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The Wisconsin State Attorney's office has announced that it is pushing for the authority to imprison Wisconsites who go out of the state to smoke legal marijuana.

"It's based on our gay marriage law*," said a spokesman for the office. "As you know, Wisconsin, besides forbidding gay marriage or anything that looks like gay marriage, reserves the right to prosecute gay Wisconsinians who go to some state where gay marriage is legal, get all hitched up and return to Wisconsin expecting to get off scot-free. They're mighty surprised when we toss them in the pokey. The same thing is going to happen to Wisconsin potheads who cruise over to Colorado for some legal ganja. They're going to pay the same price as they would if they got caught with baggie in Green Bay."

That sounds extraordinarily unconstitutional.

"Don't give me that unconstitutional nonsense. What's more important, individual rights or making sure our citizens obey Wisconsin law, wherever they are? Look at how successful our laws have been in suppressing gay marriage.  Ordinary, normal Wisconsin folks, as they go about their daily business of buying some more Packers' gear or trapping muskrats, aren't being offended by a lot of gays calling themselves "Mr. and Mr." or having their cows frightened by big, noisy gay wedding receptions in the next barn over. Sure, some married gays might be sneaking across the border, but hopefully they're living in constant fear of being found out, waiting in dread for that knock on their door in the middle of the night, because we'd rather they were doing that then having gay sex."

And Wisconsin weed aficionados can look forward to being treated the same way when they return from getting their Rocky Mountain high on?

"Damn straight. If we find out you've been getting baked anywhere where it's legal, be it Colorado, Washington or Uruguay, Wisconsin justice is going to come down on you like a drone missile strike on an Afghan birthday party. If it ain't right in Wisconsin, it ain't right anywhere. Once we get the out-of-state pot task force organized, we're going after other people who go out of state to get up to no good. People who go to France and eat cheese, for example. That offends many Wisconsinallians. We figure you don't need to go to some foreign place to get your Gouda. But eating cheese is legal in Wisconsin, so we're not going to put them in jail. But we are going to make them pay Wisconsin cheese taxes on every crumb of cheese they eat in Paris. So if you got plans to fly to Frogland and hit the cheese hard, we advise you to expect a hefty bill when you get back."

So, for example, I would need a Wisconsin ice-fishing license if I went to Hawaii and decided to do some ice-fishing?

"My God, I hadn't even thought of that, but it's a stroke. It burns me up to think of all those people thumbing their noses at Wisconsin Fish and Game by going ice-fishing instead of hula dancing. We'll put that on the front burner. Thanks, dude. Are you from some kind of think tank?"



*A (Wisconsin) statute provides that residents who contract a marriage in another jurisdiction that would be prohibited within Wisconsin can be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 9 months. (From Wikipedia)


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PictureEncouraged by candyass American foreign policy
The armed occupation of Crimea by armed men who speak Russian and drive Russian tanks but who claim not to be the Russian army has been condemned as an act of lying, perfidious bullying by Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin. The only world leader who has publicly endorsed the Kremlin's actions is the leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

Now, having al-Assad on your side in the court of world opinion is like having Stephen Hawking on your side in a game of dodgeball. It doesn't help much.  Al Assad went on to characterize the Russian occupation as too gentle. "I fear for my Russian friends," the Syrian strongman was quoted as saying," Where's the sarin gas? It's never too soon to use starvation as a weapon. Where are the baby bodies, for Allah's sake?"

Nonetheless, Russia is squatting firm in Crimea despite world outcry, the loudest outcry of which comes from John McCain and other Republicans, who are not nearly as mad at the Russians as they are at Barack Obama, whose "weak" foreign policy they blame entirely for triggering the international outrage.

McCain scorned Obama's foreign policy as "feckless." A foreign policy masterminded by McCain would have deterred Putin from occupying a country that bordered on Russia and already had several Russian military bases and thousands of Russian troops on its soil, according to a spokesman for McCain's office. "If John McCain had won in 2008, Vladimir Putin would be lying under his bed crying instead of invading places," the spokesman added. "John McCain was never deluded into thinking the Cold War was over. He doesn't know where Obama got that idea."

Well, I just ran "the Cold War is over" as a search on Google and got 512 million results. Maybe there, huh?

"512 million liberal softies like Obama. Lucky for US foreign policy, McCain isn't one of them."

Actually, he was one of them. He said  publically "The Cold War is over" during his Presidential campaign.

"Well, he didn't mean it fecklessly."

So he meant it feck-fully?

"Obviously. What he means now is that Putin invaded Crimea because America didn't invade Libya or Syria when they were aching to be invaded. And when Benghazi happened, and we stopped short of nuking all of Saharan Africa in response, it reeked of wimpitude. Putin, who was content up until then with merely going shirtless and anesthetizing tigers, saw that he could occupy a rock he practically owned already without the US showering him with H-bombs."

I notice none of Obama's critics are advocating the start of any kind of war with Russia now.

"That's because we dropped the ball on invading those other places first. You need to build up to invading Russia. Ask Napoleon, or Hitler. We have to get our invasion skills back. It would be easy to invade any number of places which are close by and lack substantial militaries. And it would also show Putin that we're just as good at him at kicking helpless small country ass."

What countries do you have in mind?

"Anyplace close would be nice. Save on jet fuel. Grenada—we already know the way there. The same for Panama. Mexico, or maybe just Cabo—we could claim were protecting American civilians from sunburns and hangovers. Cuba! We already have a military base there, so it would be kind of a reverse Crimea, only with way nicer beaches. Or make the grand gesture and invade Iraq again. You know they could use another invasion, if you follow the news from there, and the fact that it would be even more pointless than the last time is bound to give Putin pause."

You know, if that roster of nations was a to-do list, it would already be all checked off. Why didn't it intimidate Putin the first time we invaded them?

"The guy's just this lovable blockhead, as far as we can tell. Kind of like my boss. Or else he's just so pissed off at gays and Pussy Riot that he can't think straight. We occupy the Bahamas, it's going to sober him right up. He'll pull out of Crimea out of sheer embarrassment.  

Have you really thought this out?

"Thinking stuff out is the definition of feckless, you libtard."



Author's Note: It came to my attention that the Senator from Arizona, whom the author was seriously considering voting for in 2008 until he picked Sarah "The only guy who can stop a bad guy with a nuclear weapon is a good guy with a nuclear weapon" Palin for his running mate, has also said that it is a "tragedy" that we don't have a military response available to the Russian invasion when we in fact, do. It's called, variously, Armageddon, Doomsday, The End of the Human Race as We Know It, Nuclear Holocaust, etc. Using it would mean that the next Winter Olympiad would be the first Nuclear Winter Olympiad and could conveniently be held in Jamaica. I hear they have a good bobsled team.


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PictureReturn to sender!
My Significant Other is having surgery this week and needs to put an auto-response on each of her email accounts so people won't wonder why she isn't responding to their cyber-nagging while she is undergoing a major operation and the subsequent excruciating rehab.


Kindly and useful mate that I am, I've composed these suggestions for her. One of them, I am sure, will suit her current mood perfectly: 


10: "I'm lying on an operating table while people look for new places to stick tubes in me, so I've got some fresh ideas on where you can stick your endless whiny emails."

9: "You're worried about the deadline? I'm worried about my flat-line. What a coincidence!"

8: "You want a report? Come look at the chart on my hospital bed. There's your frigging report."

7: "My doctor says it will be at least two weeks before I can look at any kitten videos, so keep them to yourself until then. And, you know, if you quit forwarding them forever nobody would really mind. Especially me. If I live." 

6: "I was just chatting with my dead relatives. They don't give a crap about your emails, and neither do I."

5: "Reading your emails would sap my will to live. I'm sure you understand."

4: "I'm in a medically-induced coma. What's your excuse?"

3: "I'll be taking a quick look up the Tunnel of Light before I get back to you on that."

2: "You forgot I'm having a serious medical problem and put an annoying smiley face on that email like you always do, not realizing that my health is so precarious I could die of exasperation, right? That's why I'm blocking it."

AND THE NUMBER ONE EMAIL AUTO-RESPONSE WHEN YOU ARE IN THE HOSPITAL HAVING SURGERY IS:

"If this is absolutely urgent, contact my anesthesiologist and tell him to keep me under until you figure it out for yourself."


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In another bombshell dropped by Ed "No Place Like Moscow in the Winter" Snowden, it has been revealed that a British intelligence service has been monitoring worldwide Yahoo! Messenger webcam feeds to make sure terrorists aren't using Yahoo! for their communications.

As a consequence of this surveillance program, the British spooks have found out that people send naked images to each other over the Internet. The entire Western intelligence community has been sent reeling over this shocking discovery.

"Why do we bother protecting this perverts from jihadists in the first place?" asked one senior analyst, who declined to give his name. "We estimate that of all the Web cam feeds we secretly monitor,up to 11% consist of nude images. Roughly ten percent of the human race is wanking at any given time."

When informed by this column that that percentage seemed about right, the anonymous source snorted "They all deserve to have a truck bomb parked up their keisters, then."

"Not so fast," said another senior spy, who struck this observer as pale, slightly dehydrated and suffering so much from lack of sleep that one of his hands was visibly trembling. "It's our duty to protect all these luscious young girls and splendidly gifted male innocents from terrorist violence. The right to send images of one's intimate bodily parts over the Internet is what the Western world has come to stand for. Look at this one, for example. I can see you're thinking the same thing I am--My God, what a honey!  Fortunately, our secret spy algorithms enable us to locate an IP address physically in mere seconds. I'm planning to spend the next several weeks protecting this dewy-skinned citizen from the frightening designs that Hezbollah has on lush blonde babes aching for the fulfillment only a man can give them. Got to go."

A third spymaster advocated a more evenhanded approach. "Look, we do have operatives who get queasy looking at scads of naked pics. And we have others who right away see in them great opportunities for political blackmail and extortion, because that's the way we secret agents like to roll. But we can't stop looking. If Al Qaeda found out we weren't looking at nude webcam feeds anymore, they would be free to communicate via them, maybe by scribbling terrorist plans on their naked genitals and showing them to each other, or shaving maps of the locations of future suicide bomb attacks into their back hair.

"It's all part of protecting our civilization, so when you're getting naked with your computer and someone else who's getting naked with their computer, just remember you may be getting a British government employee a little bothered and dry-mouthed as well. He or she is just doing their job. And by the way, those questionable pictures of the Queen and her corgi HAVE DEFINITELY BEEN PHOTOSHOPPED!

"And that's all you need to know about that."



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It's clean off the desk time! I haven't seen the polished wood of its top since Christmas.

My desk, being a horizontal surface, usually collects all items I don't want to immediately throw away or leave on the floor, and anything that does end up on the floor I will usually pick up eventually and put back on my desk. There is a condom there, for example. I know exactly how that condom ended up there, but I have no idea what will become of it. It is extremely unlikely that I will engage in a spontaneous sex act with a stranger anywhere near the vicinity of my desk. Its packaging is attractive, though. It gives the desk focus. I leave it alone.

Next, the old dry-cleaning tickets. I never bother to find them when I need to retrieve a clothing item from the dry-cleaners; I just give the dry-cleaning person my phone number. I prefer to go to dry cleaning establishments manned by unpleasant, angry people who speak English as a second language. Not bringing back the ticket in exchange for my pants just burns their hides. I know they're fuming because where they grew up, not bringing back their laundry ticket was punishable by internment in a labor camp and they're sorry they can't mete out this punishment to me. Long after my clean pants are safely home, I find the crumpled laundry ticket and throw it on my desk. Now I throw it out.

I have dozens of dollars in Kohl's Cash. It is useless. They give it to me when I buy clothes at Kohl's and it has a "window" in which you can redeem it for more clothes. Being a man, I only buy clothes when I need them, one item at a time. When I need a shirt, I buy a shirt. When I need a belt, a belt. I never think of going on little shopping sprees where I fill a cart with new fashions, let alone plan one to take advantage of my Kohl's Cash. The store cashier should just look at me and say "Oh—you're a man—you don't need this," and throw my Kohl's Cash away for me. But they don't. Now I have to do it myself.

The biggest pile of offenders, clutter-wise, on my desk is delivered by the US Mail. You know the mail category I'm talking about—mail that is too important to be thrown away but too boring to open. For most of us, it is the bulk of the mail we receive. It falls into several subcategories, all of which are subject to a very scientific triage:

Envelopes marked DO NOT DISCARD. If I were a clear-thinking person, I would discard these immediately.  Instead, I practice what could be described as a "virtual discard" by leaving them sealed on my desk for months on end.  I've let them linger in the Gulag of my mail pile long enough; now it is time for them to meet their final fate in my shredder, unopened.

(I don't actually have a shredder—I just bundle this stuff in a bag and throw it in the recycle can, the one in which my neighbor constantly stuffs dead grass cuttings, chopped thorn bushes and grayish worn underwear. Nobody's digging through that, so I figure that's just as good.)

Envelopes marked LIMITED TIME OFFER. That time is gone. These could be separated from SPECIAL ONE-TIME OFFERS if I wanted to bother, but I don't. They are all meeting the same end.

There are several envelopes marked EXPLANATION OF BENEFITS. These are from insurance companies. Nobody understands any of these explanations, but an approximation of one might be "Your insurance company hates you, and wishes you would stop trying to interfere in the relationship it's having with your money."

Who doesn't know that already? Out they go.

I always get a couple of missives a month regarding an employee stock program from a place where I once worked, reminding me that some fast-talking benefits coordinator once persuading me to put part of my pay into company stock. This stock has shown a remarkable consistency during the last tortured decade of the Dow-Jones. No matter what dizzying heights or depraved depths other stocks may yo-yo to, my stock always calmly sinks in value. It is now probably worth less than the recycle value of the beer bottles I could have emptied over many happy weekends, had I been wise enough to buy beer instead of that stock back then.

I keep these. If I become so confused that I actually think that I have any financial acumen, they serve as a handy reminder that I don't.

Also surviving the paper purge are numerous envelopes, unopened and not, on which I have scribbled phone numbers without attaching them to names. I don't know why I keep these around. I can never imagine become so bored I would want to call these numbers and ask whoever answered who they are. If I suddenly suffered from amnesia, I could call them up and ask them who I am, I guess. So I am prepared for that.

The rest of it is gone. The whole sad paper trail of opportunities wasted, obligations ignored, and reminders neglected has been tossed forever. I could compare its dissolution to my own inevitable fate, for I know that one day I will dwell in an oblivion as deep as the one I just cast that cable TV offer RESERVED EXCLUSIVELY FOR ME into, for my life will have ceased, although my stream of invitations to join the AARP probably will have not. But, hey, who has the time for that?

What's next on my list? Oh, yeah, the dry cleaners.


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PictureRead the evacuation plan before you run out of the door, please
 I was treated to an insider's look at the finest medical system in the world the other day, as my Significant Other needs surgery to have a hip replacement. According to her doctor, the need is probably the result of wear and tear on the joint in her athletic youth, particularly her time as a ballet dancer.

According to her, it is my fault.

Before hip surgery happens, you have to go to surgery class. This is where several sadistic nurses describe the grim post-operative complications possible, including paralysis, permanent confinement to a wheelchair, and death. This is not one of those "death panels" you hear so much about. It is more of a "heart attack panel," because that it what they are trying to scare you into having, in order to have something to do to you before surgery begins.

We gather at the front of the hospital, a collection of people on crutches, canes or rolling in wheelchairs. They check ID's. I don't know why. Maybe that vast tide of illegal immigrants that everybody worries about is composed of people trying to sneak into hip surgery class. They give us coffee and make us wait. It is only in the last few years that the medical industry has conceded that a patient turning on their cell phone in the hospital will not shut off every pacemaker and close every stent in the building, so most people are on their phones. My beloved reads a newspaper. I look brightly around, searching for amusement, and notice that the hospital has posted its emergency evacuation plan twelve inches from the main entrance. See the picture.

Now really, if a fireball burst out from the nearby corridor, or fumes of pandemic started pumping out of the air conditioners, or entire wards turned into zombies and started drooling for a taste of your flesh, or anything else happened that required you to leave in a hurry, would you stop to make sure you were doing it according to the hospital's plan OR WOULD YOU JUST RUN SCREAMING OUT THE FRONT DOOR?        

I know what I would do.

After everyone has gathered, we are told we have to go to the meeting room. This is located as far as possible from the hospital entrance. I am sure the hospital staff does this for their own amusement, and also to make us pay for being allowed to use our cell phones. It's only about four hundred feet, but remember everybody in the group is there because the pain of walking is so bad they would rather sliced open than endure it any more. It is a slow procession. If Moses had been leading these people across the desert, it would have taken eighty years instead of forty; if they had been on the Trail of Tears they would have run out of Kleenex before they'd gotten a quarter-mile.

A youthful nurse now addresses the group of cripples. As she describes the possible brushes with death and the inevitable wall of searing pain each one of the surgery prospects faces, she bounces around, flexing her lithe muscles as if she is barely restraining herself from doing jumping jacks or a quick session of yoga. The surgery patients stare at her dully, their minds fogged by the pain killers they need to get out of bed at all. I stare at her dully, too, because that is the only safe way to stare at a lithe young nurse when I am with my girl.

Next, we learn that there is at least a fifty-fifty chance that all of our noses are full of deadly bacteria just dying to leak out and kill us. Most of the room is horrified, but I console myself with the thought that now I know I am only one socially unacceptable act away from being able to flick death at my enemies.

Then the infection nurse comes in. She is a cheery soul despite her revolting job title. Her job is to convince the patients that if they don't have a relative who is a bubble boy that they can move in with for the next two months, they will probably fail to maintain a sterile enough environment after surgery to prevent their prosthesis from becoming  infected and useless, resulting in several additional operations that will probably not help to relieve their agony.  We are so used to hearing about the slim chance we have of resuming normal lives after the surgery by now that we barely blink at this news.

On the way back, my girl and I form a plan. Cancel the surgery. Buy a wheelchair. Smuggle morphine in from Mexico for as long as it kills her pain. If we ever want to have sex again, we go for a zero-G space ride like Kate Upton to minimize the chance of further hip damage. Anything to avoid falling into the hands of that hospital.

Then we go see the surgeon, the agent of her impending doom. He blinks when asked to frankly assess her chances of survival. "Everybody's fine in about two weeks," he tells us. "Really. I don't know why anyone would tell you otherwise."

So it's a go. I'll be at her side. If you want to know how it comes out, call me on my cell phone.



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PictureJesus urging followers to deny table service to gays
That freshet of free thinking, the Kansas State House of Representatives, has done it again. In a bill that passed by thirty votes, it has empowered any Kansas citizen, whether public or privately employed, to refuse service to anyone whose religious beliefs or sexual practices offend them.

While actual government agencies might still be bound by anti-discrimination laws, individual government employees would be free to refuse to assist those they judge to be unworthy of help.

As reported in the Huffington Post, State Rep. Charles Macheers (R), one of the bill’s staunchest advocates, argued that the provision was designed to prevent discrimination against religious individuals during a speech on the House floor Tuesday.

"Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill," Macheers said.

This argument, which is that Christianity forbids its most faithful adherents from offering even common courtesy or minimal service to people who offend their beliefs, will become law in Kansas if the state Senate passes the bill and the Governor of that great big flat state assents.

While it seems obvious that this is designed to be a rearguard action against gay marriage, enabling county clerks to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples even if the courts order that they be granted in Kansas, it is ripe with unintended consequences.  Of course, Christian restaurant owners are slobbering at the chance to refuse service to gay couples, but all those clever gays have to do is deck themselves out in sports jerseys and baseball caps to pass themselves off as regular hetero buddies. Lesbians have merely to wear heels to resemble church ladies.

Gay waiters in Kansas will, in the meantime, be free to refuse service to anyone they deem less than fabulous, forcing men in cut-off shorts and flip-flops that reveal their untrimmed toenails and sticky-faced toddlers to order their food elsewhere.

But the real issue will be in public service. Imagine this drama played out at a Kansas police station:

911 OPERATOR: Chief! We've got a report of an attempted robbery at gunpoint at Bill & Bubba's BBQ! Hostages have been taken!

POLICE COMMANDER: Bill & Bubba's! That's the best barbecue spot in town! Do we have any units nearby?

DISPATCHER: We have four officers in the area.

POLICE COMMANDER: Order them all in!

DISPATCHER: (After an exchange crackling with angry static) Bad news, sir. Officer Bernstein is an Orthodox Jew. He cannot enter any building where pork is present.

POLICE COMMANDER: Dammit! What about the rest of them?

DISPACTHER: Officer Abdul cannot heroically rescue anyone eating pork, either, sir. He also wishes to add that he cannot team up with Officer Bernstein because Bernstein is a Zionist hooligan.

POLICE COMMANDER: Who's left?

DISPATCHER: Not Officer Patel, sir. His religious beliefs forbid him from giving police service to any place serving beef short ribs as succulent as those dished up by Bill and Bubba's.

POLICE COMMANDER: The last one? I suppose there's some reason he can't respond, either?

DISPATCHER: Officer Bowtie is a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sir. He cannot enter any restaurant that does not have pasta on the menu.

POLICE COMMANDER: Well, does Bill & Bubba's serve pasta?

DISPATCHER: (doubtfully) Not many rib joints do, Chief.

POLICE COMMANDER: (Shouting) WILL SOMEONE LOOK UP THEIR MENU ON THE INTERNET FOR GOD'S SAKE?

A COP AT HIS DESK: (Glancing up from his keyboard) They have macaroni and cheese, sir.

POLICE COMMANDER: Macaroni and cheese? THAT'S PASTA! SEND IN THE PASTAFARIAN!

(A tense silence ensues)

911 OPERATOR: Sir, I'm getting a call from the fry cook at Bill & Bubba's. The robbers don't know he's hiding in the meat locker. Officer Bowtie has been shot to death.

POLICE COMMANDER: (Resignedly) Well, we've done all we can. See what their demands are. And find a stretch of highway we can name after Bowtie. 


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PictureSneak attack not part of Iranian Navy's plans
Two ships from the Iranian Navy's Northern Fleet are steaming towards US waters, the first time since December 7, 1941 that a fleet from an unfriendly nation has approached American territory with unknown intent.

The comparison with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not lost on Iranian Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad. "We intend to be more successful than the Japanese Navy," he said in an exclusive interview.

You're aware that at Pearl Harbor the Japanese attackers sunk 18 American warships and destroyed 189 military aircraft.  You're going to do better than that with a destroyer and a helicopter carrier?

"Absolutely. You recall that after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese armed forces were destroyed completely, the Japanese homeland was the target of a nuclear attack and they were forced into a humiliating surrender within a few years? None of that is going to happen to Iran as a result of this mission. Especially the nuclear attack part. We Iranians are sensitive about that."

What is your fleet going to do to insure a successful outcome, then?

"We have sent our advanced warships and highly trained sailors into close-to-America waters with the following top-secret orders: One, try not to sink. Two, don't get lost in the Bermuda Triangle, either."

Hmm. How is the mission going so far?

"We have successfully floated past South Africa and are now proceeding vigilantly north. All of our crewmen have been instructed to keep their decks clean and their beards groomed so they look nice in the 75,000 or so surveillance photos we anticipate American spy satellites will be taking of us as we approach the North American continent. Once there, we know Americans will lie in sleepless fear, knowing that the brave sons of the Iranian Revolution are nearby, being chilly and seasick right outside of US maritime boundaries."

It seems like one of the most pointless naval missions in history.

"Bite your tongue, infidel. We are showing the American warmongers that, just as they can send their warships near Iranian territory, we can flaunt our military might off Florida and New Jersey. Like the American Navy, we are ready."

Ready for what?

"In our case, to make a screeching U-turn at the first sign of trouble while loudly proclaiming our defiance."

Well, if the Japanese Navy had done that, we'd be living in a different world today.

"They could have learned a lesson from us, that's for sure."


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PictureOut of work
Mega model Kate Upton was one of some 300,000 plus Americans filing for unemployment last week as she lost her job as the cover model for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She had held the position for two years.

This coveted spot, traditionally given to the woman least likely to have sex with a Sports Illustrated reader, was instead filled by three lesser-known supermodels. 

Ms. Upton's job loss contributed to the current sky-high unemployment rate among millennials. She has reportedly been denied re-hiring as a public cheeseburger consumer for the Carl's Junior restaurant chain.

"Carl's, like Sports Illustrated, needs to move on from the Upton era," a spokesman for the chain said. "However, many of our individual restaurants are hiring. Entry-level positions pay from six to eight-fifty an hour, depending on the local minimum  wage. We Would be happy to review Kate's application," he added.



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By genuine author sibling Matt Cahill

I travel a bunch for my job and have to rent cars on a regular basis. I’m no globe trotter but do my share of domestic jumps and generally rent cars with Budget. I’m a gold or platinum or plutonium or uranium member – this matters very little or a great deal depending where one is. While most rent-a-car companies endeavor to make the customer experience uniform across each outlet, Budget, refreshingly, does not. Let’s trot out some examples:

Memphis, TN – This by far my favorite Budget counter. To call the staff merely relaxed is several comfy sofas short of reality. They are routinely women who are black, sizeable, and owners of  bosoms that cover the majority of the available counter space when they lean over it. Your precious metal status as a customer is unimportant, as these girls lure every customer in with phrases such as “What you want to drive today baby? – I got a Mustang," “Insurance is a rip off” and “Where you drivin hon? You goin' to be back Wednesday? Don’t worry I’ll just put it down for Tuesday and we’ll see.” Despite being the home of The King and such, Memphis is by this traveler's reckoning a "dump" or a “shithole." The Memphis experience starts with the constant stream of FedEx planes overhead making sure all the Amazon Prime people get their electronics on time, and it gets worse from there. I don’t want to go anywhere in that town except maybe back to the Budget girls' places for bbq. Their counter is a refreshing wet nap before you plunge into the grunge of a city that combines the boredom of the Midwest with the general backwardness of the South.

San Juan, PR – Also a fun spot assuming there is a car for you and you can navigate back to the lot which turns out to be much more difficult than leaving it. As an extremely white guy Puerto Rican Budget workers generally hit me up with English right away, which I appreciate. Very friendly spot and buenos noches all around. But, seriously, when they tell you to inspect the car for damages and fill out the little sheet DO IT! before you exit.

Philadelphia, PA – Like the usual blogger here, I hail from Philly originally and both of us have had many occasions to use PHL. There are probably worse places in Syria and South Sudan but I don’t have to go to those so I will single the Burg of Brotherly Love out as the most unfriendly Budget counter in my experience.  This is not unique to Budget; all PHL airport denizens are surly in the extreme, from info desk workers to bag handlers to bar staff. After a brief walk through the Marriott (or if you actually deign to get on the shuttle bus to the Budget counter) the staff will have taken miserableness to the Olympic level to celebrate your arrival.  From your pick up to your drop off, barely suppressed anger oozes out of them, complementing the hellishly cold and dank surroundings nicely. I do my best to try and be sympathetic, as the Philly airport is nestled between a very large sewage treatment plant, the Delaware River, where the pollutants of centuries past meander lazily towards the Atlantic and an abandoned Navy shipyard. If you've never been there please brace yourself for the initial shock of the smell that hits you upon arrival –unique among the nation's metro airports. I imagine being surrounded by it all day would make me testy as well.

AUTHOR'S NOTE—While I don't have the rental car resume of my brother, I did recently suffer through a similar travel-work experience in Dallas, which in my opinion is just another boring Midwestern town but with a cowboy hat on.  While my rental car wasn't from Budget, it didn't matter; at the Dallas airport all the rental car companies share the same structure, kind of like a United Nations General Assembly of Rental Wheels, filled with cars painted in primary colors that you would never want to actually own. The main defect with this is that the structure is reached by a very long road along which the signs for rental car drop-off are spaced so widely that you are repeatedly gripped with an acute fear that you have missed the turn-off for it, and are doomed to extend your stay in Dallas unintentionally.

As far as the source of Philly surliness, I believe it is caused by its citizens being certain they live in the worst major city on the East Coast. This is reinforced by the experience of traveling there by road; while you can keep track of the miles to New York as far south as South Carolina, Philadelphia is not even mentioned on the signage of I-95 until you get to northern Maryland. Once you find the place, a little north of Wilmington, Delaware, which is sort of a mini-Philly (city slogan—"Why Go Further? We Have the Same Sandwiches and the Same Crime Rate) you'll find yourself in  a town that is way more tolerant of bystander shootings than of losing sports teams and where any suggestions for improvement are usually greeted by a hearty invitation to go enjoy intercourse with yourself.

See you there soon.  


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