Swans Commentary » swans.com January 3, 2005  



Twenty News Stories To Appear In 2005


by Manuel García, Jr.






(Swans - January 3, 2005)  1. The US Military Academy at West Point, New York, the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will become Christian divinity schools in addition to being training centers for career US military officers. In this way will America's future military elite be "Christian soldiers," marching onward to righteous war. In a parallel development, all military personnel will be baptized as part of their basic military training (boot camp), and all enlisted personnel will have the opportunity to complete education leading to an entry-level ministry degree. In announcing the new program, President Bush said "I am excited to bring Christ into the lives of more Americans, especially our men and women in uniform, and I am proud that through our military we can bring salvation into every corner of the world."

2. Paul Krugman, the economist and New York Times columnist was arrested in a joint operation carried on by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, and charged with being an "enemy combatant." Spokesmen for the government, citing reasons of security, would not comment where Krugman is being held, but an unnamed source said Krugman had been sent to the US base at Guantánamo, Cuba. "He's chilling in the cell we had ready for Aristide," was all the information available at this time.

3. The legislation removing the requirement for pollution controls on motor vehicles, in particular catalytic converters, is passed with overwhelming public approval. "This is great! It's like the repeal of Prohibition!" shouted Doug Lumpen, celebrating with his friends in the happy crowds on the streets. The major auto makers announced immediate price cuts in their most popular models -- the big engined SUVs and trucks -- and braced themselves for the rush of eager buyers. "This is the best economic stimulus package we could have gotten," said a spokesman for the American Automobile Manufacturer's Association." Environmental and health groups had the usual complaints, but these aren't worth mentioning in a mainstream publication like ours. In a related story, pending legislation removing the ban on lead in gasoline, and the requirement for airbags, seatbelts, and passenger restraints is expected to pass easily.

4. The proposal to erect a marble statue of President Bush in a dedicated Washington monument gained more support. A coalition of church groups had proposed this monument, where President Bush is shown in biblical robes with a cross emblazoned on the front, as he leads a group of people -- not shown -- with a long staff in his left hand and a Bible opened to the Ten Commandments in his outstretched right hand pointing forward and upward. The project had been stalled over the controversy of siting the monument, one group of supporters wanted to use the Jefferson Memorial, replacing the statue of Jefferson with that of Bush. This option was seen as both cost-effective and consistent with the sentiments of fundamentalists. Another siting option was advanced by more moderate religious elements connected with business interests, who believed an entirely new monument would offer greater opportunities for creating new economic activity related to the monument. An additional point of contention within both camps was whether the stature of "President Bush, Our Shepherd" should show his face shaven or with the beard shown in images of Jesus Christ. With the announced contributions from the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, the project overcame its last financial hurdle. The corporate sponsors have all pledged to limit the display of their logos in the finished monument "to a tasteful and reverential way."

5. The Department Of The Interior announced that it would no longer track nor announce the extinction of species. "We don't do body counts" was the comment of the spokesperson making the announcement. "It is a waste of taxpayers' money to make depressing announcements of no consequence." Spokesmen for the timber and mining industries pointed to the new Interior Department policy as validating their claims that their stewardship of public lands made it unnecessary to worry about the animal and plant life that might live there.

6. In a stunning reversal, the Nobel Committee announced that it was mistaken in proclaiming Noam Chomsky the winner of the 2005 Peace Prize. It said the error was due to "well intentioned, but unfortunate confusion," and that Chomsky's name had been withdrawn from consideration. Later in the week the eventual recipient was named, President George W. Bush. As notes of congratulations poured in from around the world, President Bush was gracious in his acknowledgment "I am humbled by the choice of the Nobel Committee, and grateful they made a wise choice." During the same press conference, the president commenting on recent military realignments mentioned that US nuclear armed submarines would no longer patrol the North Sea so as to concentrate forces "where we need to apply additional pressure."

7. President Bush declared his support for a constitutional amendment allowing for the possibility of a non-native born citizen to run for the Presidency. "Thanks, Mister President!" said a very happy Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California in a subsequent news conference. The governor also announced that he was in support of opening up the California coastline for offshore oil drilling, saying, "now is the time for California to reap the bounty that we have, to help pay our bills and lead America to energy self-sufficiency, and to take advantage of the benefits of new corporate investment and modern, clean oil exploration technology." Political reform groups announced that the exploratory committee set up for a possible Schwarzenegger run on the White House had already collected over $800M.

8. In a shocking revelation, Federal investigators announced they have uncovered a major network of underground interstate commerce in pornography organized by a wealthy, ruthless and previously unknown syndicate -- evangelical churches. It seems this syndicate would fund the production of pornographic movies and Internet web pages in the San Fernando Valley of California for distribution throughout the country, but primarily in the church's stronghold areas of the Mid-West and South. The money for these activities would first be funneled through overseas ministries and charitable funds with offices in Las Vegas, Nevada, to disguise the connection. The distribution of the pornography was facilitated by the transfer of congregation membership lists to the production companies. The profits from this operation swelled church coffers, especially as they are exempt from taxes. Indictments of several prominent tele-evangelists named as principals in the syndicate were quashed, and grand juries investigating the matter were disbanded, shortly after President Bush gave his much loved speech to the nation on "my belief in the power of Christian forgiveness, as I have been forgiven to go on and make good, so I feel it important to forgive others so they, too, can go on to do greater good for themselves." A spokesman for the League Of American Christian Evangelicals countered the allegations by saying "Our pastors understand the meaning of sin and the power of redemption to overcome sin and be forgiven for it. By helping our flocks to know sin, and from turning away from the works of the devil, we build our congregation here on earth, joined in anticipation of our reward in heaven." Critics point to the parallel growth of the evangelical and fundamentalist population and the extent of the pornography business, and claim this indicates a major national problem. "Very convenient," said a leading American critic, too far to the left to actually be named or quoted in a respectable family newspaper. "What we have here is tax-exempt pornography with a no-fault chaser for the customers, who are absolved of any moral consequence until after they are safely dead. What a racket."

9.The screen play of "Citizen Tom Paine," based on the 1943 best-selling Howard Fast historical novel (Howard Fast, Citizen Tom Paine, NY: Grove Press, 1943, ISBN 0-8021-3064-X), is bought by a French cinema production company, and filmed in Russia, China and Europe. Because the film, and the original novel on which it is based, hews to the historical facts, it was too controversial to be filmed in the United States. In particular, the themes of universal franchise and socialism, and the unflattering portrayal of religious bigotry against personal conviction and rational thought were deemed too explicit and contrary to American standards for production to occur here. Also, production costs were lower in Russia, where many extras and wide panoramas without modern development were available. Rumors persist that the film is being financed by political groups secretly funded by the Russian Security Service to influence foreign political developments, and the explicit role of Asian investors is known. Other accounts suggested that the Russian funding connection is a disinformation story planted by the CIA. The film itself, with a scale reminiscent of "Spartacus" (another film based on a Howard Fast historical novel), "Doctor Zhivago" and "Reds," continues to pack houses overseas despite fears by a number of foreign governments that Paine's populist democratic ideals might incite unruliness among their populations. The producers of "Citizen Tom Paine" say they have been unable to book screenings in the United States, especially after the Justice Department announced it had launched an investigation into allegations this film was a cover for recruitment and financing of underground terrorist cells. "A movie about a drunk who incites people to oppose lawful authority and attack Christianity, under the excuse of natural rights and rational thought, and funded by meddlesome foreign groups intent to subvert our sacred political processes, is the type of attack on our values that this department will fight with all the vigor God has blessed the American people to bestow upon us," said Attorney General Gonzales. A further announcement was that the screenwriter was under investigation for "accepting remuneration in a foreign currency," since he was paid in Euros, and "giving aid and comfort to foreign opponents of administration policies," both soon-to-be crimes once the Patriot Act III is passed by the Congress. "It is reprehensible that an American citizen would interpret our history in a manner inconsistent with our ideals," said Gonzales, who also noted that the screenwriter's citizenship status was being reviewed as a result of the investigation. After his actions have been declared illegal, a department spokesman said, then "we could declare him an enemy non-combatant," and remove his citizenship, enabling him "to be deported to where we think he should have come from." Though the screenwriter was born in New York City, legal experts surmise he would more likely be sent to Pakistan or North Korea. Asked to comment he said, "I'm hoping for France or Cuba."

10. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health announced that there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of asthma nationally, especially marked among children in urban areas. "It's really quite remarkable," said Dr. Lee Meriweather, head of the study, "possibly due to a sudden increase in air pollution." However, a spokesman for the Department Of Health And Human Services said the study was preliminary, and "a hasty characterization of inconclusive results was an error of judgment," and that it was not yet clear if the trend was real. A spokesman for the American Industry Council, a trade group concerned with the impact of health issues on industrial productivity, said their research cast doubt on the NIH report, and "that all indications are that kids are just as healthy as they always were," and that the NIH study was based on a "flawed methodology." The NIH study relied on statistics of hospital and clinic admissions. In a subsequent announcement, the NIH said the children's asthma program had been cut in order to "focus our resources on compelling needs." The funds have been transferred to increase research into erectile dysfunction, which has also secured matching funds from the American Automobile Manufacturers Association "Healthy Community" Charitable Fund, with a substantial contribution from the Chevrolet Motors "Like A Rock" Foundation. It was learned later that Dr. Meriweather was no longer employed by NIH -- the circumstances of his departure were not disclosed -- but he is now director of an inner city asthma clinic in Boston. "We've seen our caseload go up 200% in the last year," said Dr. Meriweather. A similar trend has been reported in other inner city health facilities, however this is no longer tracked by NIH after the cancellation of the children's asthma program.

11. In a move to increase the benefits given to military personnel, and to improve morale, the Department Of Defense announced today that it would no longer charge uniformed personnel for tobacco products in base PXs. Also, the battlefield rations would see an increase in the amount of cigarettes. The added cost is being absorbed by an added appropriation championed by Senators and Congressmen from Kentucky, Virginia and South Carolina, and the money will be used to buy out the crops of small tobacco farmers. "This is a win-win for everyone," said Senator Mitch McConnell, "our small tobacco farmers get the support they need to survive, and our brave men and women in uniform get a well-deserved bonus for serving in our magnificent armed forces." As part of the appropriation bill, the DOD will have a new policy of no longer allowing the sale of condoms in the PXs, because "these only lead to an unhealthy moral climate that degrades unit performance." While some complain that this is too much of a concession to the religious elements in the Administration and Congress, the DOD seemed satisfied with the compromise that Viagra would still be available at government cost in the PX. When asked what she thought of the new policy, a female soldier, who asked to remain anonymous, said "It's more of the same, they're Cheney-ing us over." In a related announcement, the makers of Viagra announced that they had secured the rights -- for an undisclosed amount -- to use the Army slogan "Be all you can be" in their advertising campaign.

12. A Republican proposal in the House of Representatives, to set a lifetime cap on personal income taxes, gained strength with more legislators and members of the public whom the Wall Street Journal could consider reporting on. Under the proposal, once an individual had paid a cumulative amount of $10M in Federal taxes, they would have a lifetime exemption from all further taxation. Critics of the plan say it would force middle income people and the poor to pay for everything while the wealthy buy their way out of their responsibilities of citizenship. The backers of the plan argue it will put an end to all the tax shelters and deductibles the wealthy use, because under the plan they would be motivated to pay their taxes in full as soon as possible. "Freed of tax burdens, people who have become 'taxation graduates' will freely pump money into the economy -- creating jobs -- and also boosting voluntary giving for education, charities, the arts and the humanities," said Tom DeLay, a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation. A critic of the proposal said "Why on earth would people who only pay into social needs grudgingly and when they can't escape compulsory means, suddenly freely contribute if they are no longer required to? The result of this plan will be the poor paying for the upkeep of a government that only benefits the rich." The proposal is expected to pass easily.

13. As expected, the Democratic Leadership Council endorsed the compromise Social Security privatization bill being advanced by a bi-partisan group of Senators, a spokesman saying "The compromise measure has broad bi-partisan support, and it incorporates necessary safeguards to preserve the fund yet offer a variety of choices that consumers can avail themselves of to meet their financial goals. We urge President Bush and other Republicans to support this bill instead of the radical and costly alternative." When asked about criticism from union members and other liberal Democratic critics of the compromise measure, the DLC spokesman said "it is important for Democrats to have a modern outlook, one that understands the need to maintain vigorous economic growth, and that relies on the personal discretion of the American people; repeating economic policies of the 1930s does not fit with the circumstances of today, nor is it necessary given the greater financial sophistication of the American taxpayers."

14. In a shocking development, the rank and file of the Democratic Party voted to expel the DLC from the party, unless they took up the cause of stopping Social Security privatization. Under the slogan "Save Social Security or Die!" they shouted down all DLC speakers at their annual convention and demanded the ouster of all privatization advocates. Proposals from the floor to draft Ralph Nader or Stan Goff to the position of party leader quickly gained favor in the tumultuous convention, and seemed headed for a vote. Many rank-and-file Democrats are still deeply affected by the last speech Ralph Nader gave before his disappearance, with its ringing slogan "You shall not crucify the American people upon a cross of privatization!" However, before a complete revolution of the party could be effected by voting on these motions, the convention center was stormed by special forces and counterinsurgency riot police, restoring order. As busloads of shackled delegates were taken away to undisclosed detention facilities, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State described to reporters why the Bush Administration acted to save the Democratic Party from a popular takeover. "I don't see why we need to stand idly by and let a Party go socialist due to the irresponsibility of its own people."

15. A new videotape recently mailed to a number of internet groups and TV stations has been authenticated as being from Ralph Nader. Despite initial claims by the State Department that the tape was part of a Cuban disinformation effort, the subsequent military sweep of the mountains in Mendocino County, California suggested that the government believed the tape was real and that Nader was hiding in the vicinity. In the tape, Nader calls for Americans to leave the major parties, and form a new political front -- or a people's party -- from which they should elect representatives for all elective offices they can manage. Furthermore, he urges his followers, once elected to office, to work to repeal tax subsidies for corporations, to strengthen the enforcement of regulations such as environmental regulations, to stop deficit spending, and to pass universal health care and education legislation, where these programs would be funded by tax increases on wealthy Americans, including an increased capital gains tax, and a drastic reduction in military expenditures. Finding it necessary to comment on the tape, the president said, "Americans are not going to be intimidated by terrorists who are jealous of our freedoms, and hate our way of life. One day soon, we will be rid of all these naysayers, sowers of dissension, and Godless haters of American greatness; and from that day, believe me, there will be no limit to the freedoms I and Americans like me will enjoy."

16. The US Coast Guard came upon a group of forty-three American vacationers clinging to a swamped fishing boat south of Key West. In a surprise to officials, the trip these people had intended was "one way" to Cuba, and their vacation was intended to be "permanent." By odd coincidence, all members of the group lacked any health insurance, and nearly all had some chronic condition, or were elderly. One man, who refused to give his name because his son-in-law is a prison guard in the United States, and whom he feared might lose his security clearance and his job in retaliation, said "After I lost my Social Security at Atlantic City, I wasn't able to borrow anything and start over again. So, rather than drain my daughter's savings since she got a baby and all, I figured I'd go where I could sweep the streets or shine shoes and still be able to stay alive, seeing as I'm old and no one hires you for nothing after even forty in the States, and I need to be able to see a doctor for my heart and the injury workman's comp wouldn't cover, and to keep from freezing in winter; I figured it's time to get to Cuba. I'm even learning Spanish." The old man was very disappointed when he learned he'd been rescued and was being taken back to Florida. "You mean you're not going to help us pump out the boat?" he cried. "Man, you people go out of your way to be mean."

17. The People's Instant Choice Award for Funniest Reaction In A Rescue, went to Howard Finley, the old man who was clueless about his rescue in the dangerous seas south of Key West. Fifty-seven million Americans punched their Instant-Replay Buttons on their TV-Net controllers. CNN noted "it was our most popular human interest news story of the year, the instant feedback was off the charts, and we've been replaying it constantly."

18. The U.S. Forest Service reports an increase of 600% in the incidence of illegal campfires nationwide. "Groups of misguided citizens, thinking they are going to find Ralph Nader, go out into the woods and stay." A spokesman for the Forest Service would not comment as to whether these groups were ad hoc posses and bounty hunters, or part of a growing insurgency. "That's not our expertise," was all he would say. A spokesman for the aerospace industry urged the government to fund the development of a new low altitude maneuvering counterinsurgency and wildfire surveillance satellite, to "smoke out the terrorist threat in our woodlands." The proposal seeks $4.7B for the three year development effort. "It's a bargain when you think of what you're paying for," said a Pentagon spokesman. A competing proposal is by timber industry groups. Their idea is to clear-cut all suspected hideouts, which are any tract of public land with tress above four feet tall, and sell the lumber to pay for the costs of the operation. This proposed program is called Clear Sustainable Security. They urge an immediate start of a pilot program in the old-growth redwood groves of Northern California "a natural socialist hideout in need of clearing," in the words of Assistant Secretary of the Interior Oliver North.

19. A number of southern colleges that used to hold annual bonfires as part of major football game weekends have decided to change this practice because of concerns over safety, after a spate of recent disasters at such events. "Rather than construct large wooden structures, which can collapse and injure students," the rector of Texas S&M university said, "we are instead going to make the bonfires from dangerous, unpatriotic and irreverent books, which have no place in our society. We are combing our libraries to remove such material, and to purify the font of knowledge from which we imbibe." Beside works by Marx, Lenin, Chomsky and Alex Comfort, older books no longer of any historic interest were included in the pile. Works like "Common Sense" and "The Rights Of Man" by Thomas Paine "are in such an archaic language, students today can't understand them." It was amazing to think that farmers in Revolutionary America had sufficient education to read them. "Also," the rector continued, "the themes of revolt against monarchy, unguided populism, and especially Godless freethinking have no place in today's world. My students can't read the English these tracts are written in, and even if they could, they would never understand the ideas expressed or why anyone would consider them important, so it is better to burn them."

20. It has just been disclosed that an experimental strain of bacteria, created by genetic manipulation of synthetically fabricated genes, has been accidentally lost. After it is synthesized the new bug is irradiated, producing a rapidly-multiplying mutant strain that has so far been immune to germicidal agents. The new organism is a hydrocarbon eating bug, based on a natural petroleum eating bacteria. The accidental release of this bug -- called the High-Carb Eater, or HCE -- is beginning to cause panic, the prior secrecy was an effort to prevent this. The accident occurred somewhere between Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Savannah River, Georgia. The leaked description of the original plan was to develop a super-bug to eat petroleum, which was a joint project of the EPA and Army, to have a bacterial agent to clean up oil spills and, in a mutant version of much greater appetite, to attack an opponent's oil supplies in time of war. Newly synthesized batches of the Carb-Eating Bacteria, or CEB, were taken from the Bio-Warfare Lab at Fort Detrick to be irradiated in nuclear reactors at Savannah River. During a recent tropical storm, one such shipment returning from Savannah River was released as a result of a highway accident. It appears that gallons of the radioactive bacterial sludge leaked into a local stream along with rainwater runoff from the scene of the accident, and was dispersed into the riparian systems of the southern United States and possibly the Ogalalla Aquifer. It appears now that the increase in carb-eating potency produced by the radiation was much larger than anticipated, and the antigermicidal immunity was unanticipated. The news of the incident was finally leaked to the press as the epidemic of dissolving automobile tires spreads north and west. The bacteria will eat any hydrocarbon material, for example oil products and plastics. At this time, further questions remain unanswered.

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About the Author

Manuel García, Jr. is a graduate aerospace engineer, working as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He did underground nuclear testing between 1978 and 1992. He is concerned with employee rights and unionization at the nuclear weapons labs, and the larger issue of their social costs. Otherwise, he is an amateur poet who is fascinated by the physics of fluids, zen sensibility, and the impact of truth.



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Published January 3, 2005