Archive for the ‘SATIRE’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: TRYING TO IMAGINE HELL   Leave a comment

 

TRYING TO IMAGINE HELL

John Chuckman

 

Christians have always had it wrong. Hell is not a place loaded with terrifyingly dramatic scenes and flaming Hollywood special effects. That not only seems improbable, it actually is rather unimaginative.

Hell must be a place where all the people you would hate spending five minutes with become your intimate neighbors for eternity. It would be filled with people who never had an interesting thought, who never cared about the beauties of the universe, who only ever grasped for more, and people who spewed hate and ignorance their entire lives.

Of course, it contains figures like Hitler, and the Fuhrer’s closest associates sit gathered around to feel the mind-deadening, unremitting pain of hearing his views repeated in late evening monologues forever. Henry Kissinger will sit at Hitler’s feet, forced eternally to just listen, learning from the master as it were. One also finds the banalities and droning platitudes of George Bush. Imagine an eternal replay of his barely-literate mumbling, often stumbling over his own tongue while reciting his contributions to democracy and the goodness of America. Tony Blair will smirk, count his blood money, and display the smug stupidity of his smarmy smile forever. Madeleine Albright sits holding broken children’s bodies in her arms, an impious parody of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

But the halls of hell must also resonate with the sounds of lesser dark figures: the chirping vapidity of Sarah Palin pleading for campaign contributions over a bleeding moose carcass; the cowardly John McCain alternating between the black-faced rage of a world-class spoiled brat and his pose as the boyish hero who was shot down while bombing civilians in Hanoi; Bill Clinton’s syrupy Arkansas slop about integrity; Jonathon Edwards reciting his sugar-plum visions of America a million, million times; Newt Gingrich posed in a perpetual tableau telling his wife dying of cancer that he’s divorcing her for a hot babe; J.Edgar Hoover, cross-dressed as he was wont to do in his off-hours, shares an eternal loveseat embrace with his beloved Clyde Toland.

Folks who spent their entire lives grasping desperately for the substance of others fill the halls of hell with their moral emptiness, grasping still where there’s nothing left to grasp. There are puffed-up philanthropists sitting eternally on corporate thrones in castle-like headquarters, one pretending to humility in turtleneck sweaters, offering dollops of tax-free interest earnings from their foundation-intact fortunes to humble petitioners. Phony pitchmen of every description spend eternity repeating and refining their insincere friendliness. You hear the words “folks” and “my friends” echoing frequently. An eternity of unwanted telephone calls, unwanted mail offers, and e-mail spam awaits everyone in hell.

The phony pitchmen of American think-tanks will be generously represented, still posing as genuine academics while regurgitating their paid propaganda eternally, much resembling actors in white lab coats pretending to be scientists in television headache commercials. Indeed, when you think about it, Americans seem very likely to fill a disproportionate space in hell.

The Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Franklin Grahams, and Jimmy Swaggarts thump their Bibles, sputter, gush theatrical tears, drop to their knees, and beg for money endlessly – all done to a background accompaniment of Tammy Faye Baker warbling hymns in a voice resembling a cat in heat at midnight in the backyard. Imagine, ten quadrillion years of that, and then in the words of the wonderful old hymn, “with no less time…than when we first began.”

I suspect Hell actually looks a great deal like the world in which we live. It just excludes all the things that give us any hope and beauty and truth in life.

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: FLAT DADDY   Leave a comment

FLAT DADDY

John Chuckman

I thought I knew every twist of American popular culture, but apparently not. It is an inventive society, and war is a creative force that brings new impulses. There’s a program in the state of Maine, supported by the fun-loving, public-relations folks of the local National Guard, called Flat Daddy, unlike anything I’ve heard of before.

On first hearing the name, I thought the program must involve a roving jazz band, perhaps one from New Orleans, but a moment’s reflection reminded me that George Bush had assisted in removing New Orleans from atlases of the United States, Jehovah taking care of the buildings and Bush taking care of the people.

Readers, I am sure, have seen street hawkers in large American cities who have life-size cardboard cut-outs of celebrities and offer to take your picture standing as though you were with someone famous. I suspect this provided the creative spark for Flat Daddy.

Flat Daddy involves taking a picture of one of “the boyz” over in Iraq, enlarging it to life-size, and mounting it on cardboard. When a family back home goes to a pizzeria or bowling alley, perhaps even to a revival meeting, they simply drag along Flat Daddy and position him (the pronoun it is not used) in a prominent place among the smiling faces. More photos are taken and sent back to Iraq and perhaps to Aunt Helen in the old folks’ home. The miracle is that everyone feels part of the family despite the awkward inconvenience of war.

There were a few points left unclear by the undoubtedly fresh-faced officer enthusing over the program on the radio. Does Flat Daddy have to pay admission at the movies? Is he included in the minimum per-head table charge at restaurants?

Probably not, but when America goes to war, the nation’s two strongest impulses tend to become a little confused, preening patriotic feathers and making a quick buck.

You might expect an idea like Flat Daddy to have come from Texas or the Midwest, places where beehive hair-dos and prayer in the locker room before football games are still in vogue. But, no, it came from Maine, which despite its reputation for sensible, traditional values, is where, several years ago, I observed a donut shop’s gigantic, ugly over-head sign, normally given over to two-for-one breakfast specials, challenging passing cars to “HONK FOR THE TROOPS!”

At the same donut shop, there was a huge display of flags in the parking lot you might have assumed were part of the patriotic outburst, but then you noticed an attendant approaching car windows with one fist full of flags and the other grasping a huge wad of dollar bills. It reminded me of the man selling balloons on a stick at the circus decades ago. Here was a celebration of invasion as only America can do it.

What about others at the casino or sports bar who have their views blocked by Flat Daddy? The program is new, and this potential kink may not have been worked out yet, but I can’t see it becoming a problem. Quibbling about something like a life-size cardboard cut-out of a smiling soldier in uniform slapped down in front of you anywhere in America could well be hazardous for your health.

You might wonder why there isn’t also a Flat Mommy or Flat Sissy program, and I wondered about this myself, but many parts of America have not got past the idea that it’s “the boyz” who go abroad. Never mind that White House crap about women in Iraq. In much of the U.S., the standard for female etiquette was set when Eisenhower was president.

I discovered on the Internet that people in Iraq know this program, perhaps learning about it from the drawling chit-chat between laughter and machine-gun bursts at American check points. Iraqis apparently have started their own version, necessarily rather low-tech in view of the lack of electricity and running water in so many places. After allowing the sun to bake them for a reasonable time, the bodies of Iraqi men crushed by American tanks or flattened by 500-pound bombs are gently peeled from the pavement. They are lovingly brought to what remains of the family home and propped against a wall in the basement bomb shelter, an important family-gathering place in George Bush’s Iraq.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: AND TO ALL, A GOOD NIGHT   Leave a comment

AND TO ALL, A GOOD NIGHT
A Contemporary Christmas Tale

John Chuckman

It was only a matter of time before Santa Claus himself came under the Neanderthal-eyed scrutiny of American intelligence. After all, Santa’s citizenship is unknown, and he crosses borders with no passport or other form of identification. No one knows whether he even has a valid pilot’s license.

Although his image is well known, there is no official photograph on file with American border control, and he has never been fingerprinted or body-searched. Most disconcerting of all, he delivers parcels to children all over the world, including the children living in the Axis of Evil. His intentions with this activity are not understood beyond some fuzzy generalization about kindness and generosity to all. Clearly, here was the world’s largest unplugged pipeline to potential terrorists.

It was only after receiving no response to several urgent letters from the State Department requesting an immediate meeting in Washington that a decision was made to approach Santa’s North Pole solitude. As usual in such matters with the people now running America, a wing of America’s most lethal killing machines was employed for the purpose. You never know what you might encounter in such a forbidding place.

As the planes first zoomed over the icy silence of the North Pole workshop, one of the pilots decided to swoop down for a closer look. He was one of those daring fly-boys, and his tail struck the only wire for thousands of miles around, the North Pole Telegraph, sending his plane hurling into the workshop in a ball of flames with tons of ammunition and missiles exploding.

Santa and Mrs. Claus rushed out of their snow-blanketed gingerbread house to see what was happening, trying to calm the terrified reindeer running from their stable at one end of the house. The elves, too, scurried towards the stable, trying to stop the reindeer from running or flying off.

Above, in the dark vault of sky, the other pilots observed the explosion and saw missile trails smoking into the air. They also saw the frantic activity below and quickly concluded their comrade had come under anti-aircraft attack. So they swooped down in attack formation, rapid-fire canon tearing into everything ahead of them.

Most of the reindeer fell in the snow, spurting warm blood across the bluish-white surface. Most of the elves, too, fell gasping for life. Mrs. Claus received a wound in the head and instantly fell limp. Santa tried heroically to reach his wife but realized the situation was hopeless and turned, running into the darkness accompanied by Prancer, the only surviving reindeer.

The only witness to the massacre is one surviving elf now living somewhere in Canada under an assumed identity, fearful for his life. It is only from his testimony that we know anything about Santa’s fate.

Realizing the horrific mistake they had made, the pilots dropped white phosphorus bombs with the intention of incinerating all evidence. The entire North Pole lit up and Santa and Prancer could be seen in the distance on a huge block of ice drifting off into the dark sea, the ice everywhere cracked and weakened by the combined effects of white phosphorus and years of global warming.

Within in a few hours, the beating sound of a black helicopter approached Santa and Prancer. The elf, from his hiding place in a snowdrift, could only make out intermittent sounds across the howling coldness, but it seems armed men emerged from the helicopter, shot Prancer and shackled Santa, shoving him into the dark, beating machine. The elf heard a word that sounded like Guantanamo and Santa has not been heard from since. Reports of his fate reached the International Red Cross and organizations like Amnesty International, leading to inquiries, but these have been met only with silence from American authorities.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: DIARY OF A MADMAN   Leave a comment

DIARY OF A MADMAN
Excerpts from important new documents

John Chuckman

The following passages were assembled from shredded paper found in an American National Archives dumpster by the Iranian Ambassador. A team of the country’s best rug craftsmen is said to be working full-time on puzzling out the complete text. While some portions of this first batch could not be separated from dried globs resembling half-digested pretzels and spattered root beer, much remains legible. Authenticity, while not established, seems likely since the paper bears White House watermarks. The text appears to have been transcribed from recordings with much of the President’s special flair for language suppressed, although there is a hand-written note about not making him sound like some “Eastern puke.”

Goddam that woman!!! Can’t she see I’m having my vacation? Jeez, I’m the War President and Commander in Chief of this here whole United States. Ain’t I entitled to a little R and R without being bothered? I get mighty tired spending ten and half months a year being President. Talking to damn foreigners and asshole reporters, trying not to doze off in briefings I couldn’t give a shit about, staying up past nine o’clock and missing my favorite T.V. shows. God, they ought to know I never held down a regular job in my life!

Ain’t she got nothing better to do than standing around with her damned flag like no one else was a good enough American? Anyway, you can’t be a good enough American when you don’t support the War President. That goes without saying.

Boy, I’d like to send a bunch of Teamsters in there to bust her gang up a little. That’s what old Dick Nixon would do. But the V.P. says there’s other ways to bust her up. He’s working on it right now. He said he might bring in that cement mixer wife of his as special White House consultant. She’s enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone.

I told the whole goddamn staff that cost is no object on this one. Hell, the Party spent a fortune trying to get that weasel pervert Clinton. They bought up his damned antique chair and had all the stains tested for DNA before burning it. They even gave some woman a nose job for testifying. They can’t do less for the War President.

I just heard Karl put out the word on her! Karl’s friends will make her sorry she ever messed around with the War President. Them people of his is like a posse in the last stages of rabies! God bless Karl. He’s a mighty good man. I don’t care what he did to that other bitch at the CIA.

I got feelings, too, whatever they say. Ain’t nobody got more feelings about them boys than me. Fact is I get downright sick of hearing about dead Marines. I can’t enjoy my supper. Spoils my T.V. watching, I’ll tell you. Costs votes every damn time a bunch goes and gets themselves blown up. I know what they’re going through! Haven’t I been through hell? I’m still suffering withdrawal symptoms at least as bad as any damn combat flashbacks.

I’m a man that knows fear, that’s for sure. I run away from more shit than I can remember. I don’t know how many times I nearly crapped my pants caught goofing off. Now, I got to spend my vacation looking like I’m sitting through an Easter sermon.

Dick says she’s nuts and he’s right. Dick’s always right. Family values got nothing to do with nut cases. Half them people out there with her look like the weirdos I used to throw the switch on when I was Governor. I should have got rid of more of them pukes when I had the chance!

What’s the matter with Tony? He can’t even make that wife of his shut her mouth!!! Can’t he see how Laura’s trained? Tony’s wife opens her mouth and you can see the goddam fillings in her molars. And she dresses like a bus driver’s wife going to a fancy restaurant for the first time. I swear I don’t think she’s wearing a girdle half the time. Laura flutters her eyelashes and gives her little lines like a pro. And she looks right for the job with a girdle as stiff as a Marine flak jacket, wearing them Laura Ashley pilgrim suits with lacey stuff. They cost a fortune, custom-made, but I’ll tell you, they’re worth every penny.

I confess I do sometimes get worried about them girls of ours having a few too many in some bar one night and saying something that ought to stay strictly in the family. Oh, they do take after their old man that way, I mean about having one too many. Ha, ha. Though they better not go trying some of what the old man did. Girls don’t table dance naked, least not no girls of mine. Other girls is just fine. But we got plenty of Secret Service on them, trained to yank them home faster than Homeland Security hitting the button on another terror alert.

Can’t a Brit tell a Brazil from an Iraq? You go doing that kind of thing and next thing you know they’ll have every damned homeless person like Cindy Sheehan marching in London. Why can’t Tony just throw suspect scum in jail same as we do? Hell, you don’t need to go telling anyone. Let them rot and everyone’s happy is what I say.

Is Tony running a government or some damned tourist information booth? What’s all the leaks over there? Goddam top secret stuff spilling out all over the place!!! Good thing most Americans don’t read. That’s a fact that’s saved my sorry ass more than once.

[This is as far as work on the papers has gone at this time.]

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: AMERICANS’ RIGHT TO KNOW   Leave a comment

AMERICANS’ RIGHT TO KNOW

John Chuckman

In a number of states and in the American Congress, legislation is being advanced, usually under the deliberately misleading heading of the “consumer’s right to know,” to restrict the ability of companies and government agencies to use call centers abroad. The legislation is nothing less than the kind of non-tariff barrier so castigated by the same American legislators when one appears in another land. The legislation dangerously plays to the considerable xenophobia found in America.

John Kerry is a leading figure in this enlightened effort to close off opportunity to ambitious Third World countries. Were the same principles somehow to be applied to the products of American corporations, there wouldn’t be any merchandise left on the country’s shelves. Most domestic shipping would close down because American merchant ships are virtually all flagged in foreign ports to excuse them from taxes and regulations. Hollywood would close since most of its films are shot anywhere but Hollywood. As the Internet becomes a truly international method for exchanging information and commerce, instead of one dominated by Americans who because of their wealth were first in with a large population of computers, you will unquestionably see politicians like Kerry seeking to limit it, too.

It is a globalized world, and that is not a slogan. Since Elizabethan times at least a remarkable economic process has been underway, changing society and its institutions throughout the advanced world. The scale of economic production and its associated trade has grown from craftsmen in the homes of tiny villages to specialized factories in growing cities; then to regional firms and to great national corporations and retail chains. Now these changes move inexorably to world-scale, bringing with them the benefits of economic growth to regions of the world long frozen in poverty and ancient custom. So long as this change is fairly administered by a parallel growth in international treaties, laws, and organizations, it will gradually and peacefully bring the same benefits to dark corners of the world that it brought to dark corners of America.

Narrow-minded American legislators bore considerable responsibility for the sustained nature of the Great Depression with the foolish Smoots-Hawley bill unilaterally limiting trade. Unenlightened American trade restrictions against the ambitions of Japan as it entered the modern era helped push that country eventually to attacking the United States. With globalization an important part of the world’s economic landscape through this century, comparably selfish efforts by American legislators can produce comparably destructive results.

The call-center legislation will affect a number of countries, especially India, a country using its relatively high proportion of educated people and sizeable pool of English speakers as comparative advantages in new businesses like global call centers. Indian companies have adopted the practice of training their employees to speak with an American accent. Employees also typically adopt simple American names rather than spend several minutes of each call trying to explain names like Chandrascar or Gojsumal.

Under the legislation, those calling from outside the United States will not only have to identify themselves accurately but to offer the person being called an opportunity to transfer to an American call center. This is particularly interesting coming, as it does, in a country where felons are often the people handling your business on the telephone and whose legislators generously tolerate a huge home-grown population of con artists and chiselers. One can just imagine some of the calls that will hum across the planet under the legislation.
____________________________

In a call center in Bangalore, India, an attractive young man speaks into his headset. Above him in his tiny cube is a framed copy of his degree in engineering, opportunities in a developing country like India fully to use your education being very limited. He speaks American-style English with a reasonably good accent, having been trained in it.

“Hello, Mrs. Jones, I am calling you about an important new opportunity.”

“Whatcha sayin’?”

“I’m calling about a new opportunity…”

“Could a swore ya said ya was callin’ ’bout some damn community. I ain’t interested in no communities, that’s fur sure.”

“That’s fine, Mrs. Jones, in a minute I’ll be glad to explain about the opportunity. First, though, I have to inform you, in keeping with new legislation in America, that I’m calling from Bangalore, India…”

“Huh? Ya callin’ ’bout bingo in Indiana?”

“Sorry, Mrs. Jones, no, that’s Bangalore, B-A-N-G-A-L-O-R-E, in India.”

“Never heard of it.”

“That’s okay, Mrs. Jones, as I was saying, in keeping with new legislation in America, my name is Yogesh…”

“I ain’t got time ta be guessin’ no names.”

“Yo-gesh, Mrs. Jones, Yogesh Vajpayee is my name, Mrs. Jones.”

“Hold on there. What the hell kinda name is that? You ain’t no ‘merican are ya?”

“That’s right, Mrs. Jones, I’m calling from India, and I am obliged to ask you if you would prefer that I transfer this call to an American call center?”

“Well, a course, why’d ya think I wanna be talkin’ to some guy with a weird name like yours callin’ from some damn place I never hearda?”

“Okay, Mrs. Jones, I am now transferring you. This may take a few minutes. So you hang on. Very nice speaking with you.”

Mrs. Jones waits, holding the phone, muttering about foreigners.

In a large, dingy room of a privately-run Texas medium-security prison, one of dozens of prisoners working for a subcontractor of the company running the prison, a man with a long purplish scar on one side of his face and cigarette dangling between chubby, yellowed fingers, receives the call and grunts into his headset. On the computer screen in front of him, Mrs. Jones credit rating comes up along with her address and other personal information.

“That Mrs. Jones? The name’s Jake.”

“God, it’s nice hearin’ a real ‘merican.”

“Yeah, I know jus’ what ya mean there, Mrs. Jones. T’aint much fun tryin’ ta figure out what some monkey from Iraq is yakkin’ ’bout.”

Jake takes a long drag on his cigarette, smiles at a grotesquely-pornographic photograph taped to his keyboard, and scratches his shaved head.

“I’m callin’ ya for Jerry Franklin.”

“Jerry Franklin? Why God bless, what a fine Christian man!”

Jake takes another big drag on his cigarette and scratches the crotch of his orange prison jump suit, war-on-terror surplus the private prison contractor obtained from the Pentagon.

“Sure ’nuff is. Well, M’am, they all got somethin’ for ya”

“Somethin’ fur me?”

“Yup. Jerry’s askin’ folks like you if they got themselves focused on Eternity?”

“Oh, you jus’ tell Jerry, I sure am.”

“Yes’am. Jerry figures good Christian folk got special needs.”

“Well, I s’pose they do.”

“Jerry’s thinkin’ what with the End a comin’…”

“Oh, he’s right ’bout that, ya can sure tell when yer gettin’ foreigners botherin’ ya at home an’ all.”

“Well, he jus’ thought maybe ya was interested in some in-surance. Ya know, ta leave somethin’ fur those lef’ behind after the Battle of Armageddon an’ the Rapture an’ all.”

“In-surance? I ain’t interested in no damn in-surance.”

There’s a loud click, and Jake’s left with a hum on the line, but it only lasts a second or two, as another call is transferred from Bangalore.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF INSANITY   Leave a comment

A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF INSANITY

John Chuckman

The following transcript was mailed to me in a plain brown envelope. The anonymous sender scratched a note about it being found by a peace-demonstrator in a dumpster near CIA headquarters in Langely, Virginia. I have no way of authenticating it, although the tone is clearly plausible. The first part is irretrievably blurred, and it appears that a good deal more is missing.

ULTRA TOP SECRET
EYES ONLY: NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

(THIS IS WHERE GREASE AND WHAT SMELLS LIKE SWEET-AND-SOUR SAUCE MAKE SEVERAL PAGES UNREADABLE.)

PRESIDENT: “By the way, Condi’s happy ’bout your work at the UN.”

CIA DIRECTOR: “Thank you, Mr. President. We’re only too glad to help.”

PRESIDENT: “Condi’s gettin’ transcripts twice a day. Can’t say I’m happy ’bout
what I’m hearin’, but she says it’s good stuff we can use. She
calls ’em our bank account for defendin’ democrat values.

“Ya got every one of them goddam UN ambassadors bugged?

CIA DIRECTOR: “If I may brag a little, Mr. President, we’ve even bugged the
apartment of the French ambassador’s mistress.”

PRESIDENT: “I knew you guys’d come through for me. I was kinda pissed-off ya didn’t get more stuff tyin’ al Qaedas in with Iraq. Nobody gonna tell me
different – them bastards is as tight as two liberahs in a pay
toilet.”

(LOUD, PROLONGED LAUGHTER IS HEARD FROM BOTH PHONES.)

CIA DIRECTOR: “I’m sorry about that one, Sir, but we did try our best.”

PRESIDENT: “Well, we all know Arabs is tricky about coverin’ up their trail.
I reckon they’re somethin’ like Injuns.

“I got some other stuff here needs your help.”

CIA DIRECTOR: “Yes, Sir.”

PRESIDENT: “The Iraqs are pretendin’ to destroy them El Sandwich missiles.”

CIA DIRECTOR: “Mr. President, if I may, our best information indicates the al Samouds are being methodically destroyed.”

PRESIDENT: “Well, I guess that jus’ shows I got better information on that one
than you boyz. I know Iraq is pullin’ a fast one, an’ they ain’t gonna get
away with it!”

CIA DIRECTOR: “Yes, Sir, how can we help?”

PRESIDENT: “Well, I want ya to get right in there an’ bomb them missile sites.”

CIA DIRECTOR: “If you recall, Mr. President, our last assessment rated those missiles as not being a serious threat.”

PRESIDENT: “Damn, I know that, but we still gonna bomb ’em.”

CIA DIRECTOR: “I don’t see how we could do that, Sir, without killing a lot of
Iraqi technicians.”

PRESIDENT: “It seems as ya’ll ain’t gettin’ my drift here.”

“I don’t care ’bout their piss-ass missiles. Though we ain’t exactly
gonna say that to the press.

“It is the goddam Iraqs we wanna bomb. They’re screwin’ things up for
us bad. How can I be expected to lead a war with them out there
smashin’ up missiles? I mean this is serious, an’ ya’ll gotta get right on
it!”

CIA DIRECTOR: “But, sir, if we do that, we’ll kill the UN weapons inspectors supervising…”

PRESIDENT: “Shiiit, ain’t that jus’ collateral damage? Ya gotta take risks in
war. Hell, I learned that back durin’ Nam when I went
AWOL from the Texas National Guard on a hell of a bender.

“This here’s war, an’ it won’t bother me none.

“Anyhow, it’ll serve ’em right. What the hell they doin’ over there
interferin’ in my war? You boyz get a few dozen of ’em, an’
ol’ Blix ain’t gettin’ in our way again any time soon.”

CIA DIRECTOR: “Yes, Sir.”

PRESIDENT: “Hell, we tried getting’ ’em lost on wild goose chases with those
weapons tips of yours. It didn’t do a lick of good. They still over
there nosin’ into everything. They holdin’ up my goddam war!

“An’ the Iraqs destroyin’ missiles is makin’ me look bad. I’m
mighty puked of hearin’ from Frenchies an’ all them other whiners….

“I want ya’ll to figure out the best way of doin’ it. Maybe use them drain things of yours…”

CIA DIRECTOR: “Mr. President, you mean drones?”

PRESIDENT: “Use whatever gets the job done. Get some
suggestions from the Rummy an’ the boyz

(THE TRANSCRIPT ENDS ABRUPTLY HERE.)

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: THE PENTAGON’S SECRET WEAPON   Leave a comment

THE PENTAGON’S SECRET WEAPON

John Chuckman

The following is a transcript of a recorded late-night telephone call from an anonymous source claiming high-level clearance at the Pentagon.

I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but aspects of it seem so plausible and so much in character for those now running the White House and trying to run the world that I regard it as vital enough information to bring to the public’s attention. It contains a chilling tale.

It all started immediately after September 11, indeed, the very day that Bush disappeared on Air Force One to pose for ten-thousand-dollar-a-pop campaign photos of himself staring out a window somewhere over the Atlantic while calling the executive chef on board for another bag of pretzels. It was the same day Dick Cheney went into hiding at Haliburton’s Secure Executive Golf Course somewhere on a banana plantation in Central America.

At the castle of the Republican party’s most important multi-billionaire donor – as it happens, an exact copy of mad King Ludwig’s mountainside fantasy in Bavaria – there is an underground laboratory where the withered bits of his nasty body are kept alive in vats of bubbling biological cocktails, resembling the reddish blobs of a 1970s lava lamp. The blobs are wired to a complex of supercomputers capable of instant communication with any member of the Bush cabinet. Other vats in the same laboratory maintain bubbling bits of Ayn Rand, Walt Disney, Martin Bormann, the Shah of Iran, and J. Edgar Hoover – each tank anxiously awaiting its appointment with destiny for rebirth.

This is the world’s finest private laboratory, expert in the cloning of DNA, and it received a phone call from Washington requesting immediate cooperation on a new project. Scrapings of skin taken from the president’s elbow, taken by a team of surgeons treating him for a bruise sustained while falling off his chair, were being rushed by military jet to the site, immersed in liquid nitrogen, even as the call came through.

The request was to preserve the samples of the president, as an additional line of defense against terrorism, and to begin experiments with their cloning. The thinking was along the lines of a second, third, or fourth secret government being readied to step forward in case of disaster, totally defeating the expectations of any potential attacker. Depending on the success of the tests, samples from Cheney, von Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, and selected others would also be forwarded. The name of the Secretary of State Powell was conspicuously absent from the list.

Some weeks later, the Pentagon called asking for delivery of half the lab’s sample, the president apparently expressing unwillingness to again have his elbow scraped. The lab was to continue its research into cloning the president, but a new, second secret project was to start immediately. Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon’s most secret weapons laboratory, the terrorist attack had generated a revolutionary idea.

Von Rumsfeld’s chief expert on weapons of mass destruction had hit upon an ingenious new concept. The president’s DNA would be replicated millions of times, and bits of it would be imbedded into microscopic, synthetic spores the Pentagon had been developing for years as a vector for spreading germ warfare. These spores could then be released in bombs designed to explode harmlessly in the air over a target, creating a monstrous aerosol cloud of spores for a radius of miles from the detonation.

The synthetic spores when inhaled, swallowed, or imbedded in the flesh of humans were readily taken up by the body, and the genetic material they contained would spread in the fashion of a virus. Within a matter of weeks, people exposed to these spores would begin showing characteristics of the president.

Explode enough of these bombs over any country whose behavior was unacceptable, and, without killing a single person, you could create in a matter of weeks an army of Bush-clones. Smiling, bland zombies barely capable of earning a living on their own, conspicuously displaying an unquestioning obedience to orders.

Any country thus exposed would be the Pentagon’s for the taking. Clearly, America’s dear boys in uniform would never again have to be put in harm’s way. They could just peacefully pursue their mail-order degrees in hospitality management and refrigeration-repair technology while relaxing with hot pizza and Playboy from the PX and watching Pat Robertson on cable TV in off hours.

It was a backwater politician’s dream come true, pampering the boys in the service, while conquering the world.

Indeed, the thinking ran that it would not be necessary ever again to occupy a country. Signals could be sent directly to the leaders of any successfully-treated country from the bubbling tank or from the Halibuton Secure Golf Course with instructions on just how to conduct their affairs. It was the fondest hope of the experimenters that this particular characteristic, pliability to taking orders from wealthy father figures, would be among those successfully transplanted by the spores.

If so, the possibilities were endless. America could avoid any future contamination of its precious boys to the devious ways of foreigners. Perhaps, the United States could stop issuing passports altogether, an idea much favored in Texas, and close all of its embassies abroad. With benign, pliable populations spreading across the planet, everything could be run from the tanks or the plantation.

There are concerns that certain transmitted characteristics might prove a problem. Among these is the expected severe dumbing-down of populations and their inability to articulate clear language, but there is hope that actual field tests of the spores will reveal ways to manage these difficulties. American politicians who know about the secret project actually are enthusiastic about this possible outcome so that no one has to listen to a “pukey fur’ener” again.

The Pentagon believes, at least initially, that the spores must be handled with extreme caution, comparable to that used in the handling thermo-nuclear weapons. Their accidental release on home turf could pose a grave threat, starting as the country does from so dumbed-down a state already. Again though, politicians in on the project regard this possibility as less a threat than a promising new horizon. The views from the vat on this point are not yet known.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: THE DEVIL AND GEORGIE BUSH   Leave a comment

THE DEVIL AND GEORGIE BUSH

The Real Story behind a Possible Second Term

John Chuckman

George Bush sits quietly at his desk in the Oval Office. Suddenly, with a puff of acrid, yellow smoke, a dark figure appears at his shoulder, arrogantly leaning an elbow against the back corner of the big leather chair. He wears a soot-stained stovepipe hat, a rumpled, dusty suit, and his whiskered, rather cherubic face has an almost benign smile as he gazes down.

“Ahem, ah, Mr. President, I do believe we have some business?”

Although he immediately recognizes the figure, the President is astonished at this sudden appearance. With his face drained of color, he reaches instinctively for the hidden buzzer to the Secret Service at the edge of his desk.

“Mr. President, all those gadgets have been disabled. Surely, by now, you have more respect for my powers than that?

“Oh,” with a rude little chuckle, “and until we’ve transacted our business, no one will be able to come through the door.”

“Mr. Scratch, I meant no disrespec’…”

“I’m sure, Mr. President.”

“It’s what they all taught me to do if anyone’s here, ya know, without an appointment an’ all…”

“Yes, quite, Mr. President. Now, about our business…”

“But ain’t there more’an two years left on ma contract?”

“Ah, indeed, two years, one month, eleven days, and fifty-four minutes, to be exact.” The dark figure reaches out, and, again with a sulphurous little puff of smoke, a sheet of paper appears in his hand. He reaches down and waves it in front of the President’s face.
“Perhaps, you would care to review the terms, Mr. President?”

“I’m sure you’re right, Mr. Scratch, you’re mighty careful ’bout these things.”

“Careful, indeed, Mr. President, which brings me to the point of my little visit.
As you know, the original contract was for seven years.”

The President, his face withered and frightened, mechanically shakes his head in agreement.

“And then there was the matter of an extension we negotiated?”

The President again shakes his head.

“And I trust there’s no disagreement about the party of the second part,” with another gruff chuckle, “that’s me, having met fully all terms agreed?”

Still another doleful shake of the head.

“It says here, ‘One George W. Bush, having succeeded at virtually nothing in his adult lifetime, except getting into a whole lot of embarrassing trouble, fighting with his family, and consuming inordinate amounts of alcohol, in return for certain services, specified below, promises his immortal soul to the said Mr. Scratch,’ that is,” chuckle, chuckle, “yours truly.”

Here the figure makes a slight flourish, briefly doffing his hat and creating a small cloud of soot.

“Services rendered in return,” clearing his throat, “Ah, just summarizing here, Mr. President, include making a killing on a baseball team, becoming governor of Texas, and in general having gained recognition for turning around a worthless life.”

The figure looks down at the President with a somewhat twisted smile.

“Yielding you, I might add, boundless goodwill from legions of pious-fraud fundamentalists. Is that not right, Mr. President?”

Again, almost like a sleepwalker responding to unseen voices, the President shakes his head.

“The extension to the contract assured your becoming – you’ll note, Mr. President, the very careful language about ‘becoming,’ with nothing said about ‘being elected’ – President of the United States.”

Another dull shake of the head.

“Well, it doesn’t allow for a second term, now does it, Mr. President?”

“Mr. Scratch, I jus’ reckoned when ya consider the kinda president I been…”

“You mean loosing the forces of war, ignorance, and misery upon the world?”

“Why, sure, ain’t I done a good job on that?”

“Agreed, Mr. President, but I wouldn’t expect anything else of a man who’s made the kind of bargain you have.

“You’ll recall, when we negotiated the extension, that you wanted credit for all the prisoners executed in Texas. And all the slimy business deals you winked at, defrauding all kinds of decent folks. I admit such activity keeps good trade coming my way, but, strictly speaking, Mr. President, they just aren’t part of our terms.”

“But look’it the stuff we’re doin’. We’re redesignin’ the country. Givin’ it back to the folks what owns it, an’ armin’ ’em to the teeth so’s they kin keep it. Ya can’t go makin’ omelets like that without breakin’ a mighty heap of eggs. Why, I kin guarantee it’ll mean years of misery for all them losers out there.”

“Again, Mr. President, I hate to be like one of your heartless corporate contributors, but that’s just not part of our deal. No, No, what you do with the office I gave you is up to you.”

“But surely, Mr. Scratch, recognizin’ what a great job I’m doin’ here for you, we could come to some understandin’ ’bout another li’le extension?”

“Well, I see what it is you want from me, Mr. President, but it just fails me what you’re offering that I don’t already have. The contract states clearly that the immortal soul of one George W. Bush is to be delivered up promptly at expiration….”

“Ain’t there nothin’ I kin do for an extension, Mr. Scratch?

“Ah, that desperate, pleading tone does appeal to my better side. Come to think of it, there just may be, Mr. President.”

The President regains some color, and, for the first time, there’s some animation in his manner, “Yes, yes, what is it?”

“Well, I’m not so sure you’ll share my enthusiasm for the idea.”

Looking like a puppy about to be handed a treat, “Mr. Scratch, I’ll do jus’ ’bout anythin’, honest to God!

A severe, disapproving look flashes across the dusty figure’s face.

“Oh, I’m mighty sorry ’bout that, but like I said, I’ll do jus’ ’bout anythin’.”

“I do like your attitude, and I’ll note it in my little book.

“Mr. President, it does bother me considerably that a mob of evangelical frauds in silk suits – you know the ones I mean, there isn’t one of them not headed my way when their days of fleecing lonely folks watching television are ended – get all the credit for your conversion. You and I both know the truth of the matter. I would be strongly tempted,” ha, ha, “to further extend your contract in return for a promise to tell people the truth.”

The President again turns ashen, “I jus’ don’t see how that’s possible, Mr. Scratch?”

“Oh, I don’t insist you just go and blurt it out. You may do it slowly over a period of time. You may use all the arts of twisting the truth, so long as in the end this one truth comes out. That doesn’t seem like too great a task for the caliber of people you’ve surrounded yourself with.”

“But, Mr. Scratch, how kin I tell folks I made a deal with the devil?”

“Well, given your resources and past record of achievement, I do not see an insurmountable barrier. A lot of folks will have already guessed the truth. It’s the ones that roll around in church aisles babbling incoherently or go to meetings to get slapped in the head to heal cancer that are going to be a might difficult to reach. But these are your people, and you are, after all, asking a great service of me. I rarely extend contracts. Two extensions is almost unheard of.”

“But suit yourself, Mr. President. Right now it’s the only offer that would entice me,” chuckle, chuckle, “into so extraordinary an act.”

“I, I jus’ don’t see…”

“As you please, Mr. President. I will claim what’s mine on the stroke of midnight two years, one month, eleven days, and forty nine minutes, hence, unless, of course, you see your way to improving my image with the public. After all, it’s no small miracle I’ve worked in your case. People just might look at me in a whole new light if they only knew the truth.”

“But…but…”

“I’ll leave it at that, Mr. President. You can let me know anytime right up until expiration. Just snap your fingers twice and consider it done for a second term.”

The dark figure instantly disappears in another puff of acrid smoke.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: URGENT CALL FROM CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN   Leave a comment

URGENT CALL FROM CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN

John Chuckman

On the President’s desk in the Oval Office, a phone’s red light urgently flashes. It’s the signal for an incoming call. Only calls from deep inside the vast command-center redoubt known as Cheyenne Mountain come in on this line. Constructed during the Cold War, this hollowed-out mountain contains a virtual Pentagon satellite-city built to survive a hundred years behind million-ton blast-proof doors.

The president gleefully picks up the receiver. He just loves getting important calls.

“Howdee!”

“Mr. President, this is a secure line, so we may speak freely.”

“Dick, you old son of a gun, how’s it goin’ out there, livin’ under the mountain an’ all? T’aint getting’ to ya none?”

“I’m just fine, Mr. President, don’t concern yourself. You know, I spent a lot of time as a congressman with folks who live in abandoned missile silos and mine shafts.

“Anyway, compared to some of those places, this is just damn luxurious. The mountain’s totally climate-controlled, and we have an artificial beach under sun lamps on the distilled-water reservoir.”

“A goddam climate-controlled mountain! Jeez, Dick, I jus’ gotta get on out there one of these days an’ see that.”

“Good idea, Mr. President, uh, er, of course, once the crisis is over.”

“Crisis? Oh, y’all mean that there Osama guy? Don’t worry none ’bout him. He ain’t goin’ nowheres, an’, I’ll tell ya, the only damn climate-control his damn mountains got is two-thousand pound bombs re-arrangin’ the lan’scape…(guffaw, guffaw)”

“No, Mr. President, the crisis I’m talking about is the next election. We have to get you through that looking the part of commander-in-chief.”

“Oh, I get your meanin’, Dick. Well, I’m a working on that, real hard. Ain’t even thinkin’ of another month at the ranch. An’ I’m doin’ jus’ what ya said for me to do.

“After dinner, I come back here an’ jus’ sit by the window for a while, wearin’ my glasses, turnin’ pages on one them big reports. Once or twice, Laura comes in with a cup of hot cocoa to keep me goin’, an’ puts her arm on my shoulder jus’ like ya showed us.

“Don dropped by on the way home from the Pentagon t’other night an’ checked me out. He said I looked good, real presidenshul, in the window. He said the T.V. guys’d be eatin’ it up.”

“Wonderful to hear, Mr. President. Remember, nothing but liberal scum is going to vote against a seated president in wartime. I’ll keep the war going here. You just keep sitting.”

“Righto, Dick. Say, how they all feedin’ ya down there?”

“I’ve got to say, Mr. President, the food could be better. It’s freeze-dried rations. A lot of my survivalist friends swear by them and eat nothing but. They’re okay for a couple of days.”

“Dick, y’all want me to have some nice big juicy steaks flown on up from the ranch?”

“No, thank you very much, Mr. President, I’ll stick to what the boys in uniform are having. Good mess-hall photos, sets a fine example. Anyway, they went and sealed the blast-proof doors, and it’s a major operation getting them open again. Nothing gets in or out of here with those damn doors sealed.

“Well, you know, Mr. President, (chuckle, chuckle) it does have its advantages. They can’t exactly serve any subpoenas for Enron, now can they?”

The President enjoys a hearty laugh.

“Tarnation, that’s right, Dick. I almos’ forgot about that shit, sittin’ here by the window an’ all.

“Don’t worry none, ’cause I jus’ keep tellin’ ’em we got ya outta harm’s way with all them damn terrorists flyin’ ‘roun’ the country. An’ I tol’ ’em how all the head guys in them big oil companies never fly on the same plane or even take the same elevator.”

“Now, George, I mean Mr. President, you’re not saying anything off the script, are you? Especially nothing about a certain company?”

“Oh, shucks, no, Dick, I know better’n that.”

“Good, Mr. President, just call Ari to check on any little thing you’re thinking of adding. He can always pass it by Don. Mark my words, Mr. President, sticking to the script’s going to get us through this.”

“Okay, Dick. So what else y’all up to down there, you ol’ rascal?”

“The officers have an underground driving range and putting green, Mr. President, so the golf score won’t suffer too badly.

“We get satellite feed right from the B-52s, so we’re watching the boys give all those damn turban-heads what they deserve. You can freeze the action, do re-plays, or move in for close-ups.”

“Anything else, you ol’ rascal? I know ya can’t stick to serious stuff long.”

“Well, Mr. President, we do have a couple of those special channels, if you know what I mean?”

“Shucks, Dick, I know egzac’ly what y’all mean. An’ ya ain’t got Lynne down there, sniffin’ out your trail.

“Mr. President, just between you and me, that is the part that’s just like a real vacation.”

“I tell ya, Dick, she’s havin’ the time a her life out here, scowlin’ an’ spoutin’ them goddam librarian pamphlets a hers at anyone that says things is less than hunky-dory!”

” ‘Libertarian,’ Mr. President, they’re ‘libertarian pamphlets.’ ”

“Well, still, don’t ya go worrin’ none ’bout what she’s up to. She’s doin’ a hell of a job goin’ after them no-good fifth wheels!”

” ‘Fifth columnists’, Mr. President, I think you mean ‘fifth columnists.’ ”

“Shucks, Dick, I think I gotta go. I jus’ seen the docs pullin’ up out front. I reckon they’re a comin’ to change the bandage.”

“Excellent, Mr. President, that bandage locks-in the sympathy vote. America has already forgotten all about your pretzel caper. Joe Six-pack never thought it was anything unusual anyway. But just the sight of a wounded President in time of war gives us an 80% floor-rating.

“Do you think you could ask them to just put the new one on a little higher up? I noticed it’s not showing up on some of the news shots.”

“Okay, Dick, what ya figure, ’bout half an inch?.”

“That’d be just about right, Mr. President. And try not to spill any more gravy on it. That’s a real turn-off for some of the women.”

“Gotchya, Dick. Be talkin’ to ya soon.”

“Thank you, Mr. President.”

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: AN ANGEL APPEARS AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB   Leave a comment

AN ANGEL APPEARS AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB

John Chuckman

This morning, an angel – yes, that’s right, an angel – appeared to a gathering of reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. The stunningly beautiful creature with satiny white wings and glowing pink skin announced that it was appearing on behalf of the Creator for a brief, informal press conference.

The Almighty wants people to understand that He is getting mighty tired of being asked ten million times a day to bless America. It is beginning to grate on His nerves. Twenty-four hours a day from truck stops, pool halls, jumbo television screens, and shag-carpeted basement rec-rooms, the noise just never lets up.

The angel said that it was widely recognized that few other people have enjoyed so many blessings – heaps of them, whole mountains and rivers and seas of them – and He has mighty little sympathy with folks who ask for more. The Creator regards it as impertinent to be stuffing your face with whole fried chickens, French fries, biscuits, gravy, and beer while praying for an extra slice of pecan pie.

He wants other people to understand that America has no special standing with Him, despite having received enough material stuff to choke every horse on the planet several times over. Throwing blessings at America was just one of His thousands of experiments with life forms, and it has not been a particularly happy one.

As to taking sides in America’s idiotic wars, Jehovah suspects it’s only because the President is from Texas that he’s so addled on this point. The Eternal One has been mildly diverted once in a while by scantily-clad cheerleaders and armored hominids bowing in prayer before stadiums full of Texans yelling for blood. God does have a sense of humor. But He always credited this lunatic behavior to something in the water – perhaps too much arsenic or runoff of bovine growth hormone – or to eating pork rinds. Now He is concerned that it appears to be national trend.

And that “no special standing” goes double for the Demander in Chief. Talk about a guy who has received more than his share and still asks for more! Without a heavy dose of unearned blessings, this guy would be selling popcorn in a Cineplex.

God never does endorsements. But if He did, He sincerely hopes everyone on the planet recognizes that the Maker and Destroyer of Universes could do a whole lot better than that.

He would like to remind people that Heaven is not a gold-plated trailer park with sequined loud-speakers and fields of tent-meetings. He actually hates country and western music. He is sick of people who claim they’ve found God when all they’ve found is that they’re burnt out at forty. He can’t imagine anyone thinking for a moment that heaven resembles a baton-twirling finale with acres of big hair and mascara and preachers blubbering for quadrillions of years about the Clintons, gays, and the need to send larger donations.

In fact, no one who makes a buck holding tent-meetings or speaking in tongues or selling self-help books and tapes ever gets past the Pearly Gate. St. Peter is under strict orders.

On a more serious note, God was more than a little upset about that name Infinite Justice, suggesting as it did that He would ever confuse vengeance with justice. And He would like it noted that B-52s at thirty-thousand feet versus peasants with muskets is not His idea of a fair fight, much less justice.

God had strongly considered suggesting that this stupid war be ended with just two champions fighting it out – Osama and Dubya, mano a mano.

But with Dubya felled by a pretzel while watching football from his couch, He has decided to postpone the proposal at least until there’s a full recovery.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: AND TO ALL, A GOOD NIGHT   Leave a comment

AND TO ALL, A GOOD NIGHT
A Contemporary Christmas Tale

John Chuckman

It was only a matter of time before Santa Claus himself came under the Neanderthal-eyed scrutiny of American intelligence. After all, Santa’s citizenship is unknown, and he crosses borders with no passport or other form of identification. No one knows whether he even has a valid pilot’s license.

Although his image is well known, there is no official photograph on file with American border control, and he has never been fingerprinted or body-searched. Most disconcerting of all, he delivers parcels to children all over the world, including the children living in the Axis of Evil. His intentions with this activity are not understood beyond some fuzzy generalization about kindness and generosity to all. Clearly, here was the world’s largest unplugged pipeline to potential terrorists.

It was only after receiving no response to several urgent letters from the State Department requesting an immediate meeting in Washington that a decision was made to approach Santa’s North Pole solitude. As usual in such matters with the people now running America, a wing of America’s most lethal killing machines was employed for the purpose. You never know what you might encounter in such a forbidding place.

As the planes first zoomed over the icy silence of the North Pole workshop, one of the pilots decided to swoop down for a closer look. He was one of those daring fly-boys, and his tail struck the only wire for thousands of miles around, the North Pole Telegraph, sending his plane hurling into the workshop in a ball of flames with tons of ammunition and missiles exploding.

Santa and Mrs. Claus rushed out of their snow-blanketed gingerbread house to see what was happening, trying to calm the terrified reindeer running from their stable at one end of the house. The elves, too, scurried towards the stable, trying to stop the reindeer from running or flying off.

Above, in the dark vault of sky, the other pilots observed the explosion and saw missile trails smoking into the air. They also saw the frantic activity below and quickly concluded their comrade had come under anti-aircraft attack. So they swooped down in attack formation, rapid-fire canon tearing into everything ahead of them.

Most of the reindeer fell in the snow, spurting warm blood across the bluish-white surface. Most of the elves, too, fell gasping for life. Mrs. Claus received a wound in the head and instantly fell limp. Santa tried heroically to reach his wife but realized the situation was hopeless and turned, running into the darkness accompanied by Prancer, the only surviving reindeer.

The only witness to the massacre is one surviving elf now living somewhere in Canada under an assumed identity, fearful for his life. It is only from his testimony that we know anything about Santa’s fate.

Realizing the horrific mistake they had made, the pilots dropped white phosphorus bombs with the intention of incinerating all evidence. The entire North Pole lit up and Santa and Prancer could be seen in the distance on a huge block of ice drifting off into the dark sea, the ice everywhere cracked and weakened by the combined effects of white phosphorus and years of global warming.

Within in a few hours, the beating sound of a black helicopter approached Santa and Prancer. The elf, from his hiding place in a snowdrift, could only make out intermittent sounds across the howling coldness, but it seems armed men emerged from the helicopter, shot Prancer and shackled Santa, shoving him into the dark, beating machine. The elf heard a word that sounded like Guantanamo and Santa has not been heard from since. Reports of his fate reached the International Red Cross and organizations like Amnesty International, leading to inquiries, but these have been met only with silence from American authorities.