Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Celebrate Sequestration Day!

For those of you who haven't been paying much attention to the news for the last couple of weeks (you lucky bastards), this Friday is Sequestration Day.  Now for those of you who have additionally failed in your obligations to have read the previous posting on this subject in JBS (go ahead, I'll wait here), the Sequestration of 2013 is a series of government spending reductions suggested by the White House, passed in a bi-partisan effort by both Houses of Congress, and mandated to occur by virtue of the 'Budget Control Act of 2011'.  If Congress couldn't come to an agreement on some form of budget reform between August of 2011 when it was signed into law and March 1st of 2013 (after a 'kick the can' extension that moved it from January 1, 2013) Sequestration automatically happened.

In typical recent government fashion, the law was passed to trade spending now for savings later; in this case getting a debt ceiling increase of $400 billion back then (with an option for $500 more that was used) for $1.2 trillion in spending reductions over ten years.  If an agreement on those reductions wasn't reached, a form of them would kick in automatically instead; and since Congress seldom has the courage to cut money from any program, these cuts would be made based on the difference between the annual portion of the $1.2 trillion and whatever across the board cuts Congress could come up with.  (Hell, the Senate hasn't even had the testicular fortitude to pass a budget in four years and the President has been late in delivering budgets four out of the last five years. )  They would affect almost everything except entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  

Hidden in the fine print of all such government language however, is that any such action would be  based on the 'Base Line Budget' process that Congress uses where the national checkbook is concerned.  Now for those who don't understand this concept of accounting, practices that would be considered illegal if practiced by anyone other than the government; it means that every budget program funded by the government is assumed to get bigger each year.  This means that programs will normally see the equivalent of cost of living increases of between 4% and 6%, assuming that their prior year's budget is spent.  In this year's case, because the date of Sequestration was moved back to March 1st, the $120 billion of projected reductions that was originally required would now in fact consist ofof a mere $84 billion ... approximately 2.4% of the projected $3.8 trillion 2013 federal budget.  (I say projected, because without both Houses passing a budget that's signed into law for the last four years, actual budget numbers get rather fuzzy.)  What that in turn means is that the amount of spending that Sequestration will reduce is smaller than the budget increases already built-in under the 'Baseline Budget' principle.  In other words, in spite of the process of Sequestration, the government will still spend more this year than it did last year.

All of the Doom and Gloom coming out of the national bully pulpit that we've been hearing about the last week or so about how these cuts will undoubtedly bring about a fiscal Armeggedon in this country are really nothing more than someone from our government telling us that these agencies must 'suffer' with only slightly more than their funding for 2012.  Their threats of dire consequences are in fact only being made in order to scare us into paying even more taxes than Congress agreed to just a month ago.  So what are we going to do about it?

Well I don't know about you, but I'm going to celebrate Sequestration!  Sequestration may be the only government 'reductions' in spending that we are likely to see this year from the bi-partisan efforts the White House and Congressional behavior that has become far more like that of a crack addict than of a responsible national government.  It appears that we can no longer count on either major political party to do the right thing, but only instead to produce lies and excuses about their own failures.  This is not because they don't know what the right thing is, but because the haven't the backbone to offend any of those special interest groups feeding at the public trough.  After all, with today's endless election cycle, if they aren't looking for campaign contributions for a re-election bid, they're looking for at least the vote of benefiting members of a parasitic constituency.  

Just this once, it appears that they may have done the right thing (probably by mistake) and they don't know how to dig out of the hole that they've created.  While the Sequestration cuts are barely a token, they still represent more than either party has done to change the horrible path that this nation is on in the last couple of decades.

In fact, I recommend that we all go out and celebrate; and that we do so as publicly as possible!  Those currently out there on the stump have consistently lied to us not only about the budget, but about the dreaded process of Sequestration that they themselves visited upon us; and for no better reason than to keep us frightened and as they see it, easier to control.  Countering their fear mongering with enthusiasm for what they've tried to make a see as disaster might put them back on their heels.  Celebrating what they think we should be terrified of could make us seem less predictable in their minds.  Acting in a way that passes their understanding might shake recent assumptions by those in Washington that their skills in steering the herd that they believe us to be are anything but complete.  If nothing else, we may get a chance to enjoy their temporary discomfiture and give them pause before trying to create their next faux panic in yet another attempt to manipulate us in the next budget debate.

Yes, I know that it's possible that there might actually be negative consequences to Sequestration; though I suspect that if there are, they will be at our leaders' purposeful doing.  Even if some hard lessons come out of these manipulations however, we should take it as our just deserts for allowing the bi-partisan fiscal impropriety that's been committed.  Times are tough out there financially, and and it's far past time that everyone (including our fearless leaders in Washington) recognized that it's time to learn to do with less in order to survive.  

So while it might be a couple of days early in doing so, I would like to wish each and every one of you:

Happy Sequestration Day!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sequestration - A Hallmark Disaster

Those of you who regularly read these efforts in "Just Blowing Smoke" have heard me speak before about 'Hallmark Holidays'.  I won't go through the list of such days here, as it often varies on a personal basis.  They can all be easily recognized however by the fact that they are 'made up' holidays, use special cards (usually manufactured by KC's own Hallmark) for their occurrence, and often seem to carry a requirement to purchase flowers, jewelry, and/or automobiles for a loved in order to properly celebrate them.  (Many can also be recognized by ads in the newspaper which enable one to purchase tires or mattresses at reduced prices.) 

It occurred to me however, that lately we have become a nation of not only Hallmark Holidays, but of Hallmark Disasters; in spite of the fact that apparently the greeting card companies have shown a failure in their ability to keep up with the times.  It seems, for example, a shame that we have yet to see 'Debt Ceiling' cards, 'Kick the Budget Can Down the Road' cards, and with it being less than a week away ... 'Sequestration' cards.

Oh sure, each of these is purported to be a disaster rather than a day of celebration, but like their supposedly joyous counterparts, they are mostly made up and meaningless.  Let's look at their overall design:
  • Each is a disaster (like some of the holidays) has been created by the government with, the willing participation of the two political parties that have a strangle hold on it, under the guise of being for our benefit.
  • Each is a bi-partisan effort that the two sides of the aisle later blame on each other for occurring in the first place.
  • Each is debated about by politicians and media talking heads, while largely ignored by the public.
  • Each is one that both politicians and political parties change their positions on with each rising tide and wind direction change.
  • Each is billed as the equivalent of the End of Days, even after so many of them have come and gone without anything of significance happening as a result of their occurrence.  
As for this latest made-by-government misadventure, it might be the thinly disguied bit of BS yet.  After all, Sequester was supposed to be the latest answer to doing something other than 'Kick the Budget Can'.  Voters, it seems, were beginning to tire of yet another boring event in which only feet were used; and probably for many of the same reasons.  (The US doesn't appear to be very good at it, few in the stands really understand the rules and most found it too low scoring for attention span of the average voter ... or six year-old.)

The truth of the matter is that 'Sequestration' was a poor designed Doomsday at best, with even those attempting to stop the clock from ticking down losing interest.
  • The White House originally presented this budgetary Armageddon as a 'final solution' and now can't seem to even remember the 'Simpson-Bowles' report or the result of ignoring it.
  • Both parties voted for Sequestration as a last resort; yet as the deadline that they most feared approaches, both are so concerned over the ticking down of its doomsday clock that they .... take a vacation and leave town.
  • Both parties continue to call Sequestration budget 'cuts', in spite of the fact that even under its strictures, the government will spend more money this year than it did last year (which was more than the year before).
  • Democrats continue to successfully blame Republicans for a failure to avoid this supposed disaster in spite of the fact that a Republican-controlled House has voted twice to amend it and a Democratically-controlled Senate has failed to vote on anything even vaguely related to it.
  • Both Houses and Parties continue to ignore the simple solution of allowing the budget cuts of Sequestration to happen, but allowing the President or Departments heads involved to prioritize their own spending and cut accordingly rather than making across-the-board cuts.
  • Almost everyone involved with this form of budget resolution wants to talk about the horrible impact that it will have on the recovery of the economy and with unemployment, when in fact all that it will do is to provide a reduction of 2.4% of what's expected to be a budget of some $3.8 trillion.
  • Far too many would like you to believe that somehow the continuing problem of a $16 trillion debt that continues to grow because we're spending more money than we take in will go away if we just close some tax loopholes for individuals and corporations.  It won't!
  • With very rare exceptions indeed, no one at any level of government will tell you what will actually happen if Sequestration occurs, though they are more than willing to set up 'straw man arguments' that have nothing to do with the process.  (My person pet peeve however, was the President talking about police and firemen being laid off if it occurs when these people are paid out of municipal and state budgets and not the federal budget that Sequestration affects.)

Since there appears to be no way to get the Executive or Legislative Branches of government to pay serious or proper attention to the actual state of fiscal affairs in this country, I therefore propose that we attempt to get what growth in the GDP that we can from turning these mostly made-up disasters into the same type of opportunities that they've done with made-up holidays.  

Oh sure, it will take them a while to get up to speed on which ones are best suited (and which might even require 3-day weekends), that's no reason not to get the presses rolling.  If they can't doing anything about addressing the fiscal crisis in this country in any meaningful way, the least they can do is let us properly celebrate their ineptitude  Let's face it, with just a little effort on the part of greeting card companies acros the nation, I'm sure that some cards with catchy slogans could be produced before the next Debt Celing deadline occurs.  

Perhaps the morons in the national legislature could even offer some phony baloney Stimulus dollars to someone other than a green energy company that the Chinese will eventually want to purchase so that we can get a tire or mattress sale (or two) in place, and move these Hallmark Disasters into true national prominence. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TFP Column: Capital / Capitol Offenses

The English language can be rather tricky to work with, as anyone whose been in a hurry while using there, their, and they're can tell you.  Sometimes however, you don't even have to be in a hurry in order to become more than a little confused.  So I found out at least as I found myself working in the wee hours of the morning on a piece for the TFP website entitiled "Capital / Capitol Offenses" detailing some of the things going on in our national legislature in our nation's headquarters.  I won't try to explain that confusion to you, as the explanation itself might confuse you.

On the other hand, my guess is that you will find today's release of the TFP "Star" edition far less confusing than any of my efforts.  I suspect that without contradiction, I can go even further and predict that far less confusion is also likely to be found in this weekend's edition of Toledo's largest Sunday circulation  and Ohio's best weekly newspaper for years; the Toledo Free Press.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Lighter Side of SOTU

The State of the Union for 2013 is now another part of history, or at least it should be.  While a well-delivered piece of political rhetoric, it wasn't a particularly ground-breaking or inspirational bit of speech writing.  Now for those of you who would like to pick the nits for a bit more, I have a recent column in the Toledo Free Press in which we can do it together here.  For the rest of us:  as the old Chad and Jeremy song from 1962 says, "That was yesterday, and yesterday's gone".

Before we leave it completely however, I would like to touch on some of the lighter bits that I noticed during the days during which it was broadcast. (What, it was only a little over an hour?  You've got to be kidding me!)

  • Would somebody please disconnect the APPLAUSE sign and stop treating the SOTU like a puppet show.  If this is as an important as they would like to make us think it is, they need to treat this speech like a school awards banquet where everybody is told to hold their applause until the end.  Not only would this take the pressure off the speechwriters to produce so many of the spontaneous 'scripted' moments required in good theater, but it would avoid those awkward moments when the audience stops paying attention and either jumps the gun or misses their cue to clap.  It would also stop making this gathering of the nation's leaders not look like they were bobbing up and down like a talent night puppet show.
  • VP Joe Biden seemed awfully pre-occupied with some paperwork during the speech.  Oh, he managed to applaud whenever the little light came on, but it sure looked like he was checking over his tax returns or catching up on some briefing notes instead of listening to the boss right in front of him.
  • Speaking of the guys behind, John Boehner had a look on his face that made it appear as if he hadn't had a bowel movement recently.  The other thing apparent was that a guy that represents Ohio and works in Washington DC looked like he was sporting far more melanin than he had any right to.  Fortunately, John's making pretty good money as Speaker, so I'm sure he can probably afford the new Obamacare taxes involved with tanning booths.
  • I noticed that the Supreme Court was in attendance again this year, though not all of them.  The President didn't call them out this year, so the cameras didn't spend much time focusing on them during the speech.  They did pan across at one point late in the effort however, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg looked to be 'chin on chest' and down for the count.  Justice Breyer sitting next to her likewise seemed to be doing a chainsaw imitation, so he wasn't going to be able to help her.  Then again, most of the Justices are no longer kids, so being out after 9PM EDT is probably way past their bed time.
  • OK, I get the fact that Senator Mark Rubio needed a drink of water while delivering the Republican response and had to reach well off-camera to grab a bottle of water while suffering from dry mouth; somewhat spoiling his performance.  Many saw this as a chink in his armor.  I saw it as a Republican who was working with Union stage hands who wouldn't give a member of the party of evil a drink if they were dying in the desert, but wouldn't mind making one look foolish by placing a drink just out of reach. 
  • The beginning of the SOTU is a fairly well orchestrated bit of pomp and circumstance.  The Sergeant at Arms makes the introduction and the President walks down the aisle to the podium, shaking a few notable hands and exchanging greetings on his way; in a bit of ceremony well worth following with the cameras in the room.  The President's exit however, breaks down in a series of handshakes and autographs that cheapens much of what has gone before.  Giving an hour long speech is tiring, doing it in front of a jaded audience is even more so.  Having to hang around and sign programs like the paid talent at a baseball convention makes it downright silly.  I think that they either need to turn the cameras aways and spare the President, or tell the Secret Service they need to put on their dark sunglasses and remind the crowd that they've got guns and aren't afraid to use them.  Let's get POTUS out of the room and let him have the drink he probably needs by then.
  • You know what, let's just go back to the days of Thomas Jefferson, who simply had a written form of the SOTU delivered to the members of both Houses.  Not only would it eliminate all of the issues previously listed, but it would keep from messing with the mid-week television schedule. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

TFP Column: SOTU 2013

Once upon time, the State of the Union speeches were at least supposed to mean something, but those days are long gone.  I would personally like to see us go back to the Jeffersonian period when Thomas would send them in written form.  Today they are slightly less entertaining than listening to back-to-back monologues by all of the late night hosts.

It was with this in mind that I listened to the President's entire State of the Union speech last night, plus not only Mark Rubio's Republican response but Rand Paul's Tea Party response.  For the record, you are not obligated to thank me for the time and sleep that I lost; but you probably should thank me for at least trying to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This week's harvesting yielded this week's TFP effort:  "SOTU 2013", whose title is about as interesting as the hour long, 78 applause breaks, no laugh track performance by the Commander-in-Chief.  

Fortunately for you, this will probably be the least interesting part of the Star and weekend edition combined.  But don't take my word for it, go online youself to catch up with Toledo's largest Sunday circulation newspaper and Ohio's Best Weekly newspaper of the year ... The Toledo Free Press.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Adult Participation Awards

I was sitting quietly this weekend attempting to come up with a topic suitable for a weekend rant, and decided at some point to do a bit of channel surfing in in attempt to find something to distract myself from the temporary lack of creativity from which I was suffering.  Five minutes and some 100 channels later, all I could think to myself was, "You lousy bastards!"

You know who you are.  It's you timeout giving, namby-pamby can't keep score for T-ball game, let alone paddle or raise your voice to your ill-behaving rug rats that I'm talking about.  If all of that wasn't bad enough however, it was you bunch of bachelor's degrees in underwater basket-weaving cretins who decided that awarding only those who succeed might hurt the itty bitty little feelings of your attentioned-starved crumb crunchers.  In order to nuture their already overblown self-esteem therefore, we must instead give everybody who showed up to play a 'participation trophy'.  Well I hope your happy now.   

Take a hard look at what your plastic handout nurturing has done to the world ... or at least the mid-season line up for television shows on the cable networks, if you want to see the results of your folly.  Every Tom, Dick, Harry, Bubba, Goober, and Billy Bob now thinks they deserve to be the star their own show if they're willing to act like a self-willed two year-old when the cameras are running (unless you're Honey Boo Boo, in which case you have to be six).  Of course if you don't see a gender role or level of immaturity that fits you, have no fear.  Maybe instead you'll get yours if you can be a selfish, spoiled, rich bitch; living a life in any major city around the country in such style as would make you the envy of many; or would if you weren't such poorly disguised trailer trash, flaunting your lifestyle and then having round table discussions on your lack of taste, humor and maturity.

But hey, if you can't get your prize by the lifestyle you lead, maybe some obscure form of employment might get you the trinket you're looking for ... just because you're special.  Maybe you can make your living buying the crap that somebody left behind in a storage container and sell it to somebody else for a lot of money.  Perhaps you can be a star instead if you drive from place to place in rural areas and steal stuff that a from illiterate hoarders with barns full of antiques that you can purchase for as little as possible, so that you can make an obscene profit by reselling them to a bar or restaurant that the rich chicks and their families can have expensive dinners at, while calling them 'quaint'. 

Don't want to waste your time traveling the road for fun and profit ... no problem.  You can instead bake cakes, be an exterminator, give tatoos, or act like an idiot while trying to catch alligators (or turtles for that matter).  Maybe instead you can buy, sell, or repair guns (even evil semi-automatic ones); or catch seafood in the form of tuna or crab, swordfish or lobsters.  If you can't catch and kill animals for the table, maybe you can get a gig on a new show that will explore the interesting and exciting lives of the taxidermists (mounting dead animals for display).  Don't worry, in today's world we award the trophies of cable shows aplenty no matter what it is you do for a living; especially if you can turn yourself into someone seen as a colorful character when the spotlight is shining on you (you know, psychotic).

I know that instead, Reality shows have been blamed (by me in fact) on the almost complete lack of creativity in what could laughingly be called modern entertainment; but from another perspective, all of this could also be construed as participation awards on the part of writers, directors, and producers.  It's certainly an easy enough conclusion to draw from the constant stream of B-movie knock offs and barely updated TV shows turned into movies (and vice-versa).  You know the list, from "The Longest Yard" to "The Magnificent Seven" (which is itself a remake of "The Seven Samurai"); from "The Brady Bunch" and "Starsky and Hutch", to "The A-Team" and "Charlie's Angels".  I didn't mind it so much when they were giving the starring roles in these tawdry productions as participation trophies to actors like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (who unfortunately, keep showing up), but now they've managed to convince actors with real skills to participate in these cinematic circle-jerks (shame on you Liam Neeson).

And lest we forget, there's always the shows like "American Idol".  Don't get me wrong, some of these people have real talent, but not nearly enough of them apparently to make these shows run a full season.  So instead of being regaled with top-notch performances, we're tortured by those who won a Kareoke contest that they were the only ones to participate in.  Instead a talent, we're insulted by those who've received so many participation awards that they think they must have talent as a consequence.  Worse yet, we're 'nuclear optioned' with contestants so hideous that they're rewarded by a rebroadcast of their train wreck performance (something so horrible you can't turn away) as their particpation trophy.

So I hope you're happy now that instead of stringing together some literary pearls of wisdom, I am instead forced to castigate you bunch of New-Age, "We Are The World" singing, modern math morons.  I hope that you're enjoying it now that your once self-absorbed rug rats have come into full bloom as the narcissistic, egocentric snobs you always hoped for ... thanks in large part to all the useless plastic hardware that you've buried them in over the years.  I pray that you take great comfort not only in the fact that your participation trophies have proved an unnecessary bolstering of their already bloated self-esteem in most cases, but have created a number of ill-tempered, uncontrollable, and useless mirror watchers masquerading as adults.  In fact, I can't help but be curious if you now realize that your counter-productive trinket ceremonies have not only done more harm than good to those involved, but that you tree-huggers also recognize that the useless symbols you insisted upon are now incapable of even being properly recycled.  

And as you contemplate the years of particpation award child-rearing you engaged in, I hope that you enjoy your high-priced cable menus and the useless Adult Participation Awards that consitute the only alleged entertainment available on them.  Crap!  I hope they're showing reruns of "Downton Abbey" tonight.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TFP Column: Wasn't It The Economy Dummy?

It occurred to me that after arguing about the economy for most of the 2012 election season (you know, about 1000 years), the subject had all but disappeared from the national radar screen.  Strangely in fact, after ever more promises that it was time to make jobs number one, the president sent home his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

So it seemed only fitting that once more the Commander in Chief failed to submit his budget to Congress on time and asked Congress to kick the can of Sequestration further down the road so that we can talk about gun control and comprehensive immigration reform, that someone needed to write, "Wasn't It The Economy Dummy?".  

After all, the Senate hasn't passed a budget since April of 2009, the unemployment rate is still at an unacceptable high, and the only part of the economy that's growing is the deficit.  After all the hype in 2012 about creating more wealth in this country (mostly, it appears, so we can tax it), nobody seems to be doing anything about it.

It's only the middle of the week however, and that makes this a week where there's much more to come.  The TFP Star edition is only now hitting the streets and we're still days away from a weekend with Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's best weekly newspaper ... the Toledo Free Press.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The New Travel Game

For those of you who weren't aware of it, last week's weekend rant was 'Missing in Action' because I was busy with a bit of family business.  It seems that my son had decided that the housewarming for his recently purchased abode provided an excellent excuse to kill two birds with one stone; allowing the opportunity to marry the love of his life Sarah Moglia at the same time.  The opportunity, not to mention necessity of attendance at such an event goes without saying; and Friday I found myself on an airplane for Columbus, Ohio.

Now while I had spent most of the better part of 35 years traveling on these 'Greyhounds of the Air', it had been a couple of years since the last such journey; enough so that most of the residual pain of doing so had worn off.  So it was with little trepidation that I prepared to visit three very familiar airports.  Kansas City's starting point presented few deterrents to travel.   Operating out of three separate and distinct terminals, it presents few obstacles to the regular traveler.  In fact, the obviousness of its conveniences has led city planners, in conjunction with federal authorities, to contemplate a complete redesign of the facility in order to make it more accommodating for TSA mall cops and less so for the traveling public.  (Heaven forbid that Americans should continue to enjoy the process of going where they please without the heavy hand of government to inject at least some minor misery into the process.)

The rest of the day's travel process went without incident (evidently they've finally taken the TSA 'Wanted' poster of me down), and I got to change planes in my former home base of Cleveland with relative ease before the short flight to Columbus (an airport that served as my launching point for over 20 years).  The weekend's festivities came off without a hitch (though I wasn't able to visit with all the folks that I would have liked to), and before I knew it I was once more at the airport, preparing for my return.  

As in many cases however, the apparent ease of the outbound effort was merely a set-up for a double helping of misery on the return.  After arriving earlier than normal for the first flight, I was quickly informed that there would be 3-1/2 hours of delay soon after I reached my gate.  With my original connection now lost however, I was re-booked to an alternate with plenty of layover time to spare.  The flight proved even later than expected however, and like the old days, I found myself racing through the neon tunnel between B and C terminals at O'Hare airport in an attempt to make up the difference.  I discovered that my exertions were needless though, when my arrival there at the next gate came just in time for the announcement of mechanical problems and a departure that would be later still.  After finally arriving home around midnight, I discovered that the result of my journey was that I could have instead driven to Kansas City in the time that it took me to enjoy the more expeditious plan of flying. 

Now those of you have read my offerings for any length of time, know that I am not easily dismayed by the aggravations of airline travel, nor am I easily taken in by the tireless efforts to thwart my travel plans of the ADL (For those less well informed, the ADL is the 'Anti-Destination League', a nefarious organization of ne'er-do-wells whose sole purpose in life is to prevent anyone in an airport from getting anywhere.  For additional information on them, search postings under ADL in this blog.)  In fact, I long ago created a game that I use at airports order to distract myself from the misery attendant with their machinations in such stalled efforts.  In this simple enough at some minor entertainment, I simply look around at my fellow passengers, robed in what I assume to be their sartorial splendor.  Understanding after all that my fellow travelers, knowing that they would be in a very public venue, undoubtedly chose their clothes with great care and at some point looked into the mirror to admire the result before their airport departure stating, "Damn, I look good in this!"  

Seeing them as I did (and you probably often have), I'm sure that you might have agreed with some of them.  Others however, might have used some assistance from one of the reality show fashion police, and some probably should have donated their choices to the Salvation Army rather than inflict them upon the rest of the traveling public.  Needless to say, I find that admiring the diversity of such choices the perfect curative for the tedium of such terminal (pun intended) existence and can also prove a vital part of the study of my fellow man in which I regularly participate.  These often endlessly amusing choices are not only a palative, but a constant proof that the ridiculous experience that we call life must be laughed at if it's to be endured at all.  Normally however, my play is forced to end as I board the flight; and I am left with whatever reading material I had brought along or in a pinch, the airline Sky Mall catalogue.  This weekend however, I added on new in-flight version of amusement that I'd like to share with you.   

Now as most of you know, the width of the average coach seat was designed around the size and comfort of the gluteous maximus (butt) of a 12 year-old, and only then, if it was one suffering from anorexia.  Not fitting any part of that description, I am therefore not normally surprised to be somewhat uncomfortable during my time in the air.  While attempting to endure such suffering in silence however, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder who might feel similar discomfort under similar circumstances (or perhaps, even more).  Knowing that most of the people I was thinking of would never be forced to fly coach in fact did nothing to detract from the amusement I felt as I imagined the pain that would be theirs. 

What are the odds, for example, of any female member of the Kardashian family could even get in or out of one of the poly-whatever Chinese finger puzzle that masquerades as commuter airline seat I was now calling home? (A thought which by itself, almost made my own agony bearable.)  How about the picture of Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce trying to get their famous and more-than-generous 'booties' into one of these less-than-generous chair offerings?  Could these transport torture devices finally give actors John Goodman and Dan Aykroyd the payback for inflicting upon us the Blues Brothers sequels?  As for the thought of Michael Moore's whining ass wedged in with his blue-collar brethren, it might well become a cinematic effort worthy of not only documentary award, but perhaps even of pay-per-view fees. 

As for our nation's leaders ...  

Oh sure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might manage getting his 'Gollum butt' in what I'm convinced has long been a govt. issued seat design anyway, but I've got 3 to 1 odds that the better part of the House and Senate would have a bit a difficulty fitting in his place.  The President looks to be able to make the effort without much of one, but I suspect the First Lady might be less than amused with the opportunity of trying.  I might even suggest that avoidance of commercial air travel may be one of the few truly bi-partisan efforts inside the Beltway these days.  One might even go so far as to wonder whether the UN should be asked to step in to label the average seating experience on an airplane as a violation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners (which inevitably we are).

Oh sure, now safely at home, I recognize that the processes involved in such shoddy amusements are not only politically incorrect, but could probably be considered 'just plain mean'. I'm OK with that however, because it's my amusement after all, and these mental pictures were funny.  Maybe in fact, it's that very 'meanness' that appeals to the inner Curmudgeon in me (one that's surround by an increasingly larger 'outer curmudgeon' BTW).  While I am occasionally dismayed that to discover that I'm enough of a twisted Torquemada to be able to deal with my own discomforts by somewhat gleefully imagining those of others; it's nice to know that airline travel can still be used as an educational and inspirational experience.  And in spite of my misgivings over using such tacky mental distractions as a form of personal amusements, you will find this new entertainment added to my repertoire of travel games.

(Take that, ADL!)