Wednesday, January 21, 2004

State of the Union

I dumped out of Prez Busch's campaign speech 37 minutes after it started. It seemed pretty clear to me that he was running for president of Iraq. He probably could get elected, in an election as fair as Florida's, or the last election held in Iraq. Anybody remember that elections were held in Iraq a few months before our invasion, and that Saddam supposedly won?

The choice in that election, as I recall, was to vote for Saddam or against him. Not another candidate, just a simple "yes or no". The election was not monitored by outsiders, and there were other irregularities. But Saddam could claim, with at least as much validity as our current "world leader", that he had been elected.

I flipped through the common broadcast channels, seeking the least annoying beginning, and found myself shocked to discover that even the once-venerable PBS had been invaded by happy heads. One commentator noted he wasn't sure whether any of the Supremes were there, and admitting he might have been "jabbering" when one had been sighted. Later, as the president was stepping up to the podium, a different commentator noted that it looked like the Speaker had lost some weight.

Jeez. We really are "amusing ourselves to death", as Neil Postman put it.

If there was any doubt this was a campaign speech — as if the timing wasn't clue enough — Busch himself made it pretty clear within the first ten minutes of the speech. He said our choice was to go forward or to go back. Clearly, in the tidy world of political rhetoric, going forward means electing (for the first time) the Shrub. Going backward would mean voting for Someone Else (a.k.a., Anybody But Busch, or ABBy).

It was amusing, however, to watch the reaction shots during the speech. Senator Kennedy shook his head so often, one might be excused for believing the senator from Massachussetts had palsy. I learned that not even retired military men (e.g., Colin Powell) smile, even when the military or policies they supported are being praised.

In fact, one of the few smiles displayed was by majority whip Tom DeLay. Unfortunately, his smile looked eerily like a smirk; and his facial make-up had apparantly been done by the same group that did President Reagan's (didja ever see cheeks so rosy?).

So how is the State of the Union?

It's so good the value of the dollar is falling world-wide. Although some argue this is a good thing (it makes American goods & services less expensive at home & abroad), it makes the World Bank and others nervous.

It's so good that I'm trying to learn to like my job because the odds of finding something different in the next six years are pretty slim.

It's so good that our military is stretched dangerously thin (even Rummy has admitted this). And, these men and women whom the president praises for protecting our "security" can count on poor or non-existent health benefits, imprisonment if they admit battle fatigue, and no psychological assistance for facing the horrors of war. They can also count on having their tours prolonged at whim, until such time as the Congress institutes a draft.

It's so good that our education system has become a "one size fits all" testing factory, where teachers are encouraged to "teach the test" so the school can maintain federal funding. The children left behind are the ones who don't test well. All children are encouraged to avoid illegal drugs, but schools have no become delivery systems for legal drugs supplied by Pepsico. The legal drugs, that is, of sugar and fast food's empty calories.

It's so good that we need God's blessing, protection, and forgiveness, now more than ever.

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