John Semmens

SEMI-NEWS: A Satire of Recent News

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SEMI-NEWS: A Satire of Recent News, Best of 2012 (Part 3)

Oct 7

Dems Scramble to Explain Obama Debate Defeat

Going into this week's first presidential debate Democrats were confident that the most brilliant man to ever hold the office would easily trounce his challenger. However, 67% of voters who saw the debate judged Romney to have won. Only 25% saw Obama as the winner.

Obama campaign strategist, David Axelrod blamed debate moderator Jim Lehrer for allowing Romney “too much leeway. Time after time the President was left to fend for himself against repeated attacks on his policies. Lehrer failed to come to the President's aid despite numerous opportunities to do so.”

Axelrod expressed the hope that “our other friends in the media will put forth a greater effort outside the context of the stilted debate format to do the job we expect them to do. Our message that Governor Romney is a greedy, lying, cheating bastard that has been working so well in our ads needs the supporting confirmation of these widely respected arbiters of truth.”

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Chair Democratic National Committee, concurred with Axelrod's take, saying that “review of the debate transcript clearly shows an inappropriate handling of the event by the moderator. First, the actual amount of time each was allowed to speak was unacceptably allocated. Romney got almost as much time as the President did even though the President is a much more important figure in our government than a former one-term governor of a single state.”

Second, Romney was allowed to repeatedly contradict the President,” she observed. “This disrespect went unchallenged by the moderator. Even worse, Lehrer's interruption of the President's closing statement on the pretext that he exceeded the allotted time limit was a shamefully arrogant affront to our nation's ruler.”

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama complained that “the whole debate thing unfairly exploits the President's weaknesses. The President has said numerous times that prepping for these kinds of events is boring. Having to bone up of the issues and confront a disagreeable adversary is just not his thing.”

Cutter maintained that debates aren't a good measure of a person's abilities to perform in office. “Look, a president doesn't need to be able to think on his feet. He can hire advisers to handle the technical details and speechwriters to craft the words he uses to communicate with the American people,” she pointed out. “An inability to rebut an argument against his policies in a public forum is not a crucial skill.”

MSNBC's Chris Matthews faulted Lehrer for “not being aggressive enough. There were opportunities for him to intervene on behalf of the President that he missed.” Matthews speculated that “Lehrer may have put too much emphasis on maintaining the appearance of neutrality,” and wondered whether “a man of his advanced age should be entrusted with such a weighty task in the future when abler men like myself are available.”

Oct 14

Obama Campaign Downplays Illegal Donation Issue

While the Obama campaign was boasting about raising more campaign cash than the GOP during September it now looks like a significant share (an estimated 68%) of this cash may have been obtained illegally. It appears that two-thirds of the campaign's web donors are foreigners. By law, foreigners are barred from donating to US political campaigns.

David Axelrod emphasized what he called “the inherent inequity” of the ban on foreign money. “Look, it isn't only Americans who are affected by who is elected,” Axelrod pointed out. “We're not a small insignificant country. What we do has ripple affects all over the globe. It impacts people in other countries. Naturally, these people would like to have some input to the process.”

In support of the idea that foreigners should have a right to contribute to President Obama's reelection, Axelrod cited a GlobalPost poll indicating that 68% of foreigners favor Obama's reelection and a Gallup poll of foreign voters that would give Obama 81% of the vote.

The vast majority of the people of the world want President Obama to continue in office,” he observed. “In fact, the ratio of support is greater than three-to-one in one poll and four-to-one in another. Should this make no difference? It's bad enough that all the people affected by US policies can't vote for who runs America. Must we also deny them the opportunity to 'put their two cents in' so to speak?”

Oct 21

Pundit Questions Propriety of Presidential Debates

While debates have been a part of the electoral process since the beginning of this country, MSNBC's host of the show Hardball—Chris Matthews—questioned whether they should be.

Should the President of the United States—America's 'first citizen' so to speak, and acknowledged leader of the free world—have to put up with the likes of someone like Mitt Romney?” Matthews wondered. “Isn't it bad enough that Romney is allowed to traipse about the country lambasting the President's policies? Is it fair to force the President to be confronted face-to-face with his detractor?”

Particularly irksome from Matthews point of view was the moment in last Tuesday's debate when Romney rebuffed Obama's interruption by urging the President to wait for his turn before speaking.

Who does Romney think he is?” Matthews demanded to know. “Obama is THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. He should speak whenever he deems necessary. If the situation requires that he interrupt someone else then he should interrupt. Preventing him from interrupting strikes me as possibly unConstitutional.”

Matthews further charged that “Romney's notion that everyone should get a turn is simply childish. This is not some playground game. Treating it like it is was very disrespectful. While President Obama was too much of a gentleman to put Romney in his proper place I'm hoping the voters aren't so squeamish.”

In related news, CNN dismissed GOP complaints that their moderator—Candy Crowley—gave Obama more time to speak than Romney, interrupted Romney three times as often, and gave Obama the last word on 8 out of 11 occasions. “This debate was in line with the previous two debates of this campaign,” the network's managing editor Mark Whitaker maintained. “Showing the proper respect for the sitting President and Vice-President is not something we should be criticized for. Governor Romney should consider himself lucky he was allowed on the same stage as the President. The President would've been entirely within his rights to refuse to debate Mr. Romney, as was President Johnson when he refused to debate Goldwater in the 1964 election campaign.”

Oct 28

Defense Secretary Justifies Inaction in Benghazi Attack

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta explained that the US military commander for Africa, General Carter Ham, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and himself all decided against any intervention to rescue those besieged because “we lacked a clear picture of what was happening.”

Panetta admitted that “while the drone surveillance did give us a real-time view of events on the ground, there were still some unanswered questions. First, we couldn't be sure how many attackers were involved. Was it 50, 100? Without knowing this we couldn't be sure how many reinforcements to send.”

Second, the pictures from the drone couldn't clearly establish the intent of the attackers,” Panetta continued. “We had no way of knowing they would actually kill the Ambassador. Maybe if those under attack had simply surrendered they would have been taken alive. We couldn't risk negating this potential option.”

There was always the chance that an attempt to rescue the Ambassador might make things worse,” Panetta added. “As it now stands, only four Americans were killed. If we had sent in troops there likely would've been more casualties on both sides. By declining to charge in we at least have no Libyan blood on our hands.”

The Secretary brushed off reports that those under attack were desperately pleading for help. “It's to be expected that persons in their position would have a rather narrow perspective of the situation,” he said. “It's hard to appreciate the bigger picture when you're in fear for your life. Those of us with broader responsibilities must maintain a calmer demeanor and balance the costs and benefits of escalating the confrontation.”

Nov 4

Warning Cable from Libyan Ambassador Discounted

The emergence of an August 15th cable from Libyan Ambassador Chris Stephens to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that the Consulate was vulnerable to attack was brushed aside by the Secretary.

The date of that cable was less than four weeks before the September 11th attack,” Clinton pointed out. “That's far short of the normal turnaround time for State Department action. We still haven't fully evaluated the June attack on a British envoy in Libya. So, I hope everyone can appreciate why we were taken by surprise on September 11th.”

Clinton also cited “the stupefying ambiguity of Ambassador Stephens cable. What does 'vulnerable to a coordinated attack' mean? How might that be different from an uncoordinated attack? And how do you define 'vulnerable?' The Ambassador provided no projection of estimated casualties or even whether there would be any at all. His message was maddeningly vague and incomplete.”

The Secretary offered up the September 11th communications from the Consulate as further proof of the dilemma she and President Obama faced on that day. “Yes, the e-mail said the Consulate was under attack,” Clinton agreed. “But there were no head counts of the number of attackers, no description of the kinds and numbers of weapons being used. I mean, even now, almost two months later, there is no consensus within the Administration on what the appropriate response should've been.”

Clinton counseled against “using the tragic events of September 11th as a rationale for changing administrations. Why discard those who know the most about the situation? A Romney Administration would be essentially starting from scratch. Wouldn't it make more sense to preserve the institutional knowledge we already have by returning the current Administration for another four years?”

Nov 11

Pundit Grateful for Hurricane Sandy

MSNBC's Chris Matthews called “the timely arrival of Hurricane Sandy” last week “a God send,” and “a small price to pay for ensuring the reelection of President Obama.”

Prior to the storm, polls were showing that Romney might win this thing,” Matthews averred. “But the wreckage of people's homes and the promise of redemption from the federal government that was held forth reinforced the case for big government in many voters' minds.”

Governor Christie's virtual endorsement of President Obama didn't hurt either,” Matthews added. “Having a Republican governor laud the President's leadership as 'magnificent' kind of deflated Romney's contention that he would be the best man to work across the aisle.”

That the storm killed more than 100 people and caused over $30 billion in property damage failed to faze Matthews. “The reelection of the President will easily save many more lives,” Matthews argued. “Just yesterday, the Administration announced its support for the UN Small Arms Treaty. If this treaty is ratified by the Democratically controlled Senate the federal government will have the authority to confiscate weapons from those who aren't qualified to have them. This alone will save thousands of lives a year.”

Far from being a negative, the $30 billion it will cost to rebuild will stimulate the economy and provide jobs,” Matthews continued. “It will be hard for Republicans to oppose more spending while people are suffering. In a way, the more destruction there is, the better it is for the President's agenda.”

Nov 18

Hostess Brands to Be Liquidated

The financially troubled manufacturer of dessert cakes announced it will be forced to liquidate its assets. The move was in response to a strike by 5,000 employees represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union and will result in the layoff of 18,000 employees.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka denounced the company, calling its decision “a direct contradiction and insult to American voters. Just a week ago voters reelected President Obama. Rather than accept this vindication of the President's policies, the management of Hostess is putting profit ahead of social justice.”

Hostess has been in precarious financial shape for years. It first filed for bankruptcy in 2004. It emerged reorganized in 2009, but has still experienced net losses. The company again filed for bankruptcy in early 2012. The liquidation plan calls for the company's iconic brands—Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, etc.--to be sold to the highest bidders and the cash used to repay outstanding debts.

Trumka said Hostess management's decision “putting the repayment of debt ahead of the benefit of employees is emblematic of the anti-social nature of capitalism. Here we have owners saying they're going to sacrifice the livelihoods of thousands of workers just because they can't afford to pay them decent wages.”

To avert the loss of jobs at Hostess, Trumka urged President Obama to intervene. “There's no question that these workers need these jobs,” Trumka asserted. “Likewise, there's no question that consumers want their Twinkies. The government should provide the funding necessary to assure the continuation of both.”

Nov 25

Egyptian President Assumes Dictatorial Powers

The so-called “Arab Spring” took a decidedly ugly turn in Egypt this week when President Mohammed Mursi issued a decree barring any challenges to his decisions.

Egyptian opposition leader Mohammed El Baradei denounced Mursi's action calling it “a major blow to the revolution. What good does it do us if we get rid of the dictator Mubarak only to replace him with a dictator Mursi? Isn't sharing of power and open debate the whole point of democracy?”

Mursi denied he was trampling democracy. “Debate is fine, but there must be limits,” Mursi maintained. “The laws I decree must be enforced. There must be respect for my authority. Words or deeds that would serve to undermine either of these critical objectives cannot be tolerated.”

Whether Mursi's expansion of his own authority will be tolerated is an open question. Many of the same protesters who rallied against Mubarak are back in the streets demonstrating against this latest development.

Clashes are expected as Mursi described these protests as “unwarranted interferences.” “Mubarak was a fraudulently elected tyrant,” Mursi pointed out. “In contrast, I, like recently reelected US President Obama, have a legitimate mandate from the voters. Mubarak was also sick and weak. I am not.” The Egyptian President warned opponents that “attempts to obstruct my rule will result in dire consequences for those who go too far.”

The US State Department said it was taking a “wait and see” attitude toward this seemingly antidemocratic shift. “They're still working on their constitution, so it's possible that what appears to be an unjustified usurpation may yet be endorsed by those drafting the document,” cautioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Then, too, Mursi was just recently elected. So we can't rule out the argument that he, in fact, has a mandate of sorts. As we are wont to say, elections have consequences.”

As for Mursi's declaration that actions taken by the courts or legislature in contravention to his wishes are void, Clinton expressed sympathy. “Sometimes a president may have to bypass other bodies in order to carry out his mandate,” she said. “Maybe we shouldn't be so critical. For all we know, President Obama may find himself in a similar bind in the not too distant future.”

In related news, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's order blocking the Iranian Parliament from investigating President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mismanagement of the economy was called “intriguing” by the US Secretary of State. “Khamenei's point that such an investigation could weaken the regime seems well taken,” Clinton observed. “Congressional investigations of Fast and Furious and Benghazi are damaging to our country. Making them disappear might eliminate a great deal of the negative impressions these inquiries are causing.”

Dec 2

Huge Powerball Payout Inspires “Ingenious” Fiscal Idea

The nearly $600 million payout to the two winners of this week's latest Powerball lottery drawing has inspired what Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called “an ingenious and painless way out of the government's chronic debt crisis.”

Geithner's “ingenious and painless” plan calls for the Federal Reserve to buy a minimum of $30 billion in Powerball tickets every week. “Over the course of a year this would generate a minimum of $1.5 trillion in lottery winnings,” Geithner calculated. “As the holder of more than 99% of each week's outstanding tickets, the federal government would almost certainly win each week's jackpot. The cumulative weekly winnings would totally cover the annual budget deficits.”

The Secretary congratulated himself for “pioneering a truly innovative solution to government finance. It would completely bypass any need for higher taxes or more borrowing. The whole 'fiscal cliff' thing would be blown away. In fact, if we wanted to provide even more government services than currently contemplated we could boost Fed lottery purchases to $40 billion, $50 billion, or whatever amount we wanted each week. A true 'golden age' of unlimited leisure for nearly every American would be within our grasp.”

President Obama is said to be “peeved” by Geithner's proposal. “While I appreciate Secretary Geithner's enthusiasm I am disappointed that he has lost sight of my number one fiscal priority: raising taxes on the top 2% of earners,” Obama said. “Using lottery winnings to cover deficits ignores our obligation to impose fairness in our nation's income distribution system. Those who's greed has driven them to take more than their fair share of the country's wealth have to be made to give back the excess. I won't settle for anything less.”


Dec 9

Amount Spent on Welfare Exceeds Average Income

Data from a Congressional Research Service report reveals that the amount the government spends on welfare per family below the poverty line exceeds the median earned income. The median for earned income in the United States is about $50,000 per year. The amount spent per family on welfare exceeds $60,000 per year. Assuming a 40-hour work week, welfare equates to an after-tax wage of over $30 per hour.

Congressional Democrats used these figures to make the case against prospective cuts to the government's entitlement spending. “The GOP's notion that we ought to be pushing people to get jobs is completely refuted by these numbers,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) contended. “Any person who can qualify for welfare payments would be harming her family by leaving the shelter of government benefits for the uncertainties of the marketplace.”

Over in the Senate Charles Schumer (D-NY) claimed that “cutting welfare benefits would devastate our economy. As the research shows, families on welfare contribute more spending to stimulate the economy than those who work for a living. Rather than foolishly trying to reduce the number of persons who qualify for welfare as the Republicans want us to do, we ought to be adding to and extending the benefits we bestow on this economically vibrant segment of our society.”

The New York Senator averred that “the President's bid to raise taxes on the wealthy is a small step in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough. The number of these people who will be encouraged to leave the workforce is small. A much bigger impact would be achieved if we could, like former Governor Howard Dean advises, raise everyone's taxes. That way a lot more could join this crucial economic cohort.”

In related news, disability is now America's fastest growing career choice among persons aged 18-64. In 1960 less than 1% of these persons were receiving disability payments. Last year more than 5% were. Disability due to “mood disorders” was credited with “making substantial inroads into the workforce over the last 50 years.” “Given the plasticity of this designation we see no reason why the vast majority of the population shouldn't qualify for benefits for this cause over the next few decades,” boasted Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are within sight of creating a society where the majority can be relieved of the burdens of toil.”

Dec 16

Right-to-Work Passes in Michigan, Violence Feared

This week the Michigan legislature passed a “right-to-work” law making the state the 24th to allow workers to abstain from joining a union without losing their jobs. Opponents of the new law are incensed.

Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, predicted “civil war.” “What we have here is a betrayal of democracy,” Hoffa claimed. “This law will allow workers to decline becoming members of a union even if the majority of their fellow employees vote that they should join the union. It puts individual rights ahead of the collective right to compel everyone to participate.”

Hoffa denied that the democratically elected legislature and governor might be carrying out the will of the people. “I don't think those that voted for these Republicans knew that they could be forfeiting their freedom to force others to join a company union,” Hoffa argued.

Michigan state Representative Douglas Geiss (D-Taylor) agreed with Hoffa's assessment saying “there will be blood. There will be repercussions! The right of unions to take action to protect their interests is sanctioned by our laws.” Geiss is believed to have been referring to the 1973 Supreme Court finding in United States v. Enmons that violent acts in pursuit of a legitimate union objective are immune from federal prosecution.

President Obama did his best to stoke the fires of resentment by miscasting the legislation as “taking away the right to bargain for better wages.” Press Secretary Jay Carney explained that “right-to-work laws undermine the united front image that gives unions extra muscle when it comes to negotiating with management. Granting individual workers the freedom to not join a union negates the freedom of the majority of workers to coerce the minority into joining. The President feels that when there are disagreements the freedom of the majority trumps the freedom of the minority. That's what democracy is all about.”

Dec 23

NRA Call for Armed School Guards “Reckless,” Says Senator

Maintaining that laws banning guns are ineffective at deterring criminals, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre urged that we “harden potential targets. The placement of trained and armed security guards in vulnerable locations would be a more potent defensive measure than the placement of signs declaring these locations 'gun-free zones.'”

LaPierre pointed out that “Connecticut's law banning assault weapons had no impact on the madman who killed 20 school children. Government officials themselves don't place their trust in gun control laws. The President has armed guards to protect him. Many members of Congress have concealed carry permits. They put their trust in self defense. Why shouldn't our children have a similar protection?”

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) called LaPierre's plan “reckless. How can more guns be the answer? What if the armed security guard turns out to be a madman? The NRA proposal would, in effect, allow armed lunatics to infiltrate our schools and be perfectly placed to carry out their evil agendas.”

In further support of his position, the Senator reminded that “the DOJ's plan to arm the Mexican drug cartels should have dispelled all illusions that simply increasing the number of guns would be a good strategy. Many of those guns have been used to murder hundreds of people.”

Representative Jim Himes (D-Conn) went even further saying that “those who use the Second Amendment to block the government from confiscating all unauthorized firearms have blood on their hands. There is no question in my mind that public safety requires the elimination of all privately owned guns. Laws making it illegal for private citizens to own guns would greatly simplify law enforcement.”

Himes pooh-poohed the notion that an armed citizenry might be a barrier to tyranny. “First of all, we have free elections, so tyranny is not a realistic possibility in America,” Himes insisted. “Even if it were, does anyone doubt that the firepower the government could muster would easily outgun civilian resistance? In a worst case scenario, I think most would agree that the potential risk of government oppression with gun control is preferable to the proven risk of random violence when the general population is allowed to have weapons.”

Dec 30

Russia Bans US Adoptions

The Russian legislature passed and President Vladimir Putin signed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. Families.

In a signing statement President Putin asserted that “we cannot continue to subject the fruit of Russian loins to lives of degradation and depravity in an immoral society. Not only is the culture permeated with filth that poses as art, but the physical safety of the children is not even protected in the schools. For us to continue acquiescing to these adoptions would make us knowing accomplices in the criminal abuse of these children.”

A secondary concern cited by Putin was “the looming economic hardships that will befall most American families in the months and years to come. The government is accumulating debts it cannot repay. Bankruptcy and currency collapse are inevitable. The Obama Administration's insistence on pursuing the same types of socialist policies that wrecked the Soviet Union augur a bleak future—one to which we cannot in good conscience allow to be inflicted on our children.”

US Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney said “the President is a bit miffed by Putin's blunt assault on American culture, but not overly concerned about the effects. Those negatively affected by the ban on adoptions are mostly the rich—people who generally have done less than their fair share of human suffering. So there is an element of inadvertent equity in the move.”

Carney pointed out that “it's not as if those blocked by the Russian legislation are without recourse. There will still be plenty of non-white babies they can buy from China or Africa. In fact, obtaining a child from these other sources might help them overcome some of the ingrained racism that dominates this segment of our society.”

There were nearly 1,000 adoptions of Russian orphans and unwanted babies by American parents last year. The measure puts an end to that option for those desperately seeking to become parents..


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