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Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: I said that I wasn’t going to be putting out anything new for a few months and yet here I am back just two weeks later. What can I say? Sometimes a guy just needs to rant. And when Team Bush comes up with a plan to create a ‘terrorist futures market,’ it’s kind of hard not to weigh in.Once again the Bushmen of the Beltway have successfully blurred the line between reality and parody, this time by actually proposing to set up a market where anonymous investors could wager – and profit, of course – on the possibility of future terrorist attacks, assassinations and other assorted acts of violence.

The creation of this system would, you see, allow hidden and magical market forces to identify terrorist threats, thus giving our illustrious intelligence agencies another tool to work with in waging the ‘War on Terror’ and thwarting future attacks. This was, quite obviously, a brilliant plan from the outside-the-box thinkers on the Bush team. Although no one has bothered to mention it, it was, after all, a plan that has already been field tested.

Everyone remembers, I assume, how wealthy, anonymous investors wagered on the September 11 ‘terrorist’ attacks by purchasing put options on American and United Airlines in the days leading up to the attacks. And we all remember how that highly unusual market activity alerted officials that something was up, thereby thwarting the … oh, wait a minute, that’s not quite right … what I meant to say is that we all remember how those market manipulations allowed authorities to follow the paper trail and identify and apprehend the true masterminds behind the … oh, wait another minute … that didn’t actually happen either.

So maybe the ‘terrorist futures’ idea isn’t so great after all. Maybe, come to think of it, it was just an effort to create an advance ‘cover’ for the profits that corporate cronies of Team Bush already expect to make from future ‘terrorist’ attacks. Maybe it was an effort, in other words, to avoid the uncomfortable questions raised by the trading in ‘terrorist futures’ just before the last attack — or, to be more accurate, the uncomfortable questions that should have been raised.

But enough about that. What else is in the news these days? The big story, as everyone knows by now, is that Laker star Kobe Bryant allegedly shot Laci Peterson in the foyer of music legend Phil Spector’s home with actor Robert Blake’s gun, after which he was quickly apprehended by obscure bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman. Or something like that. I’m a little confused on the details.

The other big story is that Ahhnuld Steroidenegger shocked everyone by revealing that he has been cast to play the lead role in California’s slow-motion coup d’etat. Actually, it’s unlikely that anyone within the political establishment was actually shocked by the carefully choreographed turn of events, least of all the Republicans who, right on cue, dropped out of the race to clear the way for Arnold, or the Republicans who immediately lined up to offer endorsements.

Arnold is being packaged and sold as a populist with appeal across party lines, even as he gathers endorsements and support from a slew of right-wing extremists. The goal is obviously to steamroll him into the governor’s mansion on star power alone, by gathering enough votes from across the political spectrum to best the numerous other contenders on the ballot. There is no need, and no time, to actually address any issues.

So what are Arnold’s true political leanings? It is very likely that he is a ‘moderate’ Republican in the same sense that his father was a ‘moderate’ Nazi.

The media is aggressively playing along in this charade, immediately showering Arnold with unwarranted coverage as though he has actually done something to make his candidacy any less of a joke than those of fellow entertainer/politicians Gallagher, Gary Coleman, and Father Guido Sarducci. Pundits will sit back and pretend to marvel over Arnold’s alleged knack for self-promotion and his purportedly masterful use of the media, but they will be well aware that Arnold is merely a puppet, not the puppeteer.

I should probably add here that many of those who will be singing Arnold’s praises in the coming weeks will be the very same obnoxious, hate-mongering, reactionary gasbags who have spent the last couple of years insisting that entertainment figures, particularly those who oppose the Bush agenda, have no business dabbling in, or even discussing, politics.

Conspicuously missing in the media barrage is any mention of the fact that the recall effort is a profoundly illegal and anti-democratic operation. Mentioned only in passing by the press is the fact that California law requires that petitions only be circulated by registered California voters. Also mentioned only briefly is that the vast majority of recall signatures that were submitted were gathered by paid mercenaries brought in from outside the state. Almost all of the signatures gathered, therefore, are invalid.

This is not a minor procedural detail; the law was specifically crafted to guarantee that any recall efforts would be exercises in spontaneous, grass-roots democracy, and not the result of cynical manipulations by wealthy powerbrokers. The fact that the California Supreme Court summarily dismissed all challenges to the recall effort, despite its glaring illegality, sends a clear signal that there are powerful forces at work behind this recall campaign.

Also missing from media coverage is any mention of the fact that Davis, if he isn’t complicit in the machinations, can very easily shut this circus down, no matter how many tens of millions of dollars are spent attempting to usher Arnold into the governor’s mansion. All he need do is study his poll numbers, realize that he cannot survive this juggernaut, and gracefully step aside anytime before the election, ceding power to his lieutenant governor.

Don’t look for that to happen though, and if it does, look for the California Supreme Court to again flagrantly disregard state law by allowing the recall to proceed despite the fact that the guy purportedly being recalled is no longer in office.

A final note on the recall effort comes from Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, who was quoted by the Times: “I can’t imagine Reagan would favor recall. There’s nothing conservative about recall. It’s radical. Reagan was not a radical. Reagan was conservative in the old-fashioned sense.”

I mention this not because I really care about Reagan’s views, but because Mr. Cannon speaks of the Gipper in the past tense. And that reminds me of how an aircraft carrier was recently named after the former president, which was unusual considering that such a ship had never before been named for someone who wasn’t dead. Also unusual is that they didn’t roll Ronnie out for the historic event. It kind of makes you wonder if Reagan is still among the living, doesn’t it? I mean, even with an advanced case of Alzheimer’s, could Ronnie really be any more incoherent than the guy who currently holds his former job?

Moving along, I see where American soldiers in Iraq are starting to get sick and die from a previously rare type of depleted uranium poisoning known as “pneumonia.” Military officials assure us that there is nothing to be concerned about, since soldiers die from pneumonia all the time. Strange though that a team of experts has been hurriedly dispatched to Landstuhl.

So far, only about twenty GIs have required hospitalization. It’s a pretty safe bet though that there are a lot more who have had lower-level exposure; not enough to show outward signs, perhaps, but enough to have shaved countless years off their lives.

There is much more that I could comment on, if I had the time, but I don’t, and so now, without further ado, I present for your reading pleasure three (relatively) short offerings. The first is included here, and the others will follow in separate posting in a couple of days.

Il Duncé Holds a Press Conference

Il Duncé’s mental capabilities were stretched to the limit last week as he faced head-on what is perhaps his most difficult challenge as the leader of the free world: formulating coherent responses to questions from reporters at a rare presidential press conference.

It is fairly safe to assume that Il Duncé had advance knowledge of the questions that he would be facing. And he undoubtedly had more than enough time to formulate and mentally rehearse his responses, as any normal sentient being would do. If unable to formulate responses, he had time to get others to formulate them for him, and to then learn and rehearse those responses.

Admittedly, that would require a limited amount of mental exertion, but it is, you would think, the least Il Duncé could do. After all, he only has to put forth the effort about three times a year (Il Duncé has held only nine press conferences in his two-and-a-half years in office).

Il Duncé’s press conferences generally run less than an hour, which means – if you do the math – that Il Duncé has spent, at most, about one working day accounting for the actions of his administration.

Now that seems kind of odd to me, quite frankly, since the U.S. government is, according to myth and legend, fully accountable to the American people. And it is the trusted watchdogs of our free press who, also according to myth and legend, serve as our surrogates in holding Washington accountable.

What Il Duncé demonstrated, however, is that he need not answer to anyone. Or maybe it was that he cannot answer to anyone. It’s hard to say whether his failure to communicate is due entirely to arrogance, or to a combination of arrogance and the inability to even feign lucidity. What is clear is that Il Duncé struggled throughout the press conference.

To spare readers the agony of reading through the stupefying fifteen-page transcript of the Q&A session, I have prepared the Reader’s Digest Condensed version. The questions have been shortened. The answers are shimmering pearls of wisdom from Il Duncé. The translations are provided for those who have trouble understanding the peculiar English dialect that Il Duncé favors.

Reporter: Where is Saddam? Is finding him important? When are our troops coming home?
Il Duncé: “I’m getting a little older, so when you ask four or five questions, it’s hard for me to remember every question. First, we do have a good rotation plan in place now for our troops … And, by the way, as we rotate, we’ll be changing the nature of the military configuration to be more of a — to have more of a — the capacity to move very quickly and to strike quickly, because our intelligence is getting better on the ground, as we’re able to pick targets, able to enrich targets and move quickly on the targets.”
Translation: I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I don’t think the troops are going to be coming home. We didn’t go to all this expense just to turn the country over to the Iraqi people. We are currently hard at work building permanent military bases which will be home to the tens of thousands of troops who will be stationed over there to guard our oil fields, oppress the Iraqi people, and stage attacks against neighboring states. That’s what Rummy says, anyway.Reporter: … and Saddam?
Il Duncé: “All I know is we’re on the hunt … And so we’re making progress. It’s slowly but surely making progress of bringing the — those who terrorize their fellow citizens to justice, and making progress about convincing the Iraqi people that freedom is real.”
Translation: Saddam? Is that the guy we were looking for in Afghanistan? Or the guy in Iraq? I get them confused sometimes. I’m going to have to check with Dick.


Reporter: What about those warnings of a repeat of 9-11 this summer?
Il Duncé: “Yes. Well, first of all, the war on terror goes on, as I continually remind people … and we’re on the hunt. And we will stay on the hunt. The threat you asked about, Steve, reminds us that we need to be on the hunt, because the war on terror goes on.”
Translation: The war on the rights of the American people goes on, Steve, and in order for that to proceed, we have to keep everyone in a constant state of fear and confusion.


Reporter: Why did the White House scrub the Congressional 9-11 report?
Il Duncé: “To reveal the content of the document … would be harmful on the war against terror.”
Translation: Even though the report is a pretty thorough whitewash, there was one portion that had to be redacted so as not to reveal the inherent fraudulence of the ‘War on Terror.’


Reporter: Didn’t your administration lie about Iraq’s ties to al Qaeda?
Il Duncé: “There’s no doubt in my mind that a free Iraq is important. It’s got strategic consequences for not only achieving peace in the Middle East, but a free Iraq will help change the habits of other nations in the region who will make it — which will make America much more secure.”
Translation: Yeah, that was a good one, wasn’t it? I think Wolfie came up with it. And now, without actually admitting that we lied, we are selling the new line that the end justifies the means.


Reporter: But why did you lead the country to war based on lies?
Il Duncé: “And the world will see what I mean when I say, a free Iraq will help peace in the Middle East, and a free Iraq will be important for changing the attitudes of the people in the Middle East. A free Iraq will show what is possible in a world that needs freedom, in a part of the world that needs freedom.”
Translation: How else were we going to build support for a completely unjustified war?


Reporter: I was wondering, for no apparent reason, what your views are on homosexuality?
Il Duncé: “Yes, I am mindful that we are all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor’s eye when they got a log in their own.”
Translation: Thanks for tossing out that obviously planted question, my response to which will capture headlines and divert attention away from all my incoherent responses to the more substantive questions.


Reporter: Haven’t your tax cuts for the rich caused massive deficits?
Il Duncé: “I view the actions that we’ve taken as a jobs program, job creation program.”
Translation: They have been a major contributing factor. But don’t forget about all the money that we’ve spent waging two illegal, unprovoked wars and instituting ‘Homeland Security’ measures. That kind of stuff doesn’t come cheap, you know.


Reporter: What about North Korea?
Il Duncé: “I think that one of the things that is important to understand in North Korea is that the past policy of trying to engage bilaterally didn’t work. In other words, the North Koreans were ready to engage, but they didn’t keep their word on their engagement.”
Translation: We have no intention of pursuing any non-military solutions to the North Korean ‘problem.’


Reporter: Why is Condoleezza Rice getting a free ride after blatantly lying?
Il Duncé: “Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person. And America is lucky to have her service. Period.”
Translation: Why not? Why should she be treated any differently than the rest of the liars in my administration?


Reporter: How are you going to spend that enormous campaign war chest you are building?
Il Duncé: (smirk)
Translation: (smirk)


Reporter: Don’t your $2,000-a-plate fund raisers demonstrate that you really only care about the interests of the very rich?
Il Duncé: “Every day I’m reminded about what 9/11 means to America. That’s a lesson, by the way, I’ll never forget, the lesson of 9/11, because — and I remember right after 9/11 saying that this will be a different kind of war, but it’s a war, and sometimes there will be action, and sometimes there won’t, but we’re still threatened. And I see that almost every day, Mike.”
Translation: Of course they do, Mike, but my advisers tell me that if I wrap myself in the flag and just keep saying “9/11,” most people won’t notice.


Reporter: Returning to the tax cuts … are you saying that the tax cuts are not at least in part to blame for the mushrooming deficits?
Il Duncé: “My attitude is, if we’re going to put our troops into harm’s way, they must have the very best.”
Translation: My attitude is, if you’re going to keep asking me about the tax cuts, I’m going to keep changing the subject.


Reporter: But what about all the jobs that are disappearing?
Il Duncé: “I know the community colleges provide a very important role in worker training, worker retraining … Community colleges are all over the place.”
Translation: What a lot of people fail to understand is that high levels of unemployment are good for the economy. The more people there are looking for work, the more competition there will be for jobs, and the more competition there is for jobs, the more leeway employers have to cut wages and benefits. The way we look at it is: unemployment = low wages = high profits. And that is good for my corporate cronies, and therefore good for the economy, although not really very good for the American people, most of whom are unemployed, underemployed, or underpaid.


Reporter: What about the Israeli/Palestinian situation?
Il Duncé: “So I spent time talking to Prime Minister Sharon yesterday about checkpoints. We discussed the difference between a checkpoint for security purposes, and a checkpoint that might be there that’s — that isn’t — there for inconvenient purposes. Let me put it to you that.”
Translation: We fully support any and all actions taken by the Sharon government, although we have to occasionally distance ourselves from some of the more overtly fascistic undertakings.


Reporter: Why did you lie about how much your administration was going to spend to combat AIDS in Africa?
Il Duncé: “So it’s not — people then say, well, wait a minute, he doesn’t believe what he said. Well, that’s just simply not true. As a matter of fact, after my trip to Africa, I know we’re doing the right thing, even more.”
Translation: We do that sort of thing all the time. We know that the media will faithfully report any promises that we make, but will rarely follow up to see if we actually keep those promises. As far as the American people are concerned, saying it is as good as doing it.


Reporter: What about Liberia:
Il Duncé: “The idea, of course, is to go in, stabilize the situation, get the NGOs moving back in to — to their positions to be able to deliver aid, and then work immediately with the United Nations to provide blue helmets — maybe blue helmets, some of the ECOWAS forces in place, provide other blue helmets; and that the United Nations would then take up the peacekeeping mission, as well as the political mission, in order to provide the framework for a transition to democracy. And, hopefully, that will help stabilize the situation. I think it will.”
Translation: My advisers have tried repeatedly to explain it to me but, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really have a clue what is going on over there.


Reporter: What about Iran?
Il Duncé: “The other thing that’s interesting about Iran is that they do have al Qaeda. They’ve admitted they got al Qaeda. [Editor’s Note: they might be able to pick something up at the drugstore for that] Now, that’s positive, that the al Qaeda is not talking to anybody.”
Translation: We have no intention of pursuing any non-military solutions to the Iranian ‘problem.’


Reporter: What do you think about California’s gubernatorial recall election?
Il Duncé: “I think the most important opinion is not mine, but it’s the people of California.”
Translation: I fully support any Republican candidate who has been defeated at the polls and then attempts to reverse the results of the election. We hope that these types of messy situations will not be necessary in the future, however, once we have touch-screen voting systems in place throughout the country.

The nearly hour-long ordeal left Il Duncé so mentally fatigued that he will reportedly require a full month’s rest at his fake ranch before returning to Washington to do whatever it is that he does when he is not physically on vacation. In another three to four months he will, presumably, be ready to meet the press once again.