Publisher's Note: The personal views of the publisher, expressed here, do not necessarily mirror those of other contributors to this magazine. This is strictly my personal rant.
Late Update: Rumorflash! Bush to take California, Arnold to get White House in 2008. Not unexpectedly, in the open sewer of sleaze created by the deregulation not only of finances but also of morals under the Republicans, Schwartzenegger (sounding brilliant bipartisan notes that defy the venom cooked up by rightwing kulturkampf aparatchiks in the media) has now floated a proposal through his proxies in Congress to change the U.S. Constitution so a person born in another country can become president. Please; can anyone be surprised? I was waiting to see how long it would take the Terminator to perform this slick maneuver. Consider: Darrel Issa, a reputed car thief and California Republican Congressman, floated millions of bucks to bring indigent out-of-staters into California and purchase (a dollar a signature, from what we hear) enough votes to force a recall. Given the level of anger, it's not surprising that enough dromedaries voted to oust Gray Davis and install the weightliftermensch. The first problem with that, of course, is that the energy crisis everyone was mad about was caused by Bush and Cheney's dear friends like Kenny-Boy Lay, raping the California gas & electric consumers. I should know—we had gas & electric bills approaching $500 a month for a while, and the only exciting thing we do is a little laundry now and end (not the money kind, like Rush "OxyKleen" Limburg, but the kind where you put the Tide inthide), and our household bills are still sky-high. In an interesting little side-twist, right before the runoff election, there was a fire of suspicious origin at an oil refinery in Arizona that supplies much of our gasoline in Southern California, and of course prices shot up by about 20 cents a gallon, further driving enraged nincompoops into the Bush/Schwartzenegger camp. Yes, that's the B/S Camp. You heard it here first. I'm actually wondering if Bush operatives secretly paid Darrel Issa to front the money to oust Davis and insert Mr. Kurizma ("Oi'll Be Bekk") as a wedge into solidly Democrat California politics. I'm speculating, of course, but it's tempting to connect the dots. So get this picture. Bush swallows his monumental ego, along with his id, salivating for a piece of the action in California, where the Republicans have been largely shut out. After all, Bush was visibly punishing California (the people of California! getting their nuts kicked by that phony "president" of their country! Luckily, we have Reality TV to take the sting and the shame away) until the B/S alliance. So here's what I see. Arnold delivers enough of the California vote in November 2004 to put Tush back in the White Hose (this time, elected yet). Tush serves his eight years of barfing in foreign leaders' laps, choking on pretzels, falling over Segues, and spilling water glasses on Frist's nuts in the Senate chamber, while running up astronomical deficits that only Hubble can see (unless he blinds Hubble so nobody can see). Then Tush retires to that golden sunset in Beijing with brother Neil to count their Silverado money and dally with Chinese ladies of the night, and guess what: Republican stooges in the Supreme Court and in Congress have rammed through a Constitutional amendment to let a fellow who has been a naturalized U.S. citizen on good behavior (no groping, no doping) for at least 20 years become President of the United States. And then, as the cherry atop the cake, Arnold becomes our umpty-umpth Praezident! Jawohl! Das ist gut! Oh yes, and his Vice President is Darrel Issa. And they give Ralph Nader an honorary cabinet position as Secretary of Clean Air. Since there won't be any clean air after eight years of Tush, Nader will have an easy time of it. I love politics.
NASA Engineers Protest Bush Myopia. According to sources including Reuters and CNN, NASA engineers have produced (and leaked) internal reports contradicting the official party line that it will be too risky to service Hubble, which the Bush regime has used as an excuse to prematurely terminate the ongoing world-class Renaissance in astronomy led by Hubble. The Bush "vision" is to terminate most real science programs that don't offer Mars-Rover quality P.R., invest the remaining NASA budget in the unworkable pork barrel disaster known as the International Space Station (ISS), and tell everyone a bunch of lies about how we're going to the Moon and Mars with no money since Bush is running the biggest deficits in human history as an inebriated reelection gambit. [A breaking story on this, aside: a wise person I know, who works in the medical field, recently observed Bush's many pratfalls, like dropping a water glass during a House appearance on national T.V., choking on pretzels, staggering around on that aircraft carrier, stammering speech, and apparent dyslexia, and concluded that GWB is brain-damaged. Then again, his father famously vomited directly in the lap of Japan's prime minister while on world-wide TV, toward the end of the Bush I years, so maybe it's genetic. Cocaine? Alcohol? Genes? Who knows.] NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has scrapped any further service to Hubble, based on recommendations from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which investigated the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Engineers question why it's any less dangerous for the remaining shuttles to service the ISS rather than the shuttle, and in fact claim it isn't. Ta-da! It's all politics. Such engineers obviously are not familiar with the dark logic of pork barrel corruption rampant in the U.S. Congress for such a long time that it seems like a natural order of things—the same logic by which half our citizens, including our children, have no access to health care, and huge numbers of junior military families are forced to survive on food stamps, welfare, or worse. These conditions, which afflict the U.S., are so fantastic and unbelievable that they truly deserve mention in a science-fiction magazine. Is there gray matter or a moral compass anywhere in Washington D.C.? Hello?
Champagne Squadrons. Speaking of politics and Bush, and Quayle, and the spelling of "potatoe," there is the persistent story that GWB showed up for coffee once or twice, and for free dental services, during the Vietnam War. Don't get me wrong—the National Guard and the Reserves are great American institutions, who are today stressed unlike at any time since World War II, and whose members are making remarkable contributions to our general well-being. It's just too bad that this drooling Julio-Claudian in the Oval Orifice tends to give so many good people in so many fine places a bad name. The highlights of the Bush Deserter saga seem to be: To spare their darling from service with all those lesser guys in that unpleasantness over in those rice paddies where there wasn't much vision thing, the Bushes and their wealthy allies paid off some people (whether in money or influence, who knows) and got little darling Georgie placed in a safe National Guard unit where nobody would do bad things to him, like shoot his ass off. Not only that, but there was a huge waiting list of guys who didn't want to go to Vietnam, and somebody bribed someone, because aw shit, Georgie went right to the top of the list and got right in to that old TNG unit. Then, for whatever reason, at some point he disappears off the charts for at least a year, failing to show up for duty. I actually looked through those wrinkled transcripts online as best I could, and counted about eight months of no-show. If an ordinary citizen had done this, I remember very distinctly and clearly, they were jacked up by the military, put on immediate active duty status, and sent to Vietnam to fight. Most people have a nodding acquaintance with the rule that if you're AWOL for over 30 days, you're reclassified as a deserter. I don't know how accurate that is, but hey—Clinton had a student deferment and the fascist marching band tuba players from Hannity to Limbaugh, and the political hypocrites from Lott to Gingrich, never missed an opportunity to call him a draft dodger (which was not true), so what goes around comes around. This does bring me to the bigger question, which today's media seem not to be pressed to address (no doubt because it would slime as many Democrats as Republicans) is: what about the type of unit in which GWB was able to escape the draft? (Talk about draft dodgers!) We hear these referred to as "champagne squadrons." These were National Guard units apparently set up for political purposes, to serve the offspring of millionaires and billionaires of great political influence, like George W. Bush's family and Dan Quayle's family. Allegedly, when your wealthy family got you placed in one of these units (jumping ahead of 500 more eligible candidates, as in the case of Caligula), you were immunized from going to war along with the rest of your age group. Now we all know that the media and Washington are full of people who never served in uniform, which is simply a fact of life—but many are hypocrites who never stop talking about how they are patriots and everyone else is a "Libburul" and a "Traitor" or worse. What we are not hearing from these hypocrites and sunshine patriots is: What is the real story about those champagne squadrons? Or rather, we can readily surmise how this murderous double standard works—it is simply amazing how blatant is the disregard of this country's oligarchy for the common serfs who labor in Wal-Mart without health care or other benefits and then get sent overseas to die so Halliburton and Bechtel can have cronyist bid-free billion-dollar contracts in Iraq. Isn't there really a lot fishy and stinky about all this? I'd like to see some Watergate investigator types do an expose. How many more George W. Bushes and Dan Quayles were hiding in such champagne squadrons? Do we still have such outfits today? With the draft gone, perhaps there isn't a need anymore. We see Shoshona Johnson and Jessica Lynch and Lori Piestawa fighting and/or dying in Iraq, and we see Bush's drunken daughters passing fake I.D. in flashy nightclubs. That alone speaks volumes for the "vision thing," not to mention the "values thing." Anybody hear any good Country Joe & The Fish songs lately?
The Pension Plan Disaster Hits San Diego. You'll recall that in last month's column I revealed that there is an enormous disaster headed our way in the U.S., like a comet approaching Earth in Hollywood sigh-fie flicks. No sooner did we say imprimatur! to that column, than The San Diego Union-Tribune revealed that the City of San Diego has slammed into Deep Kimchee and is sinking fast. Apparently, the city's Limbaugh-oriented leaders, drunk on the omnipotence and self-importance that goes with always being right, gambled heavily in the stock market bubble (that tulip craze made for air heads) in the late 1990s and then, worse yet, failed to do a mid-course maneuver to correct for their folly. Finally, to top it all off, they pulled the final act of institutional terrorism by continuing to lie about it, which they are essentially still doing. The bond market gods are now in the process of revising San Diego's Buy ratings down to Sty ratings. This, at a time when the U.S. is starting to buckle under vast Bushismo deficits. Deficitfornia is being terminated by Snarf the Barbarian, who smokes $100 cigars and claims to be everyone's friend—including, I am sure, the married couple I met who each worked 16 hours a day in fast food restaurants at minimum wage while their only child ran wild in dangerous downtown alleys. The point is: there won't be any outside help. We're going to be suffering from the effects of our massive 2003 wildfires for years; fire and police are underfunded; schools are generally a mess; and there will be no local bailout for the $1.1 billion and growing city pension fund disaster. The country is in the grip of right-wing extremists who claim to be neo-Christians but push the meanest social agendas since the Sanhedrin voted to hang their founder on a cross (as Al Sharpton recently said, if Jesus came back today he wouldn't be allowed to set foot in most conservative Christian churches). The country is in the grip of a billionaire club political machine (the Republicans) that claims to be a party of small government and sensible finances, yet both Reagan and Bush II laughingly fostered astronomical deficits (you see the sigh-fie connection now for this coverage). The country is in the grip of a party that buys the Southern soul with claims of that old Jim Crow bugaboo, States' Rights, but when the Florida State Supreme Court ordered the recount in 2000 that would have given the elected President (Al Gore) his rightful seat in the White House, GWB and his pals in the Federal Supreme Court (with dubious legality) overruled Florida and handed the job to their lad Bush. It looks at this point as if we can start speaking of the Bush II regime in the past tense, and could we be so lucky that his entire family quits public life? In the final analysis, this nation will pay for years for what this rotten bastard has done to us all. San Diego is but a microcosm of the disaster.
The Gay Union Question, Janet Jackson's Tit, and Priorities... I'll devote more space to these non-events in a later column. For the present, let's content ourselves with this observation. Half the population of the United States live in poverty and either have no health care at all or are the under-insured "working poor," employed by billionaires like the Wal-Mart Waltons and a lot of fast food chains and other retail chains. We could afford to have health care for everyone if we elected people who made it a priority to overcome this Pleistocene situation. Instead, we have muddled minds busy discussing why dogs have black lips; or should all citizens have equal rights; or why can't we just abandon all that talk about "that apes-to-men stuff" (this from the State of Georgia Superintendent of "Skoolz") and get some honest hoedown 6,000 B.C. Mesopotamian creation mythology in its place; and so on. The irony of all that? The creation myth in the Bible is older than the age of the Earth as claimed by those laboring in the pamphlet warehouses of Creationism. Another irony: when you read Genesis, it actually reflects the broad outline of Evolution, and thus (together with that hippie rhetoric about us being "stewards of the earth" rather than drillers of oil in what little wilderness remains) it seems the Bible actually plugs science and reason over Falwellian twilight zones inhabited by ambiguously gendered tinkie-winkies. Yeah. Wotta Kontrie. We put men on the moon (briefly) but it seems our leaders live there permanently and only visit Earth to steal our wallets when we're not looking. But the real drift is that we have our eyes on the wrong hands in this vast shell game. We're being taken to the cleaners. We're being made fools of. Our priorities are backwards. We should be enraged that an elderly patient in enormous pain, dying of cancer, is unable to receive the morphine he desperately needs because it's Friday night, and the petty clerk on duty at an HMO refuses to authorize a nurse to make a visit and bring the guy his medicine; instead, he must suffer all weekend in agony because it will be a few bucks cheaper to deliver his medicine on Monday. I've seen this happen, and this type of thing in general, in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's HMO nightmare, the "compassionate conservatism" of GWB. So here's my point: by comparison to that, who really gives a shit if two guys are kissing in the park? Does that mean society's morons must pass a Constitutional amendment to deny these people equal rights under the law, yet nobody cares that violence is as rampant in our society as gin in 17th Century London? I'm sure plenty of differently oriented men and women have laid their lives down on the battlefield to earn with blood their right to have a loved one visit them in the hospital or inherit their half of the condo. That brings me to Janet Jackson's mammary gland. Are we shocked that women have them? Are we still so Puritanical and degenerate that we fly into fake fits of outrage over a flash of ankle, but we savor endless hours of the most graphic and blood-curdling violence in our media? The embarrassing thing really isn't so much that she and Timberlake apparently thought this might be a good media ploy for attention (like the Madonna/Britney kiss—whoooooo cares?). And do the media not manipulate our tastes, opinions, buying habits, probably for many poor souls their deepest beliefs? Somewhere on a cloud, Sigmund Freud is sitting with his harp and a cigar, looking down on all this and figuring, probably, that people who are this completely sexually repressed must live in some kind of insanity, where they substitute violence for orgasm. After all (it is my profound belief) the reason those jihadic freaks hate the West so much is that they have been driven mad by a vision out of hell—taught on the one hand to hate women and dogs, and in the same breath tantalized by endless hours of watching Western porno movies on the internet. This must be a new circle in Dante's Inferno, like the one in which gluttons have big fat glistening sausages hanging just out of reach while they drool and moan and reach up in vain. I think Freud would make this connection. He'd look at the loathing of sex by ultra-religious hypocrites in all societies, and see a concomitant obsession with violence. Funny thing is, the only two major religious systems on Earth whose histories are drenched in endless blood and cruelty, war and misogyny, are Islam and Christianity. Only Communism and Fascism have exacted similarly vast numbers of human sacrifices in recent centuries. We really need to ask ourselves: For what?
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Comic-Con International: It's called WonderCon 2004 and will be held July 22-25, 2004 in San Diego, California. Read the full scoop at http://www.comic-con.org. We'll be covering this story for the next six months, so stay tuned.
Clarion West: June/July 2004. Pat Murphy, Larissa Lai, Geoff Ryman, John Kessel, James Patrick Kelley, Kelly Link, and Charles de Lint will instruct at the 2004 session in Seattle, WA. Contact Nisi Shawl, email@example.com or (206) 720-1008 or http://www.sff.net/clarionwest/ for info.
Long before Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, the American woman painter Emily Carr (1871-1945) first blazed a path for modern women artists. Throwing aside the chains of late Victorian culture, not without much pain and distress, Emily Carr became a major force in modern art when modern art itself was embryonic. Emily Carr's boldly original landscapes captured untamed British Columbia before the onslaught of industrialization. Her travels ranged from the Paris art scene at its salon d'automne to forbidden Native American ceremonies in pre-World War I Canada. From the award-winning author of The Passion of Artemisia and Girl in Hyacinth Blue, here is the latest in a series of literary successes: The Forest Lover. Read more about Susan Vreeland here.
Received: Nebula Express Science fiction novel by Terry Sunbord, author of Robinson Crusoe 1,000,000 A.D. (April 2004, Clocktower Books). Ridge is a highly skilled engineer on a deep-space cargo vessel (Neptune Express) of the near future--family man, ex-military officer, and cyber engineer-1. The huge ship is on a standard two-year run between Luna and Triton--all very routine. Ridge and seven fellow specialists awaken today in the cozy, home-like confines of WorkPod01. He must lead them out to repair minor foreign impact damage to key ship's systems. Then they step out from their cushy quarters into the reality of Nebula Express...Look for Nebula Express now at Fictionwise.com