "I thought I was his only girl but he also kissed Linda Taylor and Leslie Blair." "When I asked him why he did it," said Buford. "Mitt just said he wanted to marry us all."

John Edwards Pulled Pigtails in Grade One!!!
Believe it! The hair-obsessed former senator from North Carolina wasn’t always the law-abiding citizen he appears to be. Several women have come forward to testify that "little Johnny Edwards" repeatedly and maliciously pulled their pigtails in grade one. "He was incorrigible," said former classmate Enid Burns. "If he wasn’t looking at this own hair in the mirror, he was pulling on ours." "If we still had inkwells in our desks," said Burns. "I’m sure he would have done much worse."

John McCain Took Non-express Bus to School!!!
He can’t deny it now! In elementary school in New London, Connecticut, little Johnny McCain took a bus every day that made multiple stops. The self-described leader of the Straight Talk Express sure didn’t believe in express buses in those days. "He’s a hypocrite," said childhood chum Nathan Rhodes. "Back then, he took the milk run to school like the rest of us." "I’m not saying he’s lying," said Rhodes. "But you’re definitely not getting straight talk from Mr. McCain."

Friday, February 01, 2008

Who's Left?

Both the Democratic and Republican nomination races are in freefall. Shortly after John Edwards and Rudy Giuliani bowed out, the other major contenders followed suit. First Hillary Clinton pulled the plug on her campaign and then Barack Obama called it quits.

At the same time, John McCain announced he’s had enough. And before McCain could even finish his speech, Mitt Romney issued a press release saying that he could no longer carry on.

The surprising result of all these capitulations is that there appears to be no candidate from either party willing to seek the Presidency. Unless someone steps forward soon, both the Republicans and Democrats could be without a nominee.

Rumors abound as to why four frontrunners would suddenly give up. When questioned about their precipitous decisions, none of the four was willing to give an answer. In fact, all of them were afraid to say much of anything.

The formerly tough-talking McCain was spotted curled up in the fetal position whimpering "I quit. I quit." Hillary Clinton wasn’t just tearing up anymore; she was out and out sobbing and begging to go home.

Mitt Romney’s hair was a mess as if some evil force had tousled it repeatedly and the Michigan primary winner looked as if he had seen a ghost. Barack Obama was found clutching his knees, rocking back and forth and repeatedly whispering "The horror! The horror!"

No one knows for sure what happened but some observers have their suspicions. As ususal, Washington insiders suspect the chubby hand of Dick Cheney has once again been at work. It’s as yet unclear if the Vice President had any involvement in the raft of surprising candidacy terminations although the mere mention of his name now reportedly makes each of the four former candidates shake and cry uncontrollably.

"He’s gone, right?" said Hillary Clinton. "He’s not coming back, right? Promise me, Bill. Make him go away. Please!"

When reached for comment, Vice President Cheney simply smiled and said that he respected the decisions all the candidates had made. At the same time, he seemed unconcerned at the total lack of potential party nominees for this year’s upcoming Presidential election.

"I don’t think there’s any cause for alarm," said Cheney. "If no one turns up by November, rest assured that President Bush is more than willing to carry on for another four years. He figures it’s the least he can do rather than leave the nation in the lurch."

Asked if even he might consider running for the nation’s highest office, the Vice President didn’t rule that possibility out.

"If no one else comes forward and President Bush should meet with an unfortunate hunting accident," said Mr. Cheney. "I guess I’d have no other choice. After all, whenever America has called, I’ve always been ready to report for duty."

After delivering his prepared statement, Cheney elbowed a homeless man, kicked a dog and made the sun disappear.