Thursday, December 22, 2005

“A Hell of an Idea”

The Inferno, December 22 –

It was time for the shift change in the furnace room. “How’d it go?“ asked Modoc, who was just coming on.

“I don’t know,” said Belial, the group leader he was replacing. “Maybe I’m getting too old for this shift. Century after century, the same old shift. Make sure the rotisseries keep turning, baste the clients on the half hour… I’ll be glad when this batch moves on to the waterboard. You won’t hear all that whining about people being thirsty after the first few minutes of being tilted downward, their faces covered with plastic, while heavy streams of water pour into their mouths and noses.”

“Well I’ve got something that will improve your mood,” chortled Modoc. “Did you hear about the Boss’s new gimmick?”

“I got a hot tip,” said Belial. “Isn’t it beautiful? Absolutely fiendish!” The tip of his forked tail quivered like a cat’s when it’s stroked.

“You’ve got to give the Boss credit. He knows a good idea when he comes across one, and he’s not afraid to swipe it,” said Modoc admiringly.

“Hey, I’ve always given the Boss credit for stealing!”

“Sure, sure. No offense meant.”

“Spreading the story we don’t torture in Hell! Isn’t that a hoot?!” Belial gave an evil smile. “How’s he gonna work it?”

“He’s paid some columnists to write the stories and bribed some papers to run them,” said Modoc.

“A page from the Bush administration! All the news that’s fit to plant! What happens then?”

“He says there are plenty of fools out there who’ll read them and figure they’re got a blank check to do anything their shriveled souls desire. Why not launch a war? Or bomb civilians? Or poison the landscape with uranium? Or sell government to the highest bidder? There won’t be hell to pay because we don’t ‘torture’ any more.”

“That’s what I can’t figure out. The Boss always keeps his end of the bargain. But you’d better read the fine print with a microscope before you sign on the dotted line. What’s the catch this time?”

“It’s so simple you’ll wish you’d thought of it. He’s just redefined ‘torture’ in a way that allows us to do almost anything we want.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s his definition of torture?”

“’Interrogation methods severe enough to cause organ failure or death.’”

“The Devil you say! That’s it? Anything else is fair game?”


“So we can still roast people over fires? And waterboard them? And pull out their fingernails? And pierce their eardrums with needles? And drill holes in their teeth with no anesthetic? And hit them in the mouth with a hammer? And force them to stay in agonizing positions for days on end? And attach electric wires to their nipples and testicles? And wake them every twenty minutes? And piss on their Bibles and Korans? The full works?”

“That’s the beauty of it. Do any of those things cause organ failure or death?—not that death is an issue here. They just hurt like hell.”

“Well, that’s the idea, isn’t it? So we just keep on torturing the same as we always have, but it’s not ‘torture’ anymore because of the definition. That’s a hell of an idea!”

“And since everybody here is already dead…”

“The depth’s the limit! How in Hades did he come up with that definition?”

“You know damned well where he got it! The same place he’s been getting all those other neat ideas: W, Vice, and Rummy. Aren’t they a hell of a team? The President got his own lawyer, Alberto Gonzalez, to sign off on this one.”

“Are you sure this wasn’t the Boss’s idea to begin with?”

“Give these guys some credit, will you. Listen, if we don’t watch it, they’ll have our jobs. They came up with this one all on their own.”

“But he’s planted ideas with them before….”

“Oh sure. The tax breaks for the rich to steal from the poor. The Patriot Act to invade people’s private lives. The campaign of lies to invade Iraq. He’s given them a ton of ideas.”

“How does he do it?”

“Nothing to it. He just whispers in the President’s ear, and the President thinks it’s a message from God!”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

“This Pen for Hire”

“It’s OK to satirize the President, as long as you do so with respect.”
- Memo from CBS censors to the Smothers brothers, 1967

Dear President Bush,

We have not yet received payment for the columns you ordered. If you will check the record, my “Spineless Democrats” column ran on July 17 of this year, and on November 14, I published a column attacking Sen. Harry Reid, per your request. In accordance with the terms of our contract, no reference to White House sponsorship was included in the articles. In the event that our original billing was misplaced, a second invoice is attached.

At the time of our original discussion, $1,000 each for the columns seemed reasonable, and in line with my usual fee in these matters. Since then, however, disclosures in the press indicate that I am being compensated for my efforts at well below the going market rate.

Specifically, it has been revealed that my colleague Armstrong Williams, a black conservative, received $240,000 from the U.S. Dept. of Education and the Ketchum public relations firm to advocate for your “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) program. That is approximately one hundred twenty times what I am slated to receive.

I recognize that although Mr. Williams’s contract required him to write a number of opinion columns supporting NCLB, it also required that he comment favorably on the program on his nationally syndicated television and radio shows (“The Right Side”). He was also expected to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige, and to attempt to persuade other black journalists to interview Secretary Paige and promote your NCLB policy.

So it could be argued that Mr. Williams was paid more because he was being hired for a variety of additional services. However, I had already indicated my willingness to write additional columns, appear on FOX News talk shows, and ask embarrassing questions during interviews with various liberal political figures.

In addition, syndicated columnist Doug Bandow is now alleged to have received substantial payments from Republican fundraiser and lobbyist Jack Abramoff to write somewhere between a dozen and two dozen positive stories about Abramoff's clients, at $2,000 a column. You promised to put me in touch with Mr. Abramoff to see if he had additional clients I could promote, but he was repeatedly “out of the office” or “unavailable to take your call” when I attempted to contact him.

And, as you may recall, conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher got $21,500 from your Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to advocate for your ideas on marriage. Ms. Gallagher, after having been condemned for receiving unreported payments from your administration, wrote in a subsequent column that she would have informed readers of the payments if she had just remembered them. I can assure you that I will remember whether or not you pay me $21,500.

Likewise, conservative columnist Mike McManus received $10,000 from DHHS for promoting the same cause in his syndicated column, 'Ethics & Religion,' which appears in fifty newspapers. It is unfortunate for his column that his failure to mention he was being paid to promote the cause was widely seen as an ethical lapse.

As revelations of your administration’s bribery of the press continue to emerge, I have been shocked—just shocked—at how much I have been underpaid. A free press cannot be bought on the cheap.

You seem to have realized this in Iraq, where your military leaders spent $20 million, much of it to bribe journalists and publishers, in a two-month campaign to plant stories favorable to the U.S. in Iraqi media. I must say that, as an American citizen, I resent those funds going to Iraqis, when a host of journalists at home would have been more than happy to generate favorable news for payments on that scale.

In light of your administration’s payments to Mr. Williams, Ms. Gallagher, Mr. McManus, and a bevy of Iraqi journalists, the $2,000 for which I contracted is clearly inadequate compensation, totally inconsistent with the stature and wide readership of my work.

If you have already sent payment, and our correspondence has crossed in the mail, please disregard this letter.


Tony Russell

P.S. This is your last chance to order columns at the current rate. Starting January 1, the price for a standard promotional column will rise to $2,000. Graphs, charts, photos, and other supplements will cost an additional 10%. We regret this increase, but a price restructuring was necessary to remain competitive in a rapidly changing market.

P.P.S. Remember that Christmas is less than a week away. Order gift columns now for your cabinet secretaries, allies, and campaign contributors. They make the perfect gift!

P.P.P.S. Note my return address. Any correspondence or payments should be sent to my personal post office box rather than care of the Hur Herald, as the owner/publisher/editor is inclined to be old-fashioned in these matters.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

“Gang Co-Founder Executed in Texas”

Note: The following column closely parallels an actual news report on Yahoo! of the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams in California, often word for word, sometimes simply with names, ages, and locations changed. The irony the column turns upon, of course, is that Williams, a founding member of the Crips, was executed for four murders he denied having committed, while Mr. Bush, whose responsibility for perhaps 25,000 times as many deaths is based on evidence at least as strong as that used to convict Williams, is a free man admired by millions. “The Vulcans” is the name that Bush's core national security advisors, (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Condoleeza Rice, and a few others) gave themselves.

Gang Co-Founder Executed in Texas

Huntsville, December 12, 2015 -
George “W” Bush, co-founder of the notorious “Vulcans” gang, whose case stirred a national debate about capital punishment versus the possibility of redemption, was executed Tuesday morning.

Bush, 69, died at 12:35 a.m. Officials at Huntsville State Prison struggled to inject the lethal mixture into his muscular arm, strengthened by years of clearing brush on his Crawford, Texas, ranch. As they probed repeatedly for a vein, Bush looked up irritably, shaking his head at supporters and other witnesses, asking one of the men with a needle "What’s the problem here?"

Bush was condemned for deliberately starting a war by manufacturing and twisting evidence which he knew was false at the time. Bush claimed he was innocent. Witnessess at his trial said he boasted about the war, shouting, "Bring it on!" Bush then smirked and joked for five to six minutes, according to the transcript that the governor referenced in his denial of clemency.

The case became the state's highest-profile execution in decades. Radio talk-show hosts, televangelists, and politicians who had formerly been fierce capital punishment advocates argued that Bush's sentence should be commuted to life in prison because he had made amends by writing children's books about the dangers of torture and war. Bush had spent the past decade writing books to deter young people from following his example and using his "street" credibility to broker peace agreements between warring elements in the United States and abroad.

In the days leading up to the execution, state and federal courts refused to reopen his case. Monday, Gov. Rick Perry, Jr. denied Bush's request for clemency, suggesting that Bush’s supposed change of heart was not genuine because he had not shown any real remorse for the 100,000 or more deaths directly attributable to the gang known as “the Vulcans.”

"Is Bush's redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?" Perry wrote. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."

About 1,000 death penalty opponents and a few political supporters gathered outside the prison to await the execution. Singer Lee Greenwood, former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell were among the celebrities who protested the execution.

"Tonight is cold-blooded judicial murder, and I think everyone who is here is here to try to recover the morality and soul of this country," said Greenwood, who sang "God Bless the USA" from the back of a pickup truck just outside the gates.

A contingent of 30 people who had walked the approximately 67 miles from Houston held signs calling for an end to "state-sponsored murder." But others, including Darrell Bias, 52, of Willis, Texas, said they wanted to honor the victims.

"If he had admitted his responsibility for lying to start a deadly, evil war, and had shown some remorse for the slaughter of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children, the governor might have had a reason to spare his life," Bias said.
During Bush's years on death row, a Swiss legislator, college professors, and others nominated him for the Nobel Prizes in peace and literature.

Former Vulcans member Irve Lewis Libby Jr., 65, was among those attending a candlelight vigil outside the prison. He said he would work to spread Bush's anti-war message. "His work isn’t going to stop," said Libby, who said he was known as "Scooter" as a young cabal member. "W's body might be buried, but his spirit is free. I want everyone to know that, his spirit lives."

Bias rejoined, “That’s the problem in a nutshell.”

"I’m not the same man who started the war," Bush said recently during an interview with The Associated Press. "I haven't had a lot of self-knowledge in my life. But in here," he said, pointing to his head, "I know I’m right."

Bush's statements did not sway some relatives of his victims, including Lorena Orwell, whose son Andy was among four soldiers who died when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy. In the years since his death, she has been one of the outspoken advocates who argued the execution should go forward.

"(Bush) chose to put Andy in harm’s way through three tours of duty in Iraq. Andy didn't do anything to deserve to die. He just joined the Guard to get money for college. He had big plans for his life," she said during a recent interview. "He didn’t die right away. He was covered with horrible burns over 90% of his body, and had massive internal injuries. I believe Bush needs to get the punishment he was given when he was tried and sentenced."

After he was officially pronounced dead, three of his supporters chanted, "The state of Texas just killed an innocent man," and waved small American flags as they walked out of the chamber.

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005

“Three More Years! Three More Years!”

“…the member of Parliament maintained a confident air of satisfaction,
which was why politicians were assassinated, Blair thought, because
nothing else would faze them.”

- from Martin Cruz Smith’s novel Rose

“Hello, this is Mr. Insider. How may I help you?

“Mr. Insider, a bunch of us here in the office were talking about impeachment, and we’re stumped. You know Washington from the inside out. We’re hoping you can settle an argument for us.”

“I’ll do my best to justify your confidence. What’s your question?”

“Well, actually, it’s not just one question. We’ve got several questions.”

“Okay, let’s just take them one at a time. From the top.”

“That’s easy. The first one that’s on everybody’s mind is ‘What’s keeping George Bush from being impeached?’”

“What do your friends in the office think?”

“They think Republicans will never let it happen as long as they control both houses of Congress.”

[Mr. Insider bursts into a huge belly laugh. Finally, gasping and wheezing from
the effort, he brings it to a stop.] That’s what they think? [Can’t help himself, and breaks into laughter again.] Listen, Republicans are desperate to dump him! They’d throw Bush out in a minute if they could. Every Republican politician in the country is panicked. They’re afraid—with good reason—that voters will blame them for the mess the country is in. They’re all scared spitless that come election day the public will toss them over the side of a bridge like a sack of unwanted kittens weighed down with a stone.”

“So it’s not the Republicans dragging their feet on impeachment?”

“Oh hell no! They’re all for it! It’s the Democrats who want to keep him in office. He’s the best thing they’ve got going for them. There’s a lot of arm-twisting going on in the cloakrooms right now, with Republicans trying to get a few Democrats to sign on for impeachment. But the Democrats won’t budge, and the Republicans don’t want it to look like it’s strictly a partisan affair.”

“Do you think there’s a good case for impeachment?”

[Mr. Insider snorts.] “You must be kidding, right? Clinton was impeached for lying about oral sex. Bush and his cronies lied about a war that’s bloodied the whole Middle East. Our fiscal future is a nightmare. Iraq is draining billions out of our budget faster than waste flushed down a commode. They lied about the cost of a prescription drug benefit. They lied about the cost of their tax breaks. They’re shredding the Constitution, holding people without charge, denying them the right to see a lawyer, kidnapping people from the streets, and torturing suspects all over the globe. If you impeach Clinton and you don’t impeach Bush, it’s like executing a jaywalker and excusing a serial killer.”

“So why hasn’t it happened already? Why do we have to put up with this guy for three more years? Are we just stuck?”

“That’s easy enough. Who fills Bush’s slot if he’s out?”

[A pause. Then a groan.] “Dick Cheney.”

“Exactly. The Torture Master himself. Bush took a page from his father’s book. You know what they used to call Dan Quayle: Bush’s life insurance.”

“But couldn’t you impeach them both at once—some kind of two-for-one special?”

“You haven’t thought this through. Who’s next in line after Cheney?”

“Let’s see… it’s the Speaker of the House, isn’t it?”

“Exactly. Dennis Hastert. Tom DeLay’s man of the House.”

“Suppose you could somehow get past all three?”

“Then you get the President Pro Tempore of the Senate—Bill Frist, currently under investigation for insider trading.”

“That’s it then? We’re stuck with this schmuck? For three more years?”

“Hey, if you don’t think long enough about your vote before you cast it, you’ve got a long time afterwards to regret it.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

“None So Blind”

“Ed,” I blurted out, “what happened to you?”

He swiveled his head, trying to hone in on my voice. I flinched when I saw his eyes straight on, soft milky tissue where the pupils had been. But his posture was stiffly erect, like a caricature of a soldier on parade.

“Chuck,” he said, “is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me. But, my God, Ed, what happened to your eyes?”

“I became a patriot!” he announced, voice brimming with pride.

That seemed a non sequitur to me. “A patriot?” I asked, perplexed. “I always thought you were a patriot, Ed.”

He looked frustrated for a minute. “Let me see if I can explain it to you,” he said. “Do you remember when we were part of that home schooling group, and some of the members wanted to make it a Christian home schooling group?”

“Uh huh.”

“And then it turned out that when they said ‘Christian,’ the term didn’t really include the Catholics and Methodists and what-not in the group. It only meant the fundamentalist kind of Christian?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, it’s the same thing with ‘patriot’ as it was with ‘Christian.’ When we say ‘patriot,’ we don’t mean some wishy-washy relativist who sees good in some other countries and some evil in the United States. For us, the President’s word is an article of faith, and our country is righteous by glory and by God.”

“But you’re blind,” I said, afraid I’d hurt his feelings by stating the obvious.

“That’s just the way it appears to you,” he said. “I’ve replaced my eyesight with a superior kind of vision. The President, the Vice President, Joe Lieberman, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter—they all kept telling me I needed to get this done, and I finally decided to stop putting it off.”

“Don’t your eyes hurt?” I asked, wincing at the very thought of losing my eyes.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s one of the best things about it. My vision is less painful than it was before. In fact, I don’t feel a thing.”

“But the operation must have hurt like the devil.”

“Nah,” he laughed. “It’s not like they poke a stick in your eyes. It’s all done through the power of suggestion, mass hypnosis, that kind of thing.”

“It just seems so… extreme,” I said hesitantly.

“You sound like some kind of terrorist,” he said, laughing again. “No offense meant, Chuck.”

“And how do you feel about the operation now …?”

“Just great,” he said. “Those people who say ‘My country, right or wrong’ have it all wrong. My country is always right.”

“So the terrible tortures in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay?”

“Invisible,” he said. “It’s like they never happened.”

“The tens of thousands of slaughtered Iraqis, including women and children? Just innocent civilians, killed by white phosphorus, or cluster bombs, or the massive illegal bombings carried out by the U.S. before the war even began?”

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“The incredible corruption, the billions stolen in so-called Iraqi reconstruction funds?”

“Out of sight, out of mind,” he said dismissively.

“Prisoners held without charge for years, unable to see a lawyer, let alone family and friends?”

“I’m blind to it. Literally,” he said.

“The unmitigated gall of calling an unprovoked attack on another nation ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’?”

“I don’t understand those words,” he said.

“The sheer stupidity of imposing a phony democracy at gunpoint?”

“Don’t see it,” he said. “Can’t see it.”

“The buying, bullying, bribing, and browbeating of news media, until they’re gun-shy about anything that doesn’t toe the right-wing line?”

“It’s not there,” he said. “There’s no ‘there’ there.”

“Our own government organizing kidnappings, secretly transporting suspects to other countries, and brutally interrogating them at clandestine detention centers?”

“Why would you even ask a question like that?” he said with a note of concern. “Do you really hate this country that much? Let me tell you, Chuck, you ought to do what I did, and go and have your eyes checked. Before it’s too late, and they can’t do anything to help you.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005


Annapolis, Nov. 30. –

“I don’t know, Condi. I’m not sure this is such a good idea.”

“It’s too late to worry about it now, Scott. You know how he is. Once he gets an idea in his head, it’s safe from everything except a nuclear attack.”

“But he looks kind of …funny… up there, with that short skirt, bouncing around in those boots with the tassels on them, shaking those red, white, and blue pompoms.”

“Relax. He was a cheerleader at Yale, remember? He loves this kind of stuff. It’s second nature to him.”

“You’ve got to think, though, a college crowd like this could be a tough audience for him.”

“Nah. You just have to be careful where you take the show. There are at least eight or nine schools in the country he can go to with this routine and not get booed or hooted off the stage.”

“That many?”

“Sure. You’ve got the Naval Academy here, and then West Point, and the Air Force Academy. And don’t forget the Coast Guard Academy. Then there’s Bob Jones University, and Patrick Henry, and—what’s that place of Jerry Falwell’s, Liberty? That’s seven right there.”

“How can he do it? Plaster that smile on his face, swish around in front of all those ‘Plan for Victory’ signs…?”

“The Pep Club put those up on the stage and all the lockers before the rally. Takes you back to your high school days, doesn’t it?”

“It sure does. Wait! I recognize that cheer!”

Victory, victory, is our cry!
Bush and Cheney is our name!
Oil and money are our game!

“That was so cute!”

“But it doesn’t make any sense! How can you have a victory rally when you’re getting the crap kicked out of you, and everybody knows it?”

“Well sure, it’s hard. But does a cheerleader pack in the pompoms just because the team’s down by six touchdowns? They’d jerk the letter off your varsity sweater in a heartbeat. You just smile and keep pleading with the crowd to cheer. Remember? ‘Come on, you guys, let’s hear some spirit.’”

“But think of all those wounded players carried off the field on stretchers. Some of them weren’t moving. I’m kind of anxious about them.”

“These are just college kids, Scott. War, football—they just like the excitement of the game. The band, the uniforms, the roar of the crowd, us against them. Get ‘em jazzed up, and they forget all about torn ACL’s or amputations.”

“Hey, who’s that guy climbing up on the stage with him?”

“Don’t be silly, you know him! That’s Joe Lieberman.”

“Is that Joe? He sure looks different in that cheerleading outfit.”

“Shhhh. Watch, this’ll be good. They’ve been working on this routine all week. [Pause] Well, what did you think of it?”

“That was really something! The way he boosted the President up on his shoulders, and then did the splits! That just defies reality!”

“You think that’s a neat trick, wait until you see the President’s next move. When he talks about ‘fighting for freedom,’ he really means we’ll continue a strategy of torture, death squads, betrayal of women’s rights, massive corruption and profiteering, and heavy bombing of civilians. Talk about doing the splits!”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

“Appreciate One When You See One”

“What’s up, Wendell?” I asked, sliding into the booth. “You look like a cat that just swallowed a two-pound canary.”

He flipped the Hur Herald around and jabbed a finger at the front page. “Take a look at that,” he said gleefully. “Another Republican politician caught with his hand in the till. So many of these guys have been indicted now the court’ll look like Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving!”

“And that makes you happy?” I said.

“Damn straight,” he said. “I’ve had it up to here with those hypocrites.” He snorted. “These were the guys who were gonna restore honor and dignity to politics. The family values guys, the guys who prayed every time you put a mike in front of their mouth. They turned evangelical churches into party headquarters. If you listened to them, God punched a straight Republican ticket. And now it turns out they’re no better than a den of thieves.”

I glanced over the story. “Wow,” I said. “Duke Cunningham. Eight-term Congressman from San Diego. Pled guilty to taking $2.4 million dollars in bribes from three defense contractors! He didn’t play around with chicken feed, did he?”

“Look at the perks,” said Wendell. “A mansion, a suburban Washington condominium, a yacht, and a Rolls Royce. The man liked the high life.”

Madge was standing there, waiting to take my order. “I’ll have the health-food special,” I said. “Two over easy, three slices of bacon, a couple of waffles, and a cup of coffee, cream and sugar.”

“You’re feeling good about the wrong thing,” muttered Madge, as she jotted down the order on her pad.

“What’s that?” said Wendell.

“Read the rest of the story,” she said. She pointed with her pencil to the middle of the page. The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office. I know I will forfeit my reputation, my worldly possessions –and, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family. I can't undo what I have done, but I can atone. I'm almost 65 years old and I enter the twilight of my life. I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends, and I will.

“It’s just part of the plea agreement,” scoffed Wendell. “He had to show contrition.”

“Oh, for God’s sake. Don’t be such a damned cynic, Wendell,” she snapped. “Yes, the guy betrayed everybody who ever voted for him. And yes, that’s your money and mine he was pissing away. There’s no excuse for that. He deserves his punishment. But he looked at himself, in front of all of us, and said he was ashamed of what he saw. And then he promised to do something about it: ‘I can’t undo what I have done, but I can atone.’”

“So what’s your point?” he asked.

“You’re always griping about Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush. How they never admit they’ve made a mistake. How everybody acts as if Bush is such a he-man because he never looks back, never admits he was wrong, and never says he’s sorry.”

“Yeah. So?”

“So now you’ve got a guy who was a Navy fighter pilot, had medals saying he was a hero, turned into a crook and a liar—and has finally become a real man. You ought to appreciate one when you see one.”

“Madge,” I said, “could you make that flapjacks instead of waffles? And add some biscuits and gravy on the side?”
© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

“Deserting a Sinking Ship”

Washington, Nov. 28 –

Reports from the Potomac basin today indicate that the Presidential yacht is taking on water at an alarming rate. Despite administration efforts to spin water overboard, the ship is said to be in danger of capsizing and going to the bottom.

The yacht suffered major damage during Hurricane Katrina, although nautical experts say that hairline cracks had already been detected below the ship’s water line. Efforts to repair the craft in the hurricane’s aftermath were hampered by aides’ inability to get the President’s attention for five days while damage worsened. The President was reportedly riding his bicycle at the time.

Stories of the vessel’s grave condition have gained added credibility from accounts of rats racing to leave the craft, squealing and nipping at each other in their frenzied haste to abandon ship. Republican politicians, who were partying on the ship at the time it ran into foul weather, are increasingly alarmed at the vessel’s condition. Old hands Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson, who served aboard when the current captain’s father was at the helm, jumped ship in the past few weeks.

Republican Jerry Kilgore, locked in a neck-and-neck contest with Tim Kaine in the Virginia gubernatorial race, called Mr. Bush in for a last-minute joint appearance in hopes of giving his campaign a boost. He lost by a stunning six percentage points. Commentators are unable to account for the sudden shift in voter sentiment. It is reported, however, that the results sprang another leak in the vessel’s hull.

Subsequently, Senator Rick Santorum, trailing his challenger by sixteen points in recent polls, was unable to rearrange his schedule to appear with Mr. Bush during the President’s recent trip to Pennsylvania.

Eyewitnesses say that ropes mooring the craft are so crowded with panicky rats biting and infighting that the ropes are slick with blood and hazardous to cross. Several rats have been knocked off and apparently drowned; others are expected to fall now that Patrick Fitzgerald has convened a new grand jury.

Unconfirmed reports describe an exodus of huge rats with a purplish hue to their turncoats. These so-called Democ rats took up lodging on the Presidential ship in fair weather, voting for a series of Presidential measures, including tax cuts for the wealthy, the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and the bankruptcy bill. Almost all are said to have fled the ship now, and are attempting to mingle with their brethren and sisters who had stayed ashore.

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005

“Behind Dick Cheney’s Back”

The guy sitting next to me looked up from his newspaper. “Did you see this?” he asked. “Scooter Libby was indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements.”

“Yeah, I heard about it on the radio before I left work,” I said.

“It’s just hard to believe, isn’t it?” he said, with a note of lingering surprise.

“What do you mean?”

“You know. That the Vice President’s Chief of Staff—the guy who had such a reputation for loyalty and dedication to the Vice President—would do something like this behind Dick Cheney’s back.”

“I’m not sure where you’re going with this,” I said.

“Well, he’s supposed to be doing what the Vice President wants him to, isn’t he? I mean, he’s the Veep’s right-hand man, his go-to guy.”

“Uh huh?”

“But instead, here he is, heading off on his own, just completely out of control. Tying up the office phones calling journalists to talk about Joe Wilson’s wife, using precious work time to try to get revenge on someone who’d attacked the administration’s credibility on that Niger yellowcake thing.”

“He seems to have been pretty busy,” I admitted.

“God, Dick Cheney must feel so betrayed,” he mused. “Counting on Scooter Libby, and Libby pulls a stunt like this.”

“What in the world could have motivated him?” I wondered.

“He must have just lost it,” the guy theorized. “It’s so out of character for him. He worked like a dog for Cheney, always carrying out his instructions with such zeal and thoroughness, maybe he just got carried away. It happens.”

“How do you suppose he kept it a secret from the Vice President?” I wondered.

“That’s really the sad part, isn’t it?” said the guy. “Imagine trying to hide something like that from a boss who trusted you with everything. They were so close that people called Scooter Cheney’s ‘alter ego.’ Cheney has to be devastated, to discover that Libby was doing all those rotten things and keeping him in the dark.”

“You’d think Libby would have ‘fessed up to his boss at some point.”

“You would, but I guess he was just too ashamed.”

“How’s Cheney taking it?” I asked.

“Hard to say. According to the paper, he put out a statement that he had accepted Libby’s resignation ‘with deep regret.’”

“That was generous of him.”

“You know Dick Cheney. He’s not a vindictive man.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

“Inflammatory Rhetoric of the Most Violent Kind”

Leaders from both political parties have joined together to denounce Sen. Harry Reid’s statement that President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney should apologize for the actions of their aides. Both Scooter Libby and Karl Rove have been implicated in efforts to silence opponents of the administration’s covert plan to pull the nation into war in Iraq.

“This is outrageous!” said Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) of Reid’s statement. “It’s inflammatory rhetoric of the most violent kind.”

“Extremist positions of this type are precisely what have cost Democrats any credibility on national security issues,” added Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn).

Reid’s bare-knuckled assault on the administration was hastily rejected by leading Democrats as well. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), frequently mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, issued a statement saying, “The administration can be faulted for not sending in enough troops to do the job in invading Iraq, and for not having a plan in place for the resulting occupation, but as Americans, we can all agree that our brave men and women, living and dead, who fought so valiantly against Iraqi forces, living and dead, deserve our full support.”

In a veiled reference to her husband’s tenure in the White House, Sen. Clinton said, “My husband and I still recall the civility and evenhandedness with which the special prosecutor and his staff treated us in our own difficulties. It is unthinkable that we would not extend President Bush and his staff the same courtesy and respect.”

Sen. Reid defended his remarks. “I understand that asking for an apology is really bringing out the big guns, but I believe, given the circumstances, it is not inappropriate. We are a nation of law and reason, and even something as extreme as a call for an apology can be justified in some situations.”

Opponents of the war were heartened by Reid’s stand. “It’s this kind of tough, hard-nosed behavior that has been lacking for so long in Congress,” said a spokesperson for “It’s about time somebody called the administration to account. Hopefully, Sen. Reid’s forceful leadership on this issue will inspire other Democrats to take up the fight.”

Republicans, who led impeachment proceedings against Pres. Clinton for having a blowjob in the Oval Office, rejected Reid’s explanation. “Clinton’s behavior struck at the very heart of the Presidency,” said Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. “The actions of a few aides, taken in the context of their patriotic fervor to defend our country, pale by comparison.”

Since the Bush administration plunged the nation into war in Iraq, over 2,000 U.S. soldiers have died, with no end in sight. An estimated 42,000 Iraqis have died as well, many of them women and children. Thousands more have been wounded. Many have been tortured. It is now clear that the administration used discredited, unreliable, and even forged evidence to make the case for war. At the same time the President was publicly saying he hadn’t made up his mind whether to go to war, he had already told the Saudi ambassador privately that war was in the works. Plans were coordinated with Britain, the main U.S. partner in the adventure, and the head of Britain’s intelligence reported to the British cabinet that “intelligence was being fixed” around the push for war. Meanwhile, the administration secretly diverted $700,000,000 intended for the war in Afghanistan to preparations for an Iraqi war, concealing the spending from Congress. The U.S. budget is deep in red ink, and programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are being slashed to help cut the deficit.

Republicans have called upon Sen. Reid to apologize for calling for an apology.

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

“Out of Gas”

We were off on the side of the road, hoping somebody with a gas can would stop. “If we had to run out of gas, this is a great place to do it!” I said enthusiastically. “I’ve seen a six-point buck and an eight-point buck already, and we’ve only been here a little over an hour.”

Patty was seething. “Ace, I pointed out four exits back that the gas was low. I reminded you three exits back. I told you two exits back we were almost on empty. Right before the last exit I told you the gas gauge was in the red.”

“Whoa there, Patty,” I said. “Let’s not play the blame game. Who could have known that you can go less than thirty miles when the gauge shows empty? They just don’t make ‘em the way they used to.”

“That’s what you said the last time we ran out of gas,” she complained. “And the time before that. And the time before that.”

“These things happen,” I said. “Nobody could have predicted it.”

“I hope you’re happy that we’re missing my baby sister’s wedding,” she said bitterly.

“Hey,” I joked, “if we miss this one, we’ll just catch Louellen the next time around.”

“She’s only been married twice,” hissed Patty. “At least she’s got sense enough to know when she’s made a mistake. Unlike some people I know.”

“Hey, wait just a minute there,” I said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Ace,” she said, “you remind me of George Bush.”

“Well, it’s about time you had something nice to say about me,” I said with relief.

“He gets a briefing that al Qaeda has a plot cooking to use domestic airplanes in a terrorist attack, and he decides to stay on vacation and chop some more wood. Then, when they level the World Trade Center, he’s all outraged innocence. Taken completely by surprise.

“He ignores warnings from the State Department and people like Senator Byrd that he needs to have a plan in place for managing Iraq once we’ve conquered it, and then he skips ahead to get a war going in time for the election. When everything turns to chaos—looting, power and water supplies cut off to huge parts of the country, security nonexistent—he acts as if it was inevitable.

“He ignores the almost-unanimous warnings of scientists that our auto emissions and old power plants are major contributors to the greenhouse effect, and fights to let them both keep spewing out pollution. Then when the warm ocean turns mild hurricanes into killers, he claims they’re acts of God.

“He cuts funding to repair levies in New Orleans, lets his developer buddies drain the marshes that acted as natural buffer zones, guts the Federal Emergency Management Agency of its professionals and turns it over to incompetent cronies, ignores warnings of what would happen if a major hurricane should hit, and decides to hang out for another five days of vacation when the city is drowning and people are dying.”

“What are you saying here, Patty?” I asked. “That the guy’s unlucky, or what?”

She cut loose with some language which, frankly, I found shocking. “Patty,” I said, “your mother raised you better than that.”

She glared at me. “’Moron’ is not a four-letter word.”

“Look, Patty,” I said, “cut me some slack. If you’re going to make me out to be George Bush, how about your being a little more like Harriet Miers, and a lot less like Cindy Sheehan?”

“Ace,” she said, “I’d cut my tongue out with a rusty jackknife before I’d tell you you’re the most brilliant man I’ve ever known.”

“Wait a minute,” I protested. “If Harriet Miers can do it, what’s your problem?”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005

“Who’s Being Un-American?”

“I was like a priest who had lost faith in the Church, but who, perhaps for that reason, clung closer to God.”
- The narrator, Joseph Antonelli, in D. W. Buffa’s novel The Judgment

* * * * * *

“Hey, Ace, how ya doin’?  Still covering tractor-pulls, school food fights, and
crimes against traffic?”

“Still at it, Chuck. How about you? Still writing editorials on public affairs?”

“I am, but to tell the truth, I don’t know how long I can keep it up. It’s like pursing your lips and trying to blow Katrina back out to sea.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, you know what I mean. Before the Iraq war, I wrote that the administration was rushing to war even though the inspections were working. I wrote that the administration story about the yellowcake from Niger was bogus. I wrote that their aluminum-rods-for-reactors story was discredited. I wrote that Iraq would be in danger of descending into chaos. I wrote that depleted uranium munitions would cause enormous amounts of cancer and other illnesses, both among our troops and Iraqi civilians. I wrote that the alleged link between Saddam and al Qaeda was a fabrication. I wrote that the war was illegal under international law, as well as immoral.”

“Okay.  So?”

“So go back and read the editorials. Then look at what eventually came out. No weapons of mass destruction, no link with al Qaeda, hundreds of billions of dollars poured into Iraqi sand and Halliburton’s pockets. Nearly two thousand American soldiers and a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians dead. More than a quarter of all returning U.S. soldiers suffering from physical or psychological problems. Iraq on its way to becoming an Islamic theocracy, and sliding toward anarchy or civil war. And insofar as the claim that we are building democracy in Iraq is concerned, a nationwide poll in Iraq, taken in August, found that
- 82% are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;
- less than 1% of the population believes coalition forces have improved security;
- and 67% of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation.”

“Guess you’ve won over the skeptics, eh?”

“That’s what you think? Here’s a typical letter from a right-wing reader:
‘Chuck. I am sick of reading your nauseating far-left America-hating garbage. Why don’t you take a long walk off a short pier, holding hands with Michael Moore and Hanoi Jane.’”

“Gee, Chuck, do you actually know Michael Moore and Jane Fonda?”

“Ace, I think you’re missing the point here.”

“Just joking, Chuck. But seriously, why do you hate America?”

“Ace, if you expose the administration’s lies and denounce the torturing of prisoners by U.S. soldiers and argue that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal, those things don’t make you an America-hater. They make you an ordinary citizen in a democracy, holding your country to the standards of truth, fairness, and justice it once taught you to believe in. The hypocrisy of this administration is that it uses patriotic rhetoric as a mask for betraying our basic values at every turn.”

“Whoa, now. Don’t you think you’re sounding pretty extreme there, Chuck?”

“Ace, this President is threatening to veto the entire military appropriations bill because the bill has an amendment, sponsored by John McCain, that prohibits the ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading’ treatment of prisoners held by the U.S. military. The amendment was approved by the Senate, 90 to 9. But Bush is threatening to veto it so he can have the power to torture prisoners. Now you tell me: Who’s being un-American here? Who’s being extreme?”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Search for Missing ‘Noble Cause’ Continues


Washington, Sept. 8 –

FBI spokesman Alvin Smithers acknowledged today that agents have questioned Juanita Robinson, 38, a White House cleaning lady, in the disappearance of the “noble cause” which President Bush has frequently cited as the reason for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Ms. Robinson is employed by a temp agency which the White House, in its privatization efforts, has contracted with to clean various government offices.

Smithers said, “Ms. Robinson is a person of interest in our ongoing investigation, but she has not been charged and is not being held at this time.” Robinson’s name was initially floated as a suspect in the case by administration officials anxious to assign responsibility for the missing “noble cause,” preferably to someone with no political connection to the White House. Interest in Ms. Robinson accelerated when her fingerprints were found on items on the President’s desk. An angry Ms. Robinson has vehemently denied any involvement in the disappearance of the missing “noble cause.”

“The only reason my fingerprints were on that autographed baseball and those other toys was I picked ‘em up to dust, and then put ‘em right back where I found ‘em,” said Ms. Robinson. “I didn’t take nothin’! The whole month of August, while the President was on vacation, I came in every day and dusted and vacuumed his office so it’d look nice when he came back. And this is the thanks I get!”

Ms. Robinson said, “I want to find that ‘noble cause’ just as much as anybody else. Maybe more. My oldest boy Malcolm’s in the Army, and he just got sent back from Iraq. He’s in Walter Reed right now for rehabilitation. He lost part of his right leg and his spleen and one of his kidneys when a roadside bomb exploded under the truck he was ridin’ in. Now Malcolm be tellin’ me there ain’t no ‘noble cause,’ an never was one. How could I take somethin’ that don’t even exist? And why would the President say there was a ‘noble cause’ if there wasn’t? I don’t understand politics, but this jes’ don’t seem right.”

Malcolm Robinson, Ms. Robinson’s son, is well-known in D.C. athletic circles. He was a track star in high school, and won several hurdle events in the district championships. According to Ms. Robinson, he gave up a college track scholarship to join the Army after the tragic events of September 11, saying that he wanted to defend his country from further attacks. The son is not a suspect in the disappearance of the “noble cause.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005

Searching for the ‘Noble Cause’


Washington, Sept. 6 –

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan, in this morning’s press conference, admitted “with a great deal of embarrassment,” that the White House has been unable to locate the “noble cause” for which over 1,900 U.S. troops and perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died.

In response to a question from a reporter with the Hur Herald, McClellan said that White House officials, after a “thorough, extensive, and painstaking search” of administration offices, have found no trace of the missing cause. President Bush has repeatedly cited the “noble cause” as justification for the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq. When asked if the absence of a noble cause would affect the U.S.’s willingness to continue with the bloody, horrendously expensive conflict, McClellan replied that the President saw no reason to stop prosecuting the war while the search for the missing cause goes on.

The missing “noble cause” was last seen, McClellan said, in the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, but Wolfowitz has disavowed any responsibility for the cause’s disappearance. “It was in Dick Cheney’s office, it was in Don Rumsfeld’s office, it was in Condi Rice’s office,” complained Wolfowitz. “Everybody in the administration had their hands on it at one time or another.”

“We are determined to get to the bottom of this,” declared McClellan, “and the search will continue until the cause is located.” Hopes have been raised on numerous occasions, but as each false sighting is ruled out, prospects for finding the cause—now missing for over three years—have grown increasingly slim.

McClellan read a brief statement from the President in which Mr. Bush said, “If any member of my administration acted wrongly or was involved in the disappearance of the noble cause, I will fire that person immediately, and he or she will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” In the afternoon, the President issued a clarification, saying, “What I meant was that I would fire anyone who was convicted for the disappearance of the noble cause.”

Reacting to the announcement, media commentators immediately began comparing the vanished “noble cause” to the missing eighteen minutes on White House tapes during the Watergate investigations. When asked if the President had at any point had the “noble cause” in his possession, McClellan angrily responded, “This President is a manager and delegater. At no time did he personally touch the noble cause, and we deny categorically that he has any knowledge of or responsibility for its disappearance.”

First reactions to the disclosure have been mixed. Some officials have speculated that a White House cleaning lady may have inadvertently disposed of the “noble cause” while the President was at his Texas ranch for his most recent month-long vacation.

Congressional Republican staffers have announced a prayer breakfast tomorrow morning to pray for the speedy return of the missing cause. Other party loyalists have taken the position that the administration has been so busy trying to dismantle the remnants of the Great Society, shred the United Nations, promote state religion, and manage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the “noble cause” has simply been misplaced in the swirl of activity, and will—as one supporter put it—“turn up in somebody’s drawer, and then you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

“A Winning Issue: The Search Continues”

Democratic headquarters had nearly emptied out, as staffers headed home to the suburbs or their Georgetown digs. Danny and Barb, who had stayed behind to go over the latest polling numbers on possible campaign issues, were the last ones left in the office. They were clearing off their desks when the cleaning lady maneuvered herself through the door, pushing a mop and a bucket in front of her while balancing the vacuum cleaner strapped to her back. “Hope I’m not interruptin’ anything,” she said. “I thought everybody was gone.”

“That’s okay, Juanita, go ahead and work around us,” said Danny. “We’re about to head out of here.”

“Is it still raining?” asked Barb. “I just had my hair done yesterday, and I’m afraid it’s going to get ruined.”

“Still rainin’,” said Juanita. “But not like down in Louisiana. I been trying to reach my sister to make sure she’s okay, but the lines must be down.”

“Gulf Coast oil supplies are going to be cut off for a good while,” said Danny thoughtfully. “The price of heating oil is going to go through the roof this winter!”

“Oh, Lord,” said Juanita. “I had to borrow money from my aunt to pay the heating bills last winter. I been workin’ two jobs, but seems like I just can’t get ahead when I’m only makin’ minimum wage. Hasn’t gone up since 1997!”

“Has it been that long?” said Danny curiously. “Gas and oil prices were only half then what they are now. If you’re not making any more now than you did then, you’ve lost a heck of a lot of ground.”

“I know the pressure you must be under,” sympathized Barb. My husband and I together barely make $100,000 a year, so I share your pain.”

“Why don’t you go on the budget plan?” said Danny. “That’s the way to go. It evens out your payments year ‘round.”

“Doesn’t make any difference if I’m on the budget plan,” said Juanita. “It can be too much for me to pay every month, twelve months a year, or it can be way too much four months a year. Why don’t they just put a lid on fuel prices, and say you can’t gouge people no more?”

“Why don’t you do what we’re going to do?” suggested Barb. “We’re going to put some solar panels on the roof. You can actually get a tax break for that, so it won’t end up costing that much.”

“’That was an important Democratic initiative,” said Danny. “Tax breaks encouraging solar energy. We just don’t get credit for a lot of our good ideas.”

“Huh,” said Juanita. “Didn’t notice I got any tax breaks. Rich folks get all kinds of tax breaks. Then they get their taxes cut. Now they wanta do away with the estate tax, and put more of the load on my back. It just ain’t right.”

“Something else we’re doing you might want to think about,” said Barb helpfully, “is a wood burning stove. Lots of experts are recommending them.”

“In a third-floor walkup in Washington, DC?” asked Juanita incredulously. “You think the landlord’s gonna let me install a wood burnin’ stove in my apartment? And what am I gonna burn? My furniture?”

“I guess that’s not too practical,” admitted Barb. “But how about double-pane windows? We’re putting them in every window in the house. They really cut heat loss.”

“My landlord don’t care nothin’ about double-pane windows,” said Juanita. “He don’t care nothin’ about windows. All he cares about is that rent check, and he better have it in his hand by the first of the month. Tenant’s responsible for the heating bill, so he don’t care how much the bill is.”

“That’s just terrible!” exclaimed Barb. “If I were you, I’d buy my own place, or find an apartment with more responsible management.”

“Yep,” said Juanita, “if you were me, I expect that’s what you’d do.”

“Well, see you tomorrow, Barb,” said Danny. “Maybe, after a good night’s sleep, some issue will jump out at us in the morning. There’s got to be something to show Democrats are champions of the common man.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

“Urgent Reply Requested”

Warning: The following letter has been circulating on the Internet. Readers and voters are advised that the offer to share a $28 million deposit and the repeal of the estate tax are both scams.

Dear Friend,
Before I introduce myself, I wish to inform you that this letter is not a hoax mail and I urge you to treat it serious. Firstly, not to cause you embarrassment, I am G. W. Bush, a Politician and Businessman, the personal Advocate for many well to do Americans, Englishmen, and Saudi Arabians, herein after referred to as my base. I ask you please to understand this following event:
On the 21st of April 2001, a supporter and his wife with their three children were involved in an auto crash, all occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. My supporter was an oil magnet and philanthropist. Since his demise, I have made several enquiries to locate any of my supporter’s extended relatives: This has proved unsuccessful. After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to contact you with this business partnership proposal.
I have contacted you to assist in recovering a huge amount of money left behind by my client before they get confiscated or declared unserviceable by the Finance/Security Company where this huge deposit was lodged. The deceased had a deposit valued presently at $28 million US Dollars and the Company has issued me a notice to provide his next of kin or Beneficiary by Will, or otherwise the account is to be confiscated within the next thirty official working days.
Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 4 Years now, I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin / Will Beneficiary to the deceased so that the proceeds of this account valued at $28 Million US dollars can be paid to you. This will be disbursed or shared in these percentages, 60% to me and 40% to you. I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. All I require is your honest Co-operation, Confidentiality and Trust to enable us to see this transaction through.
Here is an additional part which will no doubt bring you much happiness in your heart. If my proposals for repealing the Estate Tax are enacted, you will not need to worry yourself about whether you can leave the remnants of your portion of $28 Million to your Heirs, at whatever time should unfortunately you decease. The Estate Tax raised an estimated $23.4 Billion US dollars last year for the US government. Repeal of the Estate Tax would benefit primarily those who hold large shares of Stocks and other Securities.
The Estate Tax applies only to very wealthy people, and keeping the Estate Tax could go far toward filling in the predicted Social Security shortfall. But you have my assurance I will not even consider continuing the Estate Tax to help save Social Security, and I have complete confidence you and other members of my base will award my Political Associates and myself with appropriate Campaign Contributions as a token of your gratitude for my efforts on your behalf.
If my offer is of no appeal to you, delete this message and forget I ever contacted you. Do not destroy my career because you do not approve of my proposal. You may not know this but people like myself who have made a tidy sum out of comparable situations run the whole public political sector.
I am not a criminal and what I do, I do not find against good conscience, this may be hard for you to understand, but the dynamics of my politics and avarice dictates that I make this move. Such opportunities only come ones way once in a lifetime. I cannot let this chance pass me by. For once I find myself in total control of my destiny.
I have evaluated the risks and the only risk I have here is from you refusing to work with me or alerting the voting public. I am the only one who knows of this situation, good fortune has blessed you with a name that has planted you into the center of relevance in my life. Lets share the blessing.
Please, provide me the following:
1. Your Full Name
2. Your Telephone Number and Fax Number
3. Your Contact Address.
4. Your Checking and Savings Account Numbers
Your urgent response will be highly anticipated and appreciated. Get in touch with me urgently by E-mail, and remember to support the repeal of the Estate Tax.
Best regards,
Advocate George W. Bush

Cc: Grover Norquist, Karl Rove

© Tony Russell, 2005

Sunday, August 28, 2005

“God Should Have Finished Carrying Out My Prayer by 10 O’Clock”

“Morning, Reverend! Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“That it is, that it is. ‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ you know.”

“Looks like a busy schedule today, sir.”

“Yes, but the devil finds work for idle hands, eh? Oh, before I forget, I redirected Hurricane Katrina away from our headquarters. Put that on my list of things to mention on today’s broadcast, will you?”

“Certainly, sir. That will make three hurricanes you’ve turned away from headquarters now, won’t it?”

“Let’s see, I think that’s right. Yes. There was Hurricane Gloria in ’85, and then Felix in ’95.”

“Should I put out a press release on that?”

“Why don’t we wait, just to make sure God doesn’t change his mind. Right now it’s headed toward the Gulf Coast, so I think we’re okay. God should have finished carrying out my prayer by—oh, say 10 o’clock—and I can explain how I handled it on my 11 a.m. broadcast.”

[Aide makes note.] "Very good, Reverend. And have you decided what progressive social movement you’d like to focus your attack on today, so I can get the researchers moving?”

“I thought I’d lambaste feminists again. It’s been a while, and with this Cindy Sheehan thing, maybe it’s time to give them another good dose of divine wisdom.”

“Whatever you think is best, sir, but you covered it so thoroughly and memorably last time that, if you don’t mind my saying so, I’m not sure there’s much more to be said. ‘An anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians’—that pretty much says it all. That’s feminism to a ‘t.’”

“Maybe you’re right. Why don’t I just blame gays, lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way for the September 11 attacks?”

“Reverend Falwell already did that, sir, and you agreed with him. Is there anybody new you would like to blame the attacks on?”

“How about Senator Byrd? He’s been giving the administration a hard time on their invasion of Iraq and their shredding of the Constitution, and he’s up for re-election.”

“Very good, Reverend. And how about today’s hit list? Who would you like to have murdered or assassinated today?”

“I don’t know. After all that flap about my calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez last Monday on my “700 Club” broadcast, do you think it’s a good idea to go public with the hit list?”

“Maybe not, sir. Maybe if you just suggested again that the State Department should be nuked…?”

“I hate to keep repeating myself. Suppose I just suggest that we nuke Venezuela’s presidential palace?”

“Whatever God wants, Reverend. As you always say, the guiding principal of your life is Proverbs (3:5, 6), ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’

“You’re right. Let’s go with the nukes. Say, you don’t look as chipper as usual. Is something wrong?”

“Sorry, sir. It just upsets me when the Lord constantly directs your path, and then people call you a ’crackpot’ or a ‘nutcase.’ I tell them, ‘He happens to be in the middle of the political mainstream in the U.S. right now. This is the way good Christian Republicans think! He’s a vital part of the ‘culture of life’ President Bush praises, and he has enormous influence over this administration. In fact, if he hadn’t thrown his support to Bush rather than McCain, George W. Bush might not have won the South Carolina primary, which was the key to the nomination in 2000.’”

“You certainly let them have it, don’t you!”

“I sure do, Reverend. I tell them, ‘You’re talking about a man who came this close to winning the Republican nomination for President in 1988, a man whose Christian Broadcasting Network is seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages, a man who founded the Christian Coalition, a man so blessed by God that his Christian broadcasting and charity efforts and diamond mines have given him a net worth between two hundred million and a billion dollars. Now if that’s not proof that God has richly rewarded him, what is?’”

“I’m really touched by your loyalty; bless you. Make a note to have $10 a week added to your paycheck. It’s what God wants.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

“Intelligence Failures”

“Orrin Hatch says Karl Rove is too smart to do something like reveal the identity of a CIA agent just to get even with her husband,” I said to Patty. “Everybody says Rove is a bright guy.”

Patty gave me a pitying look. “Ace,” she said, “just think about it for a minute. The assumption there is that smart people don’t do dumb things.”

“Uh huh,” I said. “Makes sense to me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “Just look at history. Nixon was winning re-election by a landslide. Would all those smart guys in his campaign do anything so stupid as to order a burglary of Democratic offices?”

“That’s different,” I said.

“Would Bill Clinton, one of the smartest men ever to be President, do something as unbelievably boneheaded as to have oral sex with an intern in the Oval Office?”

I squirmed a little. “That’s a special case,” I said.

“Would an intelligent man like Gary Hart, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, dare reporters to follow him and see if he was having an affair?”

“That was a unique situation,” I said.

“Would a brainy lawyer like John Roberts deny he was a member of the Federalist Society, when anybody could get on the Internet and find out that he was on its steering committee?”

“That was just a slip,” I said.

“Would a bright guy like Dwight Eisenhower lie to the world about a spy plane the Soviets had shot down, when they could produce the pilot and show him to be a liar?”

“I’d forgotten about that,” I said. “That was a long time ago.”

“Would a master politician like Lyndon Johnson do something so obviously impossible as to keep expanding the war in Vietnam at the same time he was trying to fund a Great Society?”

“Okay, okay. Enough,” I said. “I get your point.”

“It’s about time,” she said.

“But Orrin Hatch is really an intelligent man,” I said. “He couldn’t be wrong about Karl Rove.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

“Coming Up Short in the Longhorn State”

“I don’t get it, Patty,” I said. “Why is the President hiding from Cindy Sheehan?”

“Do you remember when you told me you were going to a lodge meeting, and I found out you were playing poker in Art’s garage?” she answered.

I winced. Some things are better off forgotten. And I don’t have any trouble at all forgetting them. But they’re permanently accessible in Patty’s memory bank. “Vaguely,” I said. “Why?”

“You lied and you hid,” she said. That’s Patty; no beating around the bush. “I had to drag you out from under the Morgans’ SUV. Then you pretended you were just under there to check out an oil leak.”

“What’s your point?” I asked.

“Don’t be so dense, Ace,” she said in exasperation. “George Bush lied to get us into war with Iraq. All the lies have been exposed. Then he claimed that Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey died for a ‘noble cause.’ She’s calling him on it. She says she wants to ask him just exactly what that noble cause was. He can wrap himself in flags and plaster the White House limo with all the ‘Support Our Troops’ stickers he wants, but the bottom line is, there wasn’t any ‘noble cause.’ He’s ducking her because he doesn’t have an answer. What’s he going to say?”

“Well, he needs to say something,” I protested. “It’s embarrassing to have the leader of the free world squirming like a possum caught in the headlights, all because one woman decided to squat beside the road at his ranch.”

“I don’t think it’s embarrassing at all,” she said. “I think it’s enlightening. Here you have all these Democratic politicians who know the whole war was bogus, and they won’t say a word. Then you have all the reporters who know it was bogus, and all they print is White House handouts. They’re all scared to death that Karl Rove and company will label them unpatriotic, so they just keep their mouths shut. And then one woman camps beside the highway in Crawford, says she wants to ask one simple question, and it’s like going behind the scenes in The Wizard of Oz. You find out that the larger-than-life figure everybody was so frightened of is actually a pathetic little man manipulating machinery.”

“He’s a busy guy,” I argued. “He’s got global responsibilities.”

Patty laughed so hard I thought she’d bust her belt. “Ace,” she said, “the man is on a month’s vacation right now. A month. He’s spent almost twenty percent of his presidency on vacation. He’s so seldom on the job that if he were a working man, he’d practically qualify for unemployment. He zipped right past Cindy Sheehan to take a two-hour bicycle ride, that’s how busy he is.”

“Come on, Patty,” I said. “He doesn’t have time to talk to every parent whose son or daughter died in Iraq. If he just spent an hour with each one, he wouldn’t have time to do anything else for the entire next year.”

“It might be a year well spent,” said Patty thoughtfully. “Maybe if he spent an hour with every grieving parent, the lives he’s destroyed would start to get a little more real for him. Maybe he’d lose a little sleep, instead of getting those nine good hours every night. And maybe he’d be less prone to treat people like pawns on a global chessboard.”

“I just don’t understand his thinking,” I said. “The longer he hides, the more he looks like a chicken. Why doesn’t he just walk out, shake her hand, tell her he’s sorry for what happened to her son, and say they’ll just have to disagree on the reasons for the war, blah blah?”

“Ace,” she said, “how long would you have stayed under that SUV?”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

“Uncle Sam’s Black Eyes”

“Have you seen Uncle Sam lately?” I asked.

Denzil looked glum. “I ran into him down in front of the drug store last week,” he said. “Lord, the old fella was a mess.”

“How’s that?” I said.

“Can you believe it?” he said. “The old man had two black eyes. The right one was almost swelled shut.”

“Jeez o Pete! What happened to him?”

“That’s what I wanted to know. I said, ‘Uncle Sam, how did you get those black eyes?’ He just looked at me and said, ‘What black eyes, Sonnyboy?’”

“I’ll bet that threw you for a loop. How do you answer a question like that?”

“Beats the heck out of me. I said, ‘Uncle Sam, have you looked in the polls lately?’ And he said, ‘Sonnyboy, I know my hair is combed straight. I don’t need to look in the polls before I walk out the door.’”

“What’s with the polls?”

“The international polls show that after that illegal invasion of Iraq, with all those phony excuses he made to justify the war, Uncle Sam got a real black eye. The other one got blackened when the prison abuse scandals broke, and it turned out the U.S. was torturing prisoners all over the globe, and jailing people without following any civilized, democratic procedures. While claiming to be waging a war to ‘spread democracy.’”


“And the polls show that internationally, people’s opinion of the United States as a country that stands for freedom, truth, justice, and tolerance has dropped like a bowling ball thrown into an elevator shaft. The same polls show, though, that the people of the U.S. still rank themselves #1 in all those categories!”

“That’s quite a disconnect. So Uncle Sam refuses to look at the polls?”

“He just walks around with those black eyes and claims that everything’s hunky-dory. He insists he can see just fine, thank you.”

“Hasn’t anybody tried to talk some sense into him?”

“Aunt Francie tried. She told him before he even got started that he didn’t have any business invading Iraq. He got all huffy and stopped going to visit her. Started making fun of her cooking. Called her potatoes ‘freedom fries.’”

“Boy, that sounds really juvenile. You’d think somebody his age would know better than to act like that. I’ll bet she was ticked off.”

“Wouldn’t you be? I mean, you try to talk some sense into somebody, and they insult you and go ahead with something wrongheaded like that. Shoot, not only wrongheaded. It’s just plain wrong. And it’s been hard on his family—his sons and daughters have been getting killed and losing their arms and legs. And instead of making things better, Iraq is breeding new terrorists, while Iraq itself is going to hell in a handbasket.”

“Do you think he’s unaware of what’s going on, or in denial, or what? He’s always been an independent cuss, sure, but he used to be a really good nation—decent, fair, a good neighbor. Now he’s acting like a tyrant.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just old age. Maybe he’s had a stroke and it’s messed up his brain. All I know is, he’s just not the same Uncle Sam I’ve known all these years. Polls aren’t the be-all and end-all. But if you’re walking around with a pair of puffed-up, bloodshot, black-and-blue eyes, it’s time to admit you’ve got a problem, and think a little bit about what other people are saying.”

“What’s that old line Mrs. Hardman used to preach at us in school? ‘Experience is a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.’”

“I was thinking more of that Robert Burns poem she used to quote:

Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005

“You’re Not Going to Believe It”

“Gosh,” I said, glancing around the booth. “You’ve got everything, haven’t you? There’s the Torah, and the Koran, and the Tao Te Ching and the Upanishads! I didn’t realize you carried all those. I thought you’d just stock the King James Version and Good News for Modern Man and maybe the New American Bible—a few things like that.”

“Oh no,” said the handsome clerk. “We’re an international corporation. Our market is worldwide.” He spread his hands over the display case: “You see. Various crucifixes, statues of the Buddha, portraits of saints, thousands of statues of Hindu gods….”

“Well that’s great,” I said. “But I’m really looking for something in a domestic variety.”

“You’ve come to the right place,” he assured me. “We have numerous products of American provenance available right now. I’m sure we can fix you right up.”

“That’s a relief,” I confessed. “It’s so embarrassing to go around without a religion to wear on my sleeve. I feel half-dressed. Whenever I’m out in public, people keep staring at my arm.”

“No problem,” he said with a comforting smile. “I doubt we’ll even have to tailor anything for you. We probably have something that will fit you right off the rack. Let me just get your requirements.” He pulled out a pencil and a notepad.

“You’ve taken me by surprise,” I blurted. “I wasn’t expecting to find something at the first shop I came to.”

He leaned across the counter and, glancing around to be sure he wasn’t overheard, said out of the corner of his mouth, “Look, our holding company has stock in all these places, even the exclusive high-end Christian specialty shops. Don’t feel shy about shopping in a one-stop mart. We carry everything the others have, but we can sell for less with our low overhead.”

The odor of sulphur on his breath was distracting, but his words were convincing. “Great!” I said. “Let me warn you, though, I’m afraid my requirements might be pretty hard to fill.”

“Probably easier than you think,” he countered. “Don’t try to prioritize them; just let ‘er rip.”

“Okay,” I said, and paused for a moment. “I’d like one that preaches loving your enemies to the point of allowing yourself to be killed before doing violence to others, but is comfortable with slaughtering thousands of men, women, and children, most of them innocent of anything except being in a city we’re attacking.”

He made a checkmark on his list. “We have numerous popular models with that feature,” he said. “What else?”

“Uh, I’d like one that preaches simplicity of lifestyle, the danger to your soul of pursuing riches, and the obligation to care for the poor, widows, and orphans, but at the same time glorifies wealth and its trappings, claims huge fortunes are ‘God’s blessing,’ supports political policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and opposes any notion of the common good.”

“Heh heh!” he laughed. “I’ll bet you thought that would be difficult. We’ve got churches all over the country that meet that stipulation—huge churches, thriving churches.”

“Well that’s good news,” I joked. “How about this next item. I’d like one that preaches mercy and the forgiveness of sins, but pushes for longer prison terms and harsher punishments for criminals, eliminates programs aimed at educating and rehabilitating them, and continually expands the list of crimes punishable by death.”

“Can do,” he said. “That’s standard on almost every item we sell. Next?”

I hesitated. “I’d like one that emphasizes the kinship of everyone under the fatherhood of God and asserts that all distinctions of race and class and nation and sex vanish in discipleship …”


“But I’d like to worship in an all-white middle class group of English-speaking native born Christians.”

He gave a deep belly laugh. “If you can’t find one of those,” he said, “you couldn’t find a golf ball in a can of beans. Anything else?”

“Yes, there is one more thing. It’s sort of related to the last one. I’d like one which teaches that we are all created in God’s own image, but advocates discrimination against gays and lesbians in both church and civil society.”

“You’ve got it!” he said proudly.

“Wonderful!” I exclaimed. “What do I owe you?”

“You’re not going to believe it when I tell you...,” he began.

© Tony Russell, 2005

Thursday, July 28, 2005

“Democrats Search for a Winning Issue”

It was getting late—after nine o’clock—and everyone should have headed home for supper long ago, but a few staffers were still in the conference room, brainstorming, trying to find an issue that could revive the Democratic Party. They were all still reeling from losing yet again to George W. Bush and falling even farther from power in Congress.

“Come on, guys,” said Dave. “There’s gotta be an issue that really connects with ordinary people, that energizes them, that offers them a real choice and lets ‘em know the Democratic Party cares about them, listens to them, and is tuned in to their concerns.”

“Oh, you put it so well,” said Barb. “That is just so true.”

“National security has always been a Republican strong point,” Danny threw out, “but now that it’s been proven Iraq didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with September 11, the whole Bush administration has been discredited on that issue. I think there’s a real opportunity there for us.”

“Danny,” said Ted, a balding consultant to many a losing campaign, “you can’t win on national security in war time, even if the President started the war for some reason that nobody can explain and we’re getting our butts kicked by an army that doesn’t exist.”

“Oh, excuse me,” said the cleaning lady, “I didn’t know anybody was still in here.”

“That’s okay, Juanita, just go ahead and clean around us,” said Kevin. “It won’t bother us. Who’s that you’ve got there with you?”

“Oh, this’s my littlest one, Marcus. He got sick, and my sister’s car broke down so she couldn’t watch him, and I had to bring him along. But don’t worry none. He’ll just sit out front and color. He won’t bother nobody.”

“Shouldn’t he be home in bed if he’s sick?” asked Kevin.

“Ain’t nobody at home old enough to watch him,” said Juanita, “and if I stay home, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, the rent don’t get paid, and we’re out on the street.”

“Oh yeah,” said Kevin. “Well, hey, there are some colored markers in my desk drawer if you want to use them.”

“He doesn’t look too lively,” observed Barb. “Maybe you should take him to the doctor.”

“Huh!” said Juanita. “Who can afford health insurance when they’re makin’ $5.15 an hour?”

Danny threw out another idea. “What about energy policy? Bush and Cheney let the energy companies write energy policy, and oil company profits have shot up like a gusher.”

“All I know,” muttered Juanita, “is when gas is $2.50 a gallon, and I make $5.15 an hour, I’m already out an hour’s pay every time I drive to work. Seems like gas prices go up every time you turn around, but minimum wage ain’t changed a penny in years.”

“You know what you ought to do?” said Barb. “You ought to buy one of those new hybrids. I get 53 miles to a gallon with mine.”

“I’m getting’ hungry,” moaned Kevin. “Why don’t we order some subs and drinks?”

“Sounds good,” said Dave. “You want us to order for you too, Juanita?”

“Nah, I packed up baloney sandwiches for me and Marcus. Subs and drinks would set me back two more hours’ pay at $5.15 an hour.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Kevin. “Hey, I’ll spring for subs for you and Marcus. My treat!”

“No thanks,” said Juanita. “We’ve already got our supper packed. No sense wastin’ it.”

“How about housing?” asked Danny, still digging. “Owning your own home is part of the American dream.”

“No good,” said Ted. “As low as mortgage rates have been, all kinds of people have jumped into the housing market.”

“How’s anybody makin’ $5.15 an hour gonna get money together for a down payment or get approved for a mortgage, when even some shabby houses be costin’ more than $200,000?” asked Juanita. “Housing prices doublin’ and triplin’ even, but minimum wage ain’t gone up in years.”

“I think you’re right, Ted,” said Barb. “My parents just bought a vacation home right on the beach in Oregon, had it for less than a month, and turned around and sold it for $100,000 more than they paid for it. Everybody’s getting rich in this market.”

“Folks,” said Dave, “why don’t we eat and call it a night. It doesn’t look as if we’re going to come up with anything this evening that would connect the Democratic Party with its roots. For some reason, the poor and the working class don’t even turn out to vote anymore. If we could just think of some issue they cared about….”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Monday, July 25, 2005

“Tabling the Debate”

Maybe you’re like me, and find yourself confused after watching political talk shows on TV. In the kind of balanced, civilized debate you’d expect in an advanced democratic society, carefully-selected department store mannequins representing the liberal perspective square off against badly-disguised attack dogs representing the conservative point of view. (“Karl Rove” is actually a Rottweiler; the name is a corrupted version of the command “Kill, Rover.”) While you’re waiting for the debate to be interrupted by beer commercials full of beautiful girls who love playing in the mud and drinking light beers—wait a minute, that’s Sunday afternoons—these debaters keep interrupting each other right in the middle of their top-of-the-lungs, ten-minute-long abusive rants. How rude can you get?

The result is that, after doing my public duty to understand these issues of grave national importance, I now understand how people can actually read People magazine instead or switch channels and watch a bowling match. What I don’t understand is whatever topic these guys were using to practice their Public Yelling. You just have to figure it out yourself, if the media won’t help. Thank God for the Internet, which has enabled me to research ancient history, almost back before the memory of humankind—say five or six years ago—without the physical stress of turning the pages of a book.

So let’s begin with an easy topic, Gulf War II—originally given the snappy name Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL), but later changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF. OIF?) —and review the opposing positions taken by liberals and conservatives:

Liberal Position
1a. There’s no good evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with Sept. 11. Conservative Position
Saddam Hussein plotted with al Qaeda to launch the Sept. 11 attacks, and we can prove it.
Mr. Bush eventually concedes that Saddam Hussein had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Liberal Position
1b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
Saddam Hussein was a bad man.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
2a. There’s no good evidence that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Conservative Position
We have evidence of specific WMD, including amounts and the sites where they’re produced and stored.
After exhaustive search, no WMD found.

Liberal Position
2b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
Did we mention that we want Iraq to become a model Middle East democracy?
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
3a. There’s no good evidence that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger.
Conservative Position
Iraq was buying uranium ore from Niger and aluminum rods to be used in nuclear centrifuges.
Uranium ore story discredited; rods turn out to be parts for conventional rockets.

Liberal Position
3b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
Joseph Wilson’s wife is an undercover CIA agent.
That’ll teach you to contradict me in public!

Liberal Position
4a. Lots of people will get killed.
Conservative Position
No sweat.
President lands on aircraft carrier in front of “Mission Accomplished!” sign, declares active hostilities at an end.

Liberal Position
4b. 1,800 US soldiers, 25,000 to 100,000 Iraqis killed; death toll still climbing.
Conservative Position
No pictures of corpses allowed; Iraqi dead don’t count.
Administration says, “We didn’t put that sign up.”

Liberal Position
5a. The war will be really expensive.
Conservative Position
We’ll sell Iraqi oil; the war will almost pay for itself.
Surprise! War costs $208 billion so far, with no end in sight.

Liberal Position
5b. This war is really expensive!
Conservative Position
If you don’t sign this blank check, you’re unpatriotic.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
6a. You need a plan for the aftermath.
Conservative Position
Let’s just get this war started, and quit standing around.
Chaos. Offices, factories, museums, libraries, schools, archaeological sites looted and destroyed. Arms depots are left unguarded and looted.

Liberal Position
6b. I told you so.
Conservative Position
If you criticize the war effort, you’re unpatriotic.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win.

Liberal Position
7. The war is illegal because it violates both international law and the UN Charter.
Conservative Position
Who cares? The President can do whatever he wants in the name of national security.
President does whatever he wants, and says it’s because of national security.

Liberal Position
8a. Intelligence is being manipulated to justify an invasion.
Conservative Position
Intelligence is sound, situation critical. “Bush bashers” hate the President, would vote for Saddam Hussein instead, given a chance.
How did we go wrong? Intelligence was “seriously flawed.” (See nos. 1-6 above). Big-name panels created to find problem, but administration specifically excludes political pressure as factor to be investigated.

Liberal Position
8b. Downing Street memos, printed in London Times, prove intelligence was being manipulated to justify an invasion.
Conservative Position
What memos?
Corporate media in US unite to bury huge story for month and a half.
Liberals right, conservatives wrong; conservatives win…. Wait!

Liberal Position
8c. Downing Street memos finally surface in mainstream media, show intelligence was being “fixed around” justifying an invasion.
Conservative Position
Downing Street memos are “vague” and “old news.”
Public can’t find Downing Street, falls asleep waiting for commercials with beautiful girls who like playing in the mud and drinking light beers. Conservatives turn out to like playing in the mud too.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

“Remembering the Good Old Days”

Everybody was in for the reunion, and a bunch of us were at the local watering hole, wetting our throats for the Alumni Sing that evening. The crew at the next table were older guys, in their sixties maybe. They were pretty boisterous, and the more the beer went down, the more their volume rose. They were reliving the glory years of their youth at the top of their voices, and their conversation eventually dropped from sports to politics.

“Remember when it was the commies who would invade countries on some phony excuse, the way we did Iraq and Panama, and we’d just go ballistic?” asked one guy nostalgically, a big beefy fellow wearing a huge straw hat.

Everyone at the table fell silent as they reminisced about that for a minute, and then the bald guy to his right chimed in. “Remember when the Soviets would go to the U.N. and tell these transparent lies, and the rest of the world would just sit there, arms folded, waiting for the lies to end? And the Soviets didn’t care! Those were the good old days. When I was watching Colin Powell’s speech making the case for war against Iraq, and saw those delegates watching him, arms folded, it all came back to me.”

“I thought Powell had a lot more class. At least he didn’t take his shoe off and pound it on the podium,” said the big guy. Everybody laughed.

The skinny little guy sitting across the table from him piped up. “Remember when magazines like the Reader’s Digest were always carrying stories about how people were being picked up by the Soviet police and held with no charges being filed and no lawyer and no contact with their family? We always said, ‘That’s the way they do things in a police state, not in America, God bless her.’ And, hey, now we’ve got guys who’ve been in Guantanamo for two and a half years, and they have still never been charged with anything or allowed contact with their families.”

The big guy nodded his head. “And remember when the commies were the ones who were torturing people in their prisons, or kidnapping people off the streets in other countries? Now the U.S. has secret prisons around the globe, prisoners being tortured to death, and CIA agents being indicted in Italy for kidnapping, with cell phone records and everything.”

The bald guy said, “Sure, I remember that. And do you remember how we used to hear about the Roosky secret police invading people’s private lives? And we’d say, that’s the way it is in a totalitarian society. Now somehow we have this so-called Patriot Act, and the FBI is reading your e-mail and checking to see what library books you’ve been reading!”

The fourth guy, who’d been silent up till then, said, “Remember when we used to laugh at the way the Soviet newspapers and the other media just took whatever handout the Kremlin gave them, and that was their news? And we thought it was a hoot when some big news items got blacked out completely, the way the Downing Street memos were this spring?”

The skinny guy came back with, “Remember how there were always those stories of massive corruption, with the big guys in the Kremlin tied in to companies supplying the Red Army, and the big guys got rich while the poor suckers in the army got lousy food, low pay, and equipment shortages?”

“Yeah, I thought of that when I read about Cheney and Halliburton and all those no-bid contracts they were awarded,” said the big beefy guy, shaking his head.

“Remember the blatant hypocrisy, when the Russians would take over some country and claim they had ‘liberated’ it, and then install a puppet government in the name of a ‘people’s democracy’?”

“Oh sure,” said the fourth guy. “If you followed what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan, you couldn’t help but think about it.”

“Speaking of Afghanistan,” said the skinny guy, “do you remember how the Soviets thought they had that place whipped? They installed a puppet government just like we have. I can’t remember how long it took—ten years or so—but the Taliban finally bled ‘em dry and ran the commies out of there. With our help! We trained the guys we’re fighting now. Wonder how long it will take ‘em to boot us out of their country?”

I’d had about all I could take. I sidled up to the bar, and in a low tone asked Eddie, “Who are those guys? A bunch of leftover radicals from some old SDS chapter in the sixties?”

Eddie glanced at the table and gave a snort. “Those guys in SDS? No way. They’re just a bunch of Republicans with loose tongues and long memories.”

© Tony Russell, 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

“National Republican Radio”

Office of the Board of Directors, Corporation for Public Broadcasting -

“Mr. Chairman?”

“Yes, Warren.”

“Isn’t it time that we get around to changing our name from ‘Corporation for Public Broadcasting’ to ‘Corporation for Republican Broadcasting’?”

“Now, Warren, you can’t hurry these things. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s more complicated than you think. Since we’re in charge of public radio, should we change that from ‘National Public Radio’ to ‘National Republican Radio’? Or public television from ‘PBS’ to ‘RBS’? Do we change all three names at once, or make the changes one at a time?”

“Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the reference to Rome from the minutes! The media don’t need anything else that hints at an ‘American empire’ parallel.”

“Point well taken, Bruce. Edie, please delete any references to Rome from the record. Now, before we get to new business, Harold is going to present us with an update on our accomplishments so far. All set, Harold?”

“Sure thing, Ken. I want to say, first of all, that we owe you a debt of gratitude for bringing your experience as former head of Voice of America in the Reagan administration and as an editor for Reader's Digest to our situation here at CPB. That’s the kind of balanced perspective we’ve been needing for a long time.”

“Thanks very much, Harold. I do what I can, and can who I have to—that’s a joke, Edie.”

“Okay, Mr. Chairman. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far: Bob Edwards has been dumped; we’ve given the Wall Street Journal a show of its own to showcase the corporate worldview; we’ve hired Fred Mann, a Republican consultant and commentator who worked for Dan Quayle, to keep track of the guests' political leanings on Now with Bill Moyers; and we’ve brought a White House communications officer aboard as a special advisor. Whenever we need guidance on policy issues, he’ll let us know what the White House wants. And wait until you hear the best news. We’ve just installed Patricia Harrison, former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, as the new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting! If ever there was somebody who was proud to be riding the elephant, it’s Pat. And here she is! Let’s all give Pat a big hand!”

“Thanks you for that nice introduction, Harold. I won’t say much at this point. Just that if you think right, you’re in the right place now!”

“I’m sure we are. Good to have you aboard, Pat. Bruce, do you have those new programming ideas your committee has been working on?

“You bet, Mr. Chairman. We’re proposing that we totally wipe out the witty liberal slant on NPR. We want to replace Terry Gross and Fresh Air with Hot Air, a conservative interview show hosted by somebody like Rush Limbaugh. Whodya Know, a quiz show pairing real-life lobbyists and Congressional staffers, would take the place of Whaddya Know with Michael Feldman. We want to drop This American Life, with Ira Glass and that array of misfits, and replace it with Our American Life, modeled on articles from Guideposts magazine—heartwarming stories of Christian faith and efficacious prayer. And for good measure, we’d like to replace Tom and Ray and Car Talk with Dick and Rummy and War Talk. We’re confident we can line up a ton of corporate underwriters for that one. ”

“I like your thinking, Bruce. That kind of program lineup really reflects where we want the country to go. Don’t stop when you’re on a roll.”

“Mr. Chairman, there’s somebody down there at the end of the table who has been waving his hand for a while.”

“Oh, yes. Sorry, I didn’t see you there. Are you one of those holdovers from the old bipartisan board?”

“Yes, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to say that this board was originally designed to shield public broadcasting from partisan political influence. I’m wondering if the changes you’ve made are really faithful to our founding mission, which was to ‘provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard,’ to serve as ‘a forum for controversy and debate,’ and to offer programs that ‘help us see America whole, in all its diversity’?”

“Good Lord, is that supposed to be our mission? I certainly appreciate your drawing that to my attention. There’s just so much to undo here that I know I overlook things sometimes. We’ll tend to that right now. Do I hear a motion to draft a new mission statement more in line with the White House’s vision? Good. Could I have a second?”

© Tony Russell, 2005