Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bird Watching In Washington

It’s springtime and a sure sign of the season is the return of various migratory birds in Washington and elsewhere. Recent sightings include:

The African American Obama
Perhaps because of its name, the African American obama is often mistakenly thought to be native to Kenya. In fact, this White House-perched bird is from Chicago by way of Hawaii. Noted for its melodious tones, the African American obama seems to have recently lost its voice and may have to return next year to one of its former homes.
The Wandering Emmanuel
Native to the Chicago area, the wandering emmanuel is known for its lengthy forays into different climes, particularly in the Washington, D. C. area. More recently, however, this bird was once again spotted in its original nesting area sporting a mayoral crown.
The Woodcutting Bush
This bird once migrated back and forth between Washington and Texas but now stays year-round in its Dallas sanctuary. Once noted for its single-minded devotion to cutting, be it taxes or troop strength, it now only cuts brush. Native to Connecticut, the woodcutting bush masks its true origins with western coloring and a faux Texan warble.
The Snowy Clinton
Noted for its snowy plumage and plump girth, the snowy clinton no longer summers in the D. C. area. Leaving its mate to forage in Washington, the snowy clinton migrates throughout the country looking for admiring crowds. Previously known for its forceful cry of "is is", "is is."
The Grousing Giuliani
Once spotted regularly in the New York City area, the grousing giuliani now makes occasional and sporadic visits to various primary states. Apparently seeking a new home in Washington, this bird has yet to find a suitable flight path to the nation’s capital. Known for its strident cry of "9/11", "9/11", the grousing giuliani has recently adopted a more muted tone.
The Thin-skinned McCain
Originally a western-based bird, the thin-skinned mccain has spent the last thirty years perched in both congressional houses in Washington. It once tried to take over the top perch but fell victim to its own stubborn pride. Can be identified by its aging plumage and its relentless cry of "maverick", "maverick."
The Pileated Palin
A rare northern species, the pileated palin hails from Alaska but now spends much of its time in New York singing for a fox. This bird’s prominent crest attracts much attention as does its elaborate plumage and its repetitive cry of "you betcha", "you betcha."
The Silver-haired Romney
Spotted throughout the United States from California to Massachusetts, the silver-haired romney regularly takes flight every four years. Although it would apparently like nothing better than to perch in a big white house in Washington, this bird’s unorthodox belief system always seems to jeopardize its intended flight pattern.

Monday, April 25, 2011

With Six You Get Eggroll

"The multimillion-dollar F-35 stealth fighter the Conservatives want to purchase comes with all the accoutrements of a high-tech aircraft — everything except an engine."
- The Calgary Herald - April 16, 2011

Throughout the federal election campaign there’s been some debate about the actual cost of the new fighter jets the Harper government is planning to purchase. The other parties kept saying that the Tories had low-balled the price. Finally, there is a satisfactory explanation. The Conservatives’ cost estimate is accurate but only because each plane comes without an engine.

What is even more surprising is that the revelation of Canada’s new engine-less fleet of fighter jets has not appeared to hurt the Tories in the polls. They’re still hovering in the high 30s with a Parliamentary majority easily in sight.
Given the public’s apparent willingness to accept just about anything when it comes to political promises, all of the federal parties are now scrambling to up the ante, to wit:

The Liberals
Since there is no downside to empty promises (or at least empty planes), Michael Ignatieff has revised his party’s commitment to healthcare spending. "We previously promised an annual increase in transfers to the provinces of six per cent," said the Liberal leader. "But we now realize that we were being, if you’ll pardon the expression, conservative in our estimate. We’d now like to up that promise to twelve per cent a year." Since there is little chance that the Liberals will form the government, Mr. Ignatieff is prepared to up that promise by six per cent a week until such time as his party sees an actual bump in the polls.

The Conservatives
After promising Canadians relatively inexpensive, albeit engine-less, planes, it was difficult for the Conservatives to come up with something better. But thanks to the Tories’ political brain trust, it looks like they may have an even more incredible promise up their collective sleeve: tax-less corporations. "I know we said that we were lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent," said Stephen Harper. "But there’s really no reason we can’t knock that right down to nothing. In other words, there would still be a corporate tax rate; it’s just that it would be zero. If a 15 per cent rate creates jobs, imagine what a zero per cent rate will do."

Now seeing that there is no downside to campaign commitments, Jack Layton has decided to promise the moon. Literally. "So far we’ve promised Canadians a chicken in every pot and a Lada in every garage," said Mr. Layton. "But now we’re shooting for the moon or, to be more precise, actually promising the moon." If voters decide to elect Canada’s first NDP government, each and every citizen will be deeded a plot of land on the lunar surface. "It’s yours to keep and do with as you please," said Layton. "All you have to do is get there and stake your claim."

The Bloc Quebecois
When it comes to incredible promises, the Bloc appears to have outdone all the other parties. "If Stephen Harper can sell you an engine-less jet," said Gilles Duceppe. "Then it should be easy for me to sell Quebecers on a cost-free independent Quebec. Just vote ‘yes’ and you can have it all: a separate Quebec nation plus a Canadian passport and continuing federal transfer payments from Ottawa." Sadly, though, the cost-free Quebec nation may have one other similarity to the new F-35s: it may never fly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Dare to be Average" giveaway

If you've got an e-reader, you can now get my latest book "Dare to be Average" for nothing. Well, almost nothing, specifically $2.99. Just go to the Kindle store on and read away:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shut 'Er Down

Having reached a dramatic eleventh hour agreement last Friday night, Congressional leaders avoided what was being portrayed as a catastrophic government shutdown. But would it really have been that bad? Let’s consider the consequences.

If no agreement had been reached then apparently IRS workers would have been furloughed thereby delaying any tax refund you might be owed. Is that really such a big deal? Considering that most of us probably owe taxes, the fact that tax bureaucrats couldn’t get to our files would probably have been a good thing.

There could have been a delay in processing social security claims and the issuance of cards. Again, is this so bad? We’ve been talking for years about how the social security system is underfunded and headed for bankruptcy. What better way to avert a financial implosion than to stop paying claimants for awhile. Let’s face it; the longer the shutdown goes on, the fewer claimants there’ll be when payments finally do resume.

Likewise, Medicare claims would have been stalled. Not a bad thing necessarily. (See social security above.)

A government shutdown would have meant a slowing of police investigations of certain matters. One type of case that likely would have been shelved indefinitely is bankruptcy. There are a lot of former homeowners out there who would welcome such a development. Again, not such a bad thing.

If the shutdown had lasted more than a week, then members of the military would have had to report to work without pay. Sounds harsh but think about where this might have led. Already fed up with the never-ending conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of the armed forces might have taken matters into their own hands and come home now.

Some say pulling the plug on government funding would have resulted in the suspension of many programs designed to clean up the environment. They also say that it would mean the closure of national parks thereby shutting out millions of visitors. Given the absence of litter-dropping, fire-starting, tree-chopping park visitors, it looks like a shutdown could have done far more for the environment that a bunch of pencil-necked bureaucrats.

Others have noted that a government shutdown could result in delays in processing FHA mortgage loans to low and middle-income home buyers. But wasn’t it just two years ago that the whole economy just about came tumbling down because of unwise mortgage loans to low and middle-income earners?

Maybe a delay will make these folks think twice about taking on more debt.

So perhaps a government shutdown would not be such a bad thing after all. In fact, if members of Congress were furloughed too, it might be the best thing that’s happened to this country in years.