On October 17, 1989, my view of earthquakes changed dramatically: I was at Candlestick Park, sitting in Bob Uecker seats (about ten rows from the top; Bob, oddly enough, was nowhere to be seen), awaiting the start of Game 3 of the World Series, when the Loma Prieta temblor hit. Over sixty people were killed, a freeway collapsed, fires raged in San Francisco, a portion of the Bay Bridge gave way, and my second wife left me six months later. (She said it was my fault, but it was obviously the quake's.) During the interminable fifteen seconds the massive concrete overhangs swayed above and the park convulsed every which way below, I really thought I was about to die. (I didn't, though.)
Being a native Californian, I'd felt my share of shakers, but, until then, they'd all been of the ha-ha, did-you-feel-that, what-a-hoot variety. This was a wholly different animal, generating within me newfound respect for the jolting beasts. But I noticed another change about myself, too (in addition to my now-automatic dive under the nearest table upon feeling the slightest vibration under my feet): Something I’d always taken for granted—the "knowledge" of the earth remaining forever solid and unmoving beneath me—was no longer a given. It was an indescribably unsettling feeling, sort of like when I discover I’m speaking with someone who believes Dick Cheney has a soul.
The reason I relate this, other than to both try to set the record for longest opening segue ever and also highlight my harrowing, living-on-the-edge attendance of ballgames (I'll be trying out for the Extreme Sports-Watching Olympics next year), is because I’ve discerned a spate of other similar upheavals in my belief system, all within the last three years or so. Interestingly enough, this period coincides exactly with the length of time President Bush has been on the throne—uh, in office—and even more amazingly (can you feel the chills?), every one of these involves him in some way--sort of like sick degrees of George Bush. Forthwith, in no particular order:
Suspending the U.S. election: This breathtakingly anti-democratic idea is supposedly the (lame)brainchild of DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., the Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. I was apparently mistaken about USEAC's purpose, naively figuring the body (created in the wake of the 2000 Bush appointment) was supposed to help U.S. elections run smoother, not cancel them altogether. (I think I was misled by the "assistance" part.) However, I strongly suspect, as does undoubtedly most of the rest of the civilized world (along with other intelligent life forms that may observe our electoral process from afar, although if that's how they spend their time in their neck of the cosmos, they can't be all that advanced), that in the face of plummeting poll numbers and in an effort to play the fear card yet again (how many are in that loose deck anyway?), the real impetus for the floated delay-the-vote plan came from the White House.
My, how quickly the worms turn in Bushworld. The American right threw big-time conniption fits when the good people of Spain had the audacity to actually practice democracy when they adiosed staunch Iraq war and Bush backer then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar days after the Madrid train bombings. Never mind Spaniards had been overwhelmingly against the war from before its beginning and were also incensed their government was quick to blame the Madrid atrocities on ETA instead of the real perpetrators, Al-Qaida. Now the U.S. might not even vote because we're big scaredy-cats? This obvious inconsistency was too apparent for even the Bushies to ignore, as one of my occasionally reliable sauces (not a typo) assures me the president recently tried to make nice at a Spanish American town hall meeting. True to form, he botched it by proclaiming: "Yo soy un spaniel." I think he was trying to say, "I am a Spaniard," but in my book, he was Spot on. (Bush’s handlers should know by now to leave to native speakers languages he doesn’t know, like Spanish and English.)
Final note: Has anyone else noticed “DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.” is an anagram for "job: stress dire fear"? (I tossed the comma and got the colon by stacking the periods.) Didn't think so.
Richard Nixon moves up a notch: Did you ever think you'd see the day when Nixon would not be considered our all-time worst president? It’s further proof of the old saying: Records are meant to be broken--even criminal ones. (For those sure to point out that Mr. "I am not a crook" was never convicted of anything, that's only because he was pardoned by the trendsetter in appointed presidencies, Gerald Ford.) And get this: Bush's current veep has even amazingly managed to put a better light on Nixon's second banana, the splenetic Spiro Agnew, who WAS convicted (of tax evasion), resigning his sidekick duties immediately after pleading nolo contendre (Latin for “I'm guilty as hell, but too much of a weasel to admit it”). Thus, today's White House denizens have done double duty by outdoing that decidedly dirty duo. This alliterative allusion is in honor of Agnew, who was quite fond of castigating his critics with phrases like "pusillanimous pussyfooting," "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history" and, of course, his classic characterization of the media as "nattering nabobs of negativism." Natterers like myself live for such priceless fodder. But what do we get from Cheney? Dick, of course. Time after time, to invitation-only crowds, he gives the same snarly speech with the same snarly sneer that could easily be summed up with just a few spat-out words: "Terrorists are evil, we are good, you should be scared, and we will continue to do whatever we damn well please. Leave your checks on the table." Everything about this current administration is just so joyless. At least Nixon TRIED to be funny when he appeared on a certain comedy show in the 60s, but the repeated grim schtick from Bush, and especially Cheney, is no Laugh-In matter. Come November, it's time to say goodbye, Dick, and dere go da George.
One last indication of how bizarre this all is: Actually starting a sentence with: "At least Nixon..."
Bush's press conference: My jaw hit the floor so hard as I watched this faux performance art unfold it took four stitches to close the wound and two weeks for the bruise to heal. Bush's meltdown was so complete, I was half-waiting for him to stick his fingers in his ears and wiggle them while making faces. (Perhaps he did, and I missed it during one of the times I turned from the set to catch my breath.) The capper, really, was when I clicked to Dan Rather afterward, thinking for sure even the network non-newscasts couldn't hide that Bush had finally, incontrovertibly exposed himself as the dangerous boob he is, only to find Dan the Corporate Media Man instead describing the funny fest we'd just witnessed with words along the lines of "strong," "decisive," and "sincere," instead of "weird," "inexplicable," and "ach-splrgrblggh."* Obviously, Rather (or someone else, rather), had written the "analysis" ahead of time, and would have dutifully read the same damn thing even had Bush, while gazing skyward and saying "um" for the umteenth time, suddenly pulled out a slingshot, exclaimed, "I got yer answers right here!" and excitedly picked off a couple of reporters with giant spitwads. Of course, this might have actually done the scribes a long-needed collective favor and knocked some journalistic sense into them, prompting slightly tougher questions than, "Sorry, Mr. President, but are you sorry you're not sorry?"
U.N. monitoring of the U.S. election: One of the funniest signs I saw at the anti-war marches said: “U.N. monitoring for 2004 U.S. election.” I laughed and thought, “Thank goodness it hasn’t gotten to that point.” As I sit here, my thoughts have done a “John Kerry” (also known as a “flip-flop,” “180 degree turn,” or “George Bush”): Bizarrely, it’s now a proposal worth considering--and decidedly unamusing. One hundred sixty-one U.S. Representatives favor U.N. assistance, too: According to Edward Epstein of the San Francisco Chronicle, that’s how many of them unsuccessfully voted against a GOP-sponsored amendment to a recently-passed bill “that [bans] using federal funds to request U.N. monitors.” The Republicans were a little steamed that twelve House Dems had written a letter to the U.N. in July asking it to provide overseers for our charade—excuse me, election. The amendment debate was a tad hot, too, with Democratic Florida Rep. Corrine Brown saying the 2000 ignominy was a “United States coup d’etat” and the GOP “stole the election,” remarks for which she was ruled out of order by the Republican chair, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, who said: “Members should not accuse other members of committing a crime such as, quote, stealing, end quote, an election.” I get it now: It’s OK to do, but tacky to mention. Rep. Diane Watson, a California Democrat, said, “We need the world to see how our elections run because Florida cheated, and we are not going to allow it to cheat again.” With all due respect, this is well known about Florida, and I quit playing cards with it years ago because it was always looking at my hand. However, probably only Republicans--and Diebold--think everything’s just lame-ducky with America’s electoral system, while everyone else is justifiably concerned. There’s even a possibility an Iraqi delegation, scheduled to observe the U.S. election as an example for Iraq’s own upcoming balloting but now having second thoughts, has sent its regrets, mentioning something about washing its hair in November. Of course, it’s also possible this is a complete fabrication, but according to the “Rumsfeld Doctrine” of “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” who’s to say?
Ersatz news "reports": According to a March 2004 Chronicle editorial, “In order to sell the complicated and skimpy [Medicare prescription drug] plan to seniors, the Department of Health and Human Services is paying actors to pose as journalists in bogus TV ‘news’ reports. Videos have been sent to TV stations, along with government-prepared scripts for news anchors to read.”
I realize newscasts haven't presented real news in, oh, about eight centuries now, but doesn't this seem, well, slightly wrong? As I recall, there's a term from the old country for this sort of thing (the old country being Stalinist Russia): state-issued propaganda. I just don’t get the deception: Bush has touted this bill as the greatest thing since our golden era of English-speaking presidents. You’d think he’d be eager to share its glorious process from start to finish with his subjects—I mean, the American people. You know, like how Speaker Dennis Hastert held the bill's vote open for three hours while on the House floor, bribes were made--I'm sorry, arms were twisted (by Guido and "Little" Louie)--to secure enough GOP votes to pass it by a margin thinner’n an O. J. Simpson alibi; or how the White House ordered information withheld from Congress about the bill’s true cost until after the vote; or how the bill precludes the feds from exercising their huge massive buying leverage to get the best deal for seniors (allegedly, the legislation was originally titled the "Pharmaceutical Companies Unconscionable Profit Margins Assurance Bill" before it was decided this might be somewhat controversial); or how five or six trillion dollars must now be spent to explain to seniors the drug price discounts they won't be getting--that is, of course, as soon as someone cracks the bill's code and becomes the first human being to actually understand it. (I hear Stephen Hawking may be free; he could tackle that problem and also work on a new black hole theory about why taxpayer money disappears so fast in the GOP’s alternate universe.)
So why hasn’t Bush bragged on this? Well, he has said God talks to him (http://slate.msn.com/id/2099698
). Maybe this time the Big Guy (or Gal) sayeth: “George, shut up.”
I could go on, of course, but I'm already at 2200 words; I bought a whole case over at Costco and want to use 'em up before they get stale. (I'm also eating one of the twelve dozen, or gross, Mondo Monster Muffins we got.) Anyway, if there's a clamor for another column on the same theme, or even just a comment like, "Hey, Drolette, that flying pig piece--it's the first thing you did I could get through," then I might put together a part II in the future. Or, if I just can't think of another topic, the odds are you may be a-seein’ part II anyway, wanted or not.
Just remember, though: If you espy creatures winged and porcine, it does not mean you are crazy. (You still may be, but this would not be the indicator). It only means it is not yet November 2, the day those pigs quit flying and a Bush spontaneously combusts.
* An email to CBSNews.com asking for a transcript of Rather’s remarks (so I could quote him directly) went unheeded, causing me to use words like “unresponsive,” “corporate,” and “#@&*!s”
(Thanks to liesofbush.com for access to the second link.)