Week in Review:
December 2 — 8 , 2002
Fair Winds and Following Seas.
Whose Light Shines
On the Mustard Gas?
Accurate, Full, and Complete.
Monday, December 2, 2002
News is built on blood — and too often on poorly crafted metaphor. Stuck in a vexing Sargasso slough of dullness, we can't lift our feet out of the muck tonight, can't climb high enough to properly align our metaphors. Too much of the fat of the land clogs our arteries. Too much isolation from the gritty realities of hard labor and civic hustle-bustle dilutes our collective sense of judgment with pale, watery tints of the aesthete and the dilettante. Too much of everything but good sense and good humor abounds.
We're worried, too. The rebels in Ivory Coast, the BBC reports, are "going from house to house, taking cell phones, televisions, killing the dogs." On blood? I doubt you could build much of anything on blood. We'll declare, then, to set us on a right track, that news is the juxtaposition of conflict and accomplishment, accident and design, the mundane and the extraordinary. Things happen, and we tell each other about them.
USA is a society going mad. Too many strands of culture are simultaneously unraveling. Just like this review, we're jumping to all points of the compass all at once, back and forth in a tizzy. The medication designated to soothe the symptoms — lofty tonics for the brain, serotonin inhibitors and endorphin boosters, freely flowing fermented malts, a mature quasi-underground pot pipeline, streams of porn and bile, grain alcohols and refined dust of hallucinogenic plants, the endless cuts and dissolves of video pop culture — is strong stuff. It enables the citizenry to exist in a sea of denial and self-delusional bliss.
When Monday arrived on the planet, the dew of outrage and carnage clung to the meadows like drops of venom. (Have you ever seen a cloud of mustard gas, thick of texture and deep yellow of hue, as it snuggles into the low places of a valley on the chill of an autumn morn?) Charges of conspiracy and collusion crept with the shortening shadows onto the asphalt of the nearby quadrangles. Billions of beings crammed liquids and solids into their systems and dove into the fray.
Let's Compare the Presidents.
With so much heaviness dogging us, we decided to ease into the week by focusing on a gossipy letter from John Dilulio, an "aide" to USA President Bush, to a reporter at one of the Eastern Establishment's old-line monthly rags, Esquire. The missive was made public by muckraker Matt Drudge, who published it on his website bulletin, the Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com). A few — the very few — of us sequestered here in our desert hideaway behind old Sol consider Mr. Drudge to be the most original and distinctive reporter of the age, but that's mere opinionated prattle.
The Dilulio letter, chatty and topical, played a game of comparison-contrast featuring two teams, Mr. Bush's administration-in-power on one side, and that of his disgraced immediate predecessor, William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas, on the other. It's a popular game among the witty and clever spinmeisters, media commentators, and political operatives strung out like so many mayflies along the Eastern Seaboard and far Left Coast of USA. The game leads with inexorable precision to a final say about Mr. Bush's failed domestic agenda.
Mr. Bush: "... a highly admirable person of enormous personal decency.... a godly man and a moral leader.... much, much smarter than some people seem to suppose.... He is all heart.... a leader who pays attention to the little things that convey respect and decency toward others."
Mr. Clinton: "... the natural, a leader with a genuine interest in the policy process who encouraged information-rich decision-making.... the policy-wonk-in-chief."
The Bush Administration after two years falls short of the mark at home, a failure which is counter-balanced (in small measure) abroad. "There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism," Mr. Dilulio wrote. "There is still two years, maybe six, for them to do more and better on domestic policy, and, specifically, on the compassion agenda. And, needless to say, Nine Eleven, and now the global war on terror and the new homeland and national security plans, must be weighed in the balance."
In a crabshell, the standard line of opposition is espoused: Bush is policy weak and action strong. He's loving, but lightweight in issues dear to the Left, each of them social and all intrusive, each of them absolutely dependent upon the paternal hand and bigger thumb of government.
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Space Shuttle Endeavour after seven days in dock uncoupled from the International Space Station and cruised into an orbit of its own. Left behind were three fresh Space Station crew, a ton of supplies, and a few hundred meters of truss-and-girder superstructure. "Fair winds and following seas," one captain wished another.
Wednesday, December 4, 2002
A total solar eclipse graced the heavens above Africa and Australia. The moon slipped between the planet and the sun, darkening the midday skies for a while. A few journalists tried to uncover a profundity or two in South Africa and Sydney, but astrological knowledge and the hype of opportunists take the edge off a post-modern eclipse and ruthlessly strip it bare of any pretense to poetry, mystery, and awe. Hand-out the smoky glasses, take a peek at the precisely predicted path of the shadow, snap a photo or two, share an ooohh here and an ahh there — then be done with it.
In Tokyo, twenty-six university students were caught cheating on an exam in their E-commerce class. Newsworthy was the fact that they shared their answers in e-mails sent to one another on cell phones.
Let's Hope that Dot-Kids Works.
President Bush signed legislation, The Dot-Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act, mandating a new Internet domain, kids.us, which will offer a restricted space for youngsters to delve with some assurance of protection into the wonders and mysteries of the World Wide Web. Later that night in a hamlet just a few kilometers north of our dot.com's production center, thirteen-year-old Kacie Rene Woody was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a forty-seven-year-old demon, who snared the dear child by way of information gained in an Internet chat room.
Kids.us mandates "kid-safe" chat rooms. Police would later reveal that Miss Woody's killer posed as a fellow teenager during his online chats with the little one, that he drove almost two thousand miles from his home in California to plan his evil act, and that he snared the child in the dark of night while her father, a widower, worked the late shift to support his little family.
Miss Woody's killer put a bullet through his brain soon after the police cornered him in possession of the girl's body.
Kids.us — much like America Online — will be a closed web. It will attempt to protect children aged twelve and younger from sex, hate, and violence. Links to websites outside the domain will be prohibited. Instant messages and chat rooms will be regulated and monitored.
Thursday, December 5, 2002
A corporation based in Chicago filed for bankruptcy. AmeriKing owns about 350 Burger King restaurants in twelve USA states. Analysts blamed the competition, specifically McDonald's and its one-dollar menu specials, for a sales downturn. Our last Week in Review ended with passing notice of McDonald's failure to establish its burger chain in Bolivia. These burger-joint failures continue to nibble at the edges of our ruminations here in the Planet X Think Tank. We cannot shake the notion that the failure of Big Mac and Whopper signifies something profound. Exactly what profundity we don't know yet. We'll let you know.
In Indonesia, less than an hour after the end of Ramadan's fast, a bomb killed two customers at a McDonald's restaurant.
Friday, December 6. 2002
When we drifted toward slumber on Friday night, the caustic taste of insufferable wrangling couldn't be washed away by meditation, or driven into nocturnal limbo by the graceful leaping of ninety-nine cloned sheep we counted soaring o'er the clouds of imagination. We are drowned, then resuscitated, then burned to a crisp, then resurrected as Spirit to roam the Universe in splendid atomic drift and particulate seclusion.
"Marketing loves these kinds of things, but as far as I'm concerned whether you win or lose, these hack-my-product contests are useless," a man named McNabb said as he rationalized his company's failure to pay a reward it had promised to pay. "Anyone who believes that there's such a thing as a totally hackproof product is very naive." Mr. McNabb was identified as the CEO of Argus, an internet security firm that offered fifty grand in U.S. dollars to anyone who could hack into a web server protected by Argus' Pitbull. A band of hackers from Poland broke through the Pitbull's guardpost, but collected nothing 'cept broken promises. One member of our group suggested the Argus company should rename the product Pit Bullshit.
Saturday, December 7, 2002
On the day that Iraq delivered its "long-awaited arms declaration" (Associated Press) to the United Nations, "denying it has doomsday weapons," a colleague from London telephoned to warn about USA's diminishing pool of support abroad.
"Anti-American feelings are growing by leaps and bounds and not just amongst our enemies," Mr. Mickey Miles said from London. "This war thing with Iraq has become a political and public relations disaster. The real danger, once the shooting starts, is that it may set the whole Mideast aflame. It has already rekindled dying embers from Crusades of long ago."
The Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Declarations were delivered to the U.N. Security Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in New York.
That same day the Space Shuttle Endeavour landed at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Among the passengers was American astronaut Peggy Whitson, a member of the Fifth Expedition on the space station. She had last touched earth on June 5. Astronaut Whitson notched 3,000 orbits of the planet with her two male crew mates. Reports noted that her first meal back home would be grilled beefsteak and Caesar Salad with garlic.
Sunday, December 8, 2002
Two elections caught our inner eye, the bulging one in the middle, very psychically bloodshot by the time Sunday arrives once again on the cycle at the compound.
Dead Non-Entities Don't Vote.
In Serbia, the electorate for the second time failed to participate in adequate numbers to validate the return. Like many Central European states, Serbia requires a minimum of fifty percent participation among eligible voters to make the election count. Not quite 45 percent of the 6.5 million enfranchised Serbians thought it necessary to vote in the presidential election on Sunday. A low turnout also invalidated October's first attempt by Serbian officialdom to elect a president. The front runner, Mr. Kostunica, accused his rivals of sabotaging the vote by inflating the eligible electorate with names of "dead souls, ineligible emigrants, and the "nonexistent" because the opposition knew it couldn't beat him fair and square. Dead non-entities, even if they do have a soul, were unable to vote and ensured that the count didn't surpass the fifty-percent threshold. "The voters were not animated," Milutin Bajevic, a 58-year-old dentist from Belgrade, told the AFP news agency.
Whose Light Is It?
In Louisiana, the last great outpost of French culture in USA, incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu defeated Republican challenger Suzanne Haik by a few thousand votes in a runoff between Roman Catholic women to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. The Left sought to paint Ms. Landrieu's victory with epic strokes, claiming it "overcame a rising Republican tide and the pull of a popular president." Ms. Landrieu intimated her victory turned on lights all 'round the planet. "Tonight a great light has gone on in the world, a great light has gone on in the United States, because we turned the lights on," she said somewhat cryptically. "The light has shown that the Democratic Party is alive and well and united."
Perhaps the Democrats did win something other than a safe seat, although lights from the cold eye of history indicate that Miss Mary's victory illuminated naught but Louisiana politics as usual. The last time an incumbent U.S. Senator lost an election there was 1932. The last time Louisiana sent a Republican to the Senate was 1883 — and he was appointed by the State Legislature. Louisiana is the only state in USA to have never elected a Republican to the senate by popular vote.
On another plane entirely, we closed the week's activities with a midnight conversation about the light at the end of the tunnel, a lively chat which began soon after old Alfred asked, somewhat rhetorically: "Does it recede, that dim light, or race pell-mell in gathering luminosity straight toward me?"
| David Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles |
Send e-mail |