Saturday, September 30, 2006


Too Good Not to Share

> by Toni Smith
> *"I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation," the president told reporters in the Rose Garden. "But I'm the decider and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
> George W. Bush
> Well, it took me awhile, but I finally realized what "I'm the decider," reminds me of. It sounds like something a character in a Dr Seuss book might say. So with apologies to the late Mr. Geisel, here is some idle speculation as to what else such a character might say:
> I'm the decider. I pick and I choose.
> I pick among whats.
> And choose among whos.
> And as I decide
> Each particular day,
> The things I decide on
> All turn out that way.
> I decided on Freedom
> For all of Iraq.
> And now that we have it,
> I'm not looking back.
> I decided on tax cuts
> That just help the wealthy.
> And Medicare changes
> That aren't really healthy.
> And parklands and wetlands
> Who needs all that stuff?
> I decided that none
> Would be more than enough!
> I decided that schools
> All in all are the best.
> The less that they teach
> And the more that they test.
> I decided those wages
> You need to get by,
> Are much better spent
> On some CEO guy.
> I decided your Wade
> Which was versing your Roe,
> Is terribly awful
> And just has to go.
> I decided that levees
> Are not really needed.
> Now when hurricanes come
> They can come unimpeded.
> That old Constitution?
> Well, I have decided-
> As "just Goddamn paper"*
> It should be derided.
> I've decided gay marriage
> Is icky and weird.
> Above all other things,
> It's the one to be feared.
> And Cheney and Rummy
> And Condi all know
> That I'm the Decider -
> They tell me it's so.
> I'm the Decider
> So watch what you say,
> Or I may decide
> To have you whisked away
> Or I'll tap your phones.
> Your e-mail I'll read.
> `cause I'm the Decider -
> Like Jesus decreed.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Why Hugo Gets My Petro-Buck

I could have done without Hugo Chavez's smells-like-teen-Satan allusion at the UN last week, not because I was outraged by the suggestion that the policies of the Land of the Free are aligned with the Forces of Darkness, but because it distracted the media into recollections of Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe at the UN, and other such irrelevances. The message gets lost when the Nancy Pelosis of the world get caught up in defending the national honor of the presidency. I can't even remember the rest of what Chavez had to say, and for me, that's a loss.

I feel especially sorry about this as I charge through the latest page-turner on my list, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins. It's a couple of years old, and if I didn't work in a library, I might never have come across it. That, too, would have been a loss.

Perkins worked for a consulting firm with a low profile, one that performed (and still performs) the tasks required to drag leaders of other countries into the global empire that our country has been long in the business of building. He begins his story in Ecuador, where his efforts 25 years ago resulted in the establishment of an oil drilling operation that has resulted in the leakage of more oil into the fragile rain forest than the Exxon Valdez disaster. "Today, a new. . . pipeline constructed by an EHM-organized consortium promises to make Ecuador one of the world's top ten suppliers of oil to the United States. Vast areas of rain forest have fallen, macaws and jaguars have all but vanished, three Ecuadorian indigenous cultures have been driven to the verge of collapse, and pristine rivers have been transformed into flaming cesspools."

Perkins describes the tasks and goals of the organizations employing economic hit men (EHMs): "we build a global empire. We . . . utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure--electric generation plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices to engineering offices.. . If an EHM is successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh. This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to previous resources such as oil or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money--and another country is added to our global empire."

Confessions is a frank disclosure of one man's 35-year career, and it makes for some compelling reading. No one who reads this book will ever wonder why our enemies hate us so, or what the 9/11 attacks were really about.

Add Hugo Chavez to the list of people who refuse to step under the U.S. umbrella. The Satan image may have been pinned to Duhbya, but the mischief of EHMs belongs to both parties. In Ecuador, for every $100 of crude sold, $75 will be used as repayment on loans; most of the rest will go to government and military expenses (including purchases of weapons from our arms dealers), leaving about $2.50 for social and educational expenditures.

The U.S. found itself determined to make the most of the Ecuadorian connection after the election of Hugo Chavez, who uses his profits on education and social programs for the poor. This policy, says no less than the NY Times, is a ploy to keep him in power. No, I say, this is a statement of values. Remember values?

I get a smile out of going to a Citgo station each week and sticking my debit card into one of its pumps. I am perfectly happy to help keep Hugo in power, though I'm sure that my government will send its nasty little agents into Venezuela to destabilize him, if possible. In the meantime, I grin as I write Hugo into my check register.

Do read this book. It's worth your time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Bush Acknowledges Presidential Incompetence, Calls for Coronation

President George W. Bush finally admitted that, as a U.S. President he was a complete failure, but added that he would make "a heckuva king." He called on the Republican Congress to stage his coronation before the November elections.

Bush told reporters that he had gotten the idea for the coronation from the media. "Y'all kept talkin' about my Imperr-al Presidency, and once I stopped thinkin' about that ole margerine commercial, I kind of liked the idea. So I decided that I'd be happier as king. I realized that the divine right of kings was a lot more up my alley, bein' as how God wants me to lead this great nation."

Members of the president's circle were only mildly surprised. "He has long expressed contempt for the Constitution," one noted. "For one thing, it doesn't allow him to chop off heads. I do think that he'll be much happier with the duties of a king. He was pretty much raised as a pampered prince."

There had been some White House discussion as to whether Mr. Bush would adopt the title of King George I or King George II, in deference to his father. Mr. Bush had suggested King God II, but had indicated that he could be satisfied with Good King George.

Members of the porcelain industry are eagerly waiting for the setting of the date. "We're going to sell a lot of commemorative plates and figurines," confided a spokesman.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


White House Abandons Homeland Security, Launches Rapture Drills

In an act of rebellion against a rebelling Congress, President Bush has suspended his efforts in homeland security and has begun a series of Rapture drills in the White House.

The drills are being offered in lieu of the Executive Branch's usual Bible study groups and are being met with great enthusiasm by staff members.

Working from a copy of The Apocalypse for Dummies, Mr. Bush has persuaded fellow staffers and select members of Congress that, rather than save the nation from terror attacks, it would be best to apply Mr. Bush's "bring it on" spirit to the end of the world. "If I can't use 'alternative options' in my questioning of detained terror suspects, I can't see a reason to go on. We've primed the environment and created optimal diplomatic conditions in the Middle East. We've got so many 666ers and Whores of Babylon out there that it's hard to tell which one is Big Tuna. So let's bring the Big It on," he has told confidants.

Working to hasten the Rapture is congruent with Mr. Bush's domestic policy, insiders say. "He likes to do favors for friends. His whole presidency is about taking care of like-minded folks. In the Rapture, the world comes to an end, believers are sucked up to heaven by a big cosmic vacuum cleaner, and then they get front-row seats while everybody else is tormented by the Anti-Christ. What's not to like?"

Mr. Bush has awarded a no-bid contract to Halliburton to coordinate the details of the vacuuming job. "They don't have any experience in this area, but they've worked with a lot of heavy equipment. There can't be that much difference between oil rigs and giant suck machines," Mr. Bush is said to have informed associates. "Nobody sucks better than Halliburton, generally speaking. They have my full confidence."

Happy Bunny, who witnessed one of the drills, commented, "They do suck, and it's sad."

Monday, September 18, 2006


Hey, Gang! Collect Them All!

In a bold move said to be the suggestion of Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush today deputized PBS's popular Teletubbies, enlisting them in the war on terrorism.

"If the government is going to subsidize their existence, darn it, they may as well earn their keep," declared Bush in a hastily called press conference. "I am commander in chief of the armed forces, which includes any publicly funded characters that we may deputize for duty."

Once drafted into the war on terror, each Tubby was given a new face, corresponding to the principal members of the administration.

"There was a little pushing and shoving going on there," confided an insider who asked not to be identified. "Nobody wanted to be Tinky Winky. Cheney finally accepted the assignment, since he had some experience in the area."

Bush insisted on being Po, said the source, principally for the two-wheeler.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was mildly resentful of her Dipsy character, although she acknowledged that the color of the costume was best suited to her personal "season." "Condi is a "late winter/early spring" and therefore will look best in the color associated with tender new leaves," declared a spokesperson.

Democrats quickly criticized the move, accusing the administration of co-opting the characters, not to fight terror, but to impress their images on tender minds in order to ensure Republican majorities for generations to come.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Breathtaking Achievement #106

This morning a patron returned The Last Days of Pompeii, a tome by that prince of purple prose, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose opening lines, "It was a dark and stormy night," were the starting point for Snoopy's attempts at the great American novel in Peanuts.

The sudden appearance of Lytton reminded me that I hadn't checked this year's results for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest, the competition to write "the first sentence of the worst novel never written." It's sponsored by the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Jose State University and is an unending source of fiendish delight for me. Reading the entries from the annual Bulwer-Lytton is a pleasure akin to getting stoned and watching The Blob or The Kathryn Kuhlman Gospel Hour on television in my misspent youth.

The fictional and stylistic accomplishment of this year's grand champion is staggering:

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Jim Guigli
Carmichael, CA

Well! If I can write something that atrocious in the coming years, my life will not have been in vain!

Check out this year's winners at

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Cheney Recycled Katharine Harris Helmet

Concerned about post 9/11 security, Dick Cheney once recycled Katharine Harris's helmet-hair from 1997, it was revealed yesterday. However, the hair was seen as "too stiff, uncomfortable," and Cheney chose the alternate security strategy of the second government bunker outside Washington, D.C.

"That sucker must have weighed about 20 lbs., all of it in shellac," remarked a Secret Service agent who asked not to be identified. "Cheney had welts all along the fat around his neck and receding hairline."

Cheney summed up the attempt as "more evidence as to why recycling is basically ineffective." He is considering adopting her blush pattern, however.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Just Quack Iraq

In a prime time address to the nation on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Bush declared, "Quack terror quack quack radical quack Islamoquackquack Iraq."

Expanding on his theme, Bush added, "God wants quack quack freedom quack civilization quack quack stay the quack told me so."

In a notable show of bipartisanship, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stated, "September 11 quack quack never forget

Sen. Rick Santorum was more adamant. "I believe to the bottom of my
quack webfeet quackquack family valquack sanctity of quack quackquackquack."

Senator Joe Lieberman was diving for snails and could not be reached for comment.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


A Splendid Time Was Had by All

What a vacation! Sun, rain, fog. Reading, dozing, kayaking. Maddie-dog swimming in the sea. Clusters of butterflies nesting in the goldenrod. Canadian geese a-honking. Cormorants with their wings spread. A couple of sparrows we nicknamed Mama and Cuthbert: she was still feeding him, even though he was twice her size. "Cuthbert!" we'd call. "Get a job!"

Good reads:
Skinny Legs and All,Tom Robbins. (Yes, I know you all read it 15 years ago... I am a late bloomer) Blink, Malcolm Gladwell. Poems, always by Irene McKinney (Vivid Companion), Anne Carson (The Autobiography of Red), Kate Barnes (she's the poet laureate of Maine.) I'm currently launched on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Saffran Foer, and very glad to be.

We even watched a bit of telly while at our rental house... made me realize once again that it's basically not for me anymore. It was good to watch the U.S. Open and see old Martina Navritalova looking so nice and comfortable in her own skin. I remember her back in the early days looking sort of lumpy and out of place, whiz though she was. There she was, just about to turn 50 and looking so nice and loose and happy, enjoying the game, not taking herself so seriously.

I recommend aging, folks. It does have its blessings.

Back to work tomorrow. I'm grateful for my happy, low-key job and wonderful coworkers. How nice to have left the back-stabbing atmosphere of the public school and to have entered a world in which people like each other and pull for one another.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


O Wonder, O Joy, O Sacred, Sacred Day: VACATION!

At last we are off on our vacation: the spouse, the dog, and I. We delayed our getaway this year in hopes that many of the yard projects would be complete and less vulnerable to rampant weed-sprouting by the beginning of September.

We're going to Harpswell, Maine, one of the loveliest towns on the Maine coast. We've rented a nice place through, right on the water--are taking our kayaks, books, a guitar, a few DVDs, some books on CD some music (spouse can't live a week without some J.S. Bach pouring through her space).

Maine is so wonderful--big gulps of ocean air, seafood, lots of peninsulas and bays for navigating.

I'll be back in a week.

Did I say a whole week?

I did!

Friday, September 01, 2006


The Incredible Shrinking Reading List

Let's hear it for Dubya's ec-a-lectic tastes.

It started out that the President claimed to have read The Stranger and "three Shakespeares." (I thought perhaps he's said "three beers," but somehow I kept visualizing baseball cards: "I've got an old Mickey Mantle and three Jose Cansecos.")

I guess some snarky reporter must have pursued the matter, because the next time somebody got specific about Bush and the Bard, only Hamlet and Julius Caesar had made the cut.

I could have bought a screening of the two plays, but Dubya slogging through Renaissance English and all those footnoted sirrahs? I don't think so.

The great thing about being the most powerful man in the world is the access you have to all those old copies of Classics Illustrated on ebay.

There's still the Labor Day weekend, and Cliff Notes does a nice job on MacBeth.

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