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