Thursday, April 27, 2006

“I Have a Lighter Side”


Washington, April 24 -
The White House announced today that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be a guest on “Meet the Press” this Sunday. Rumsfeld’s appearance is an attempt to counter charges that he was directly involved in supervising the abuse of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

According to the announcement, “special staging arrangements” have been made with network staff for the broadcast. Although full details were not disclosed, highly placed sources within the administration, speaking on background, have said that Rumsfeld will reproduce for the studio audience various practices he authorized for the interrogation of prisoners.

Prior to his appearance, Rumsfeld will be forced to kneel for eight hours with his hands behind his back. He will also be inundated for forty-eight hours by high-decibel rap music from three different stations played simultaneously, and will be awakened every 45 minutes if he manages to fall asleep.

Once the program begins, the Secretary will stand naked before a panel of female reporters while they badger him with accusations that he is a homosexual. Then he will don a bra and bikini underpants while guards urinate on the Bible and the panel screams that his mother and sister are whores. Snarling guard dogs will be sicced onto the Secretary to lend authenticity to his performance, but will be kept leashed and muzzled at all times. The release cautions that “anything Secretary Rumsfeld says, under the circumstances, cannot be taken seriously.”

For the grand finale, he will perform a series of dog tricks on the end of a leash. “Fetch! Roll over! Beg! Sit! Speak! Heel! You name it, he can do it,” said one aide who has been present at rehearsals. “He picked it all up in no time. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?”

The program is expected to attract a record audience. “I’m looking forward to it,” said Rumsfeld. “It will give people a chance to see another part of me. I’m not always the inflexible, arrogant misanthrope the public is accustomed to. I have a lighter side.”

In the past, treatment of the kind described, whether carried out by Nazis or by communists, has been greeted with opprobrium, scorn, and contempt by the American public. Rumsfeld, however, will argue that the events, far from being psychological torture, were simply “an attempt to provide entertainment” for guards and prisoners at Guantanamo. “It’s hot down there, they’re wedged into those tiny cells, they get almost no exercise.… I just felt they needed something to break the monotony,” he said.

The Secretary hopes, with this appearance, to persuade skeptics that he was being truthful in his earlier claim that “…the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is proper, it's humane, it's appropriate, and it is fully consistent with international conventions. No detainee has been harmed; no detainee has been mistreated in any way.”

Nonetheless, some observers have had misgivings about the acts portrayed on the show. “I feel so sorry for him, going through all that,” said a network associate who has watched rehearsals. “I don’t know how he can stand it.”

“I feel the same way,” said a technician who has also been present. “And he’s only doing it for one day. A lot of the prisoners have been there for three years. No wonder so many have tried to commit suicide.”

The program will be preceded by the following message:

Warning: Because conduct displayed on this program may violate national and international standards of decency, viewer discretion is advised. Videotaping or audio taping of the program, in whole or in part, is expressly prohibited, and use of any description of the program is forbidden without written consent from the Secretary of Defense.
© Tony Russell, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

“A Mindlessness of Its Own”

Patty looked up from the newspaper with a worried frown on her face. “Did you see this, Ace? President Bush went to California to talk about war with members of the Hoover Institution.”

“So the president went to a meeting. He goes to lots of meetings.”

“But the Hoover Institution has been pushing hard for an attack on Iran. It has a lot of pull on the country’s editorial pages. Guys like Thomas Sowell.”

“Patty, the president’s not crazy enough to attack Iran! We’re stretched too thin in Iraq and Afghanistan without taking on somebody else, for cryin’ out loud. Even I can figure that out. A lot of troops are already going back for their third tour of duty, both countries are trying to stave off chaos, Iraq is sliding into civil war, and some people are projecting now that the war there will cost over a trillion dollars. You’d have to be nuts to start another war when you can’t win two that you’re already in!”

“Ace, remember what you said before we invaded Iraq? ‘The president will give the weapons inspectors a chance to finish the job,’ you said. ‘That only makes sense.’ ‘Diplomacy will be the first option,’ you said. ‘No sane person wants a war,’ you said.

Three billion women in the world, and I had to marry one with a tape recorder in her brain.

“Okay, so no sane person wants war, and these bozos at the Hoover Institution want to start a war with Iran…. I can do the logic on that,” I said. “But why would he go and have a private powwow with them? You don’t suppose he’d take them seriously, do you?”

“Well, they take themselves seriously. And even though they’ve been wrong again and again on Iraq—in fact, they have an unbroken streak of being wrong for the past five years—they’re still the standard talking heads. You claim an attack on Iran is unthinkable, but there are people thinking it, and they have a lot of influence in the media and with this administration.”

“Look, Patty, I know I blew it on Iraq, but there’s no way I could be wrong about Iran. If Bush hit Iran, the Shi’ites in Iraq would go berserk! All the factions in Iraq have had the devil of a time trying to put a government together, and Sunnis and Shi’ites are slaughtering each other in the streets. It’d take an idiot to pull that house of cards down right now.”

“Maybe you’re right,” she said. “I sure hope so.”

“Sure I am,” I said. “Muslims around the world would go bananas. Pakistan would go up in flames. And China just signed a big oil agreement with Iran. If we attack Iran, we’ll be into it with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan, all at the same time, and who knows what the Russians and Chinese would do with their oil supply threatened?

“Besides, who’s left to support us?” I went on. “Tony Blair is hanging by a thread in England. The Italians just booted out Berlusconi. One after another, everybody’s pulling their troops out of Iraq. If we bomb Iran, the ‘coalition of the willing’ will be Utah, Mississippi, and Alabama.”

“The scary thing for me is, I’m not sure it matters,” said Patty, her voice choking. I looked at her, and tears were welling in her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked in alarm.

“I just feel like such an idiot,” she sniffled. “Growing up, I really did believe all they taught us in school about ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ Now it seems more like ‘government of the people, without the people, despite the people.’ I think the overwhelming majority of people in this country want something saner and more decent than they’re getting from their government —Democrats or Republicans. I’m so frustrated that our political leadership carries us along regardless of what the majority of us think and feel. But more than that, I’m just plain angry. I don’t see many politicians willing to speak truth to power, or to the people either. It feels as if the government has a mind of its own. A mindlessness of its own.”

“Gee, Patty,” I said, “that’s what you’re always saying about me.”

© Tony Russell, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006

“Miracles on 35th Street”

Neighbors are flocking to the apartment of Mrs. Eleanor Plymale, 429 W. 35th St., to see her newly restored carpet. “It’s a miracle!” enthused Mrs. Plymale. “You can see the lilies and orchids in all their original color and luster! I rented the carpet-cleaning machine and purchased a gallon of the cleanser at Homemaker’s Hardware on W. 19th St., but I didn’t really believe it could restore life to my old carpet.”

Her neighbor, Mrs. Darlene Thomas, 3438 Jefferson Ave., agreed. “It’s nothing short of miraculous,” she said. “When Ellie called me, I was really skeptical. I rushed right over and stuck my fingers in the pile to convince myself that it was real. The carpet was still damp from the cleansing, and it was spotless. It was like her kids had never spilled pop in the living room, and they hadn’t had that unfortunate experience with the miniature schnauzer they never could housebreak. It’s completely without stain!”

Another neighbor, Mrs. Audra Bishop, of 3623 Madison Ave, said, shaking her head, “It just goes to show you. I told her for years, ‘Ellie, why don’t you throw out that old thing and get yourself some wall-to-wall shag carpeting like I have in my living room?’” Mrs. Bishop added, “That carpet was soiled, faded, and had spots all over it—a real eyesore. Then she brings it back to life with the help of modern technology. I’m going to rent that machine myself next weekend.”

Mrs. Bishop may have to wait longer than expected. According to sales personnel at Homemaker’s Hardware, calls have been pouring in since rumors of the miracle began to circulate in the neighborhood. “We only keep three of the machines in the store,” said the assistant manager, Vivian Flores, “and two of them are broken at the minute. The other one is booked up from now through Easter.”

News of the alleged miracle has spread across the west end of the city by word of mouth, e-mail, and telephone. A line of visitors extends down the hallway of Mrs. Plymale’s apartment and halfway around the block. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes before entering the apartment, and may leave an offering in coffee cans placed on stands on either side of the door.

Everyone who tours the apartment is also treated with what Mrs. Plymale describes as an earlier miracle, a square of her fudge brownies. “The company claimed that it was a miracle,” she admits, “but I didn’t believe it until I tried it myself. You just add water and two eggs, stir thoroughly, and pour the batter into a greased 9 by 9 baking pan, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The brownies are always rich and moist, with a deep chocolaty taste. It never fails me.”

Additional miracles reported by Mrs. Plymale include her toilet bowl cleaner, which removes even the deepest and most persistent yellowing; her liquid dishwashing detergent, which cuts grease and removes stubborn stains from pots and pans; and her toothpaste, which prevents cavities, freshens her breath, and whitens as it cleans.

© Tony Russell, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

“From the Mailbag”

Ace’s Wild

Time for another question and answer session with our man Ace, OPP’s version of Dr. Laura. Let’s head right to the mailbag and see what our readers have on their minds.

* * * * * *

Q. Ace, where did your nickname come from? Is it short for “ace reporter,” a reference to your fondness for poker, or a mispronunciation?
Del McDonald ~ Chagrin Falls, Ohio

A. Mispronunciation?

* * * * * *

Q. Hey, Ace! In the run-up to the invasion of Iran, the Bush administration went through the motions of using the UN while constantly issuing threats. They insisted that they were trying to solve the problem diplomatically and that all their preparations for a military attack were just normal contingency planning. Now they’re issuing threats against Iran while using the UN as a forum. They claim that they’re trying to resolve the problem diplomatically, and insist that their preparations for a military attack—including a potential nuclear strike—are just normal contingency planning. Do I see a pattern here?
Whitney McKenzie, Palo Alto, California

A. I’m trying to avoid that mindset, Whitney. Save the patterns for wallpaper, not newspaper.

* * * * * *

Q. Dear Answer Man: According to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the president, in his role as commander-in-chief, can do anything he wants in time of war. The president has also said that the war against terrorism will last into the foreseeable future. Putting two and two together, I keep coming up with 666. Is my math correct?
Donna Aprilla ~ Sacramento, California

A. My calculator says “4,” Donna, but I never studied the new math.

* * * * * *

Q. Dear Sir: As a committed Christian, I am having a hard time deciding which is worse—having oral sex with someone who is not your wife and then lying about it, or lying in order to launch an invasion which results in the deaths of over 100,000 people. They both involve lying. Can you help me resolve this moral dilemma?
Ralph Lowbody ~ Ashland, Kentucky

A. When did they have you committed?

* * * * * *

Q. Ace — The president said he would fire anyone in his administration who was involved in leaking the information intended to discredit Joseph Wilson. Now it turns out that Mr. Bush gave Dick Cheney the go-ahead to leak the information. I don’t understand how this would work; can the president fire himself?
Leroy Heim ~ Madison, Wisconsin

A. Leroy, do you remember the myth where the snake opens its mouth and swallows its tail?

* * * * * *

Q. Sir: According to a story in last week’s issue of our local newspaper, the rock strata exposed during highway construction in this area are mostly Devonian and 370 million years old. How can a world that’s only six thousand years old contain rocks that are 370 million years old? Please explain this for my seven-year-old daughter in terms of simple theological geology. Thank you for your assistance.
Wanda Pepper ~ Monroe, Louisiana

A. See previous question and answer.

* * * * * *

Q. Congress seems to be having a tough time putting together an immigration bill that everyone can agree on. As far as I can tell, you have members who variously
· Want to make all the little brown-skinned Spanish-speakers go away
· Want to maintain a steady supply of cheap labor that can be paid under the table
· Want to exploit people’s paranoia about security
· Want to criminalize good deeds
· Want to keep hard-working young people coming to fund their Social Security checks
· Want to lay the foundation for a Latino voting bloc
There may be some idealism tucked away somewhere in there, but basically, it’s a grab bag of ugly motives. What kind of compromise would you suggest?
Dan McLaughlin, Waycross, Georgia

A. Let’s think outside the box, Dan: Would Mexico be willing to annex the U.S.?

* * * * * *

Q. Ace. The administration has promised a shake up of its staff. The obvious first step would be to dump a deeply unpopular vice president whose approval rating has plummeted to 18%. So why is he still around?
Marvin Stern ~ Utica, New York

A. Cheap impeachment insurance.

* * * * * *

No question about it; we’re scraping bottom. Readers, keep your questions coming. Patty, put a cold one in the fridge, I’m heading out the door.

© Tony Russell, 2006

Monday, April 03, 2006

“A Large Number of Unknowns”


Washington, April 3 –

The White House announced today that President Bush has decided to extend his term in office until the war on terrorism has been won. The war is currently being waged against an unidentified number of terrorists in an undisclosed number of countries to achieve unspecified goals at an indeterminate time.

The large number of unknowns involved has encouraged Congress to write an endless number of blank checks for hundreds of billions of dollars, since, as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn) put it, “With that many unknowns, you don’t want to tie the administration’s hands.”

Provisions in the Constitution for periodic elections and term limits are being suspended, said the announcement, until the war on terrorism has been brought to a successful conclusion. “Successful conclusion” was undefined.

The president’s decision, which has long been expected, will not require approval by Congress, said the announcement, since the president’s powers are unlimited when he is acting as Commander-in-Chief in time of war. “God bless America,” the announcement concluded. “Let freedom ring.”

Congressional Republicans hailed the news. “With our alliances in tatters, Iraq going to hell in a handbasket, the Taliban revived in Afghanistan, the entire Middle East threatening to explode in sectarian chaos, and the budget in free fall, we need someone with President Bush’s nerve and experience to see this thing out,” said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).

When Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc) pointed out that all of these situations were actually created by the current administration, he was roundly denounced not only by Republicans, but by members of his own party, who argue that it is not the role of the opposition to oppose the party in power. “Snakes and worms keep a low profile,” cautioned one party veteran.

© Tony Russell, 2006