DEC 2001/JAN 2002

MICHI GANDERS

TUMESCENT GROWTH ...Pfizer Pharmaceuticals has announced a $600 million expansion of its Ann Arbor laboratories. Michigan became the chosen site of the project after enticing the New York-based firm with $84.2 million dollars through city and state tax abatements spanning 20 years. Since Pfizer is the proud maker of Viagra, at least taxpayers wonít be the only ones getting screwed.

POLY TICKS

BABY STEPS/WHEREíS WALDO? ...Sometimes US intelligence authorities bite off more than they can chew. (Remember, these are the same people who couldnít find the Unabomber until his brother turned him in.) A word of advice: first you find Chandra Levy, THEN you find Osama bin Laden.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE ...Immediately after September 11th President Bush said the terrorists attacked us "because they hate our freedoms." Yet, it wasnít Osama bin Laden who asked Congress for the most wide-ranging restrictions on constitutional freedoms, it was US Attorney General John Ashcroft - a man never too keen on civil liberties in the first place....Now, representative democracy is supposedly designed to prevent a panicked public from making unwise decisions in the throes of a crisis. Letís see how it worked in REAL LIFE. Ashcroft demanded sweeping legislation while traumatizing Congress that if they didnít comply, theyíd be responsible for more domestic deaths by terrorism. ("Blood on your hands!") Whereupon the leadership in both the Senate and House demanded consensus on anti-terrorism bills drafted in secret - meaning, no debate, no modifications, even no time for our elected representatives to read the texts they were commanded to approve....And whatís more democratic than secret agreements?!? Well, just about anything, but since each bill was designed with an anti-democratic agenda it all makes perfect sense!..."Just in time for Christmas: Jingo bills, jingo bills, jingo all the way!"

PLASTIC PEOPLE/ PLASTIC HANDCUFFS ...President Bush has ordered a crackdown on foreign student visas, documents that gave at least one of the September 11th hijackers free access to the entire USA. Upon first hearing the proposal, G.W. expressed concern that Mastercharge and Discovery cards were being overlooked.

MANIC SEMANTICS ...Back in the days of Vietnam, the most Orwellian statement was, "we had to destroy the village in order to save it." Today it looks like Washington is thinking the same way about the US Constitution....Remember when conservatives loved to say the scariest words in the English language were "Iím from the government and Iím here to help you"? Thanks to the new anti-terrorism legislation, now the scariest words are "Iím from the government and Iím here to protect you."...But donít you see, itís part of the overall protection strategy? By the time politicians are finished, America wonít have any freedoms left that could possibly antagonize terrorists - or anyone else.

STATING RIGHTS ...Attorney General John Ashcroft is going after Oregonís Right to Die referendum, despite it being passed TWICE by the stateís citizens....Heís got HIS priorities straight. Itís a good thing thereís nothing more pressing, like hijackers flying planes into skyscrapers or anthrax in the mail....But didnít this used to be Mr. States Rights where civil rights were concerned? Whatís more of a right than legally being able to end your own life? The terminally ill only want help in committing suicide. Instead, maybe the Attorney General should focus on suicidal people who want to take thousands more along with them.

EVIL DEWARS ...When will President Bush stop referring to the terrorists as "evil doers"? It makes him sound like Mr. Rogers...or as if heís referring to his old problem with a certain brand of Scotch.

BUSINESS BURROS

CONCORDE DISCORD...Well, the pinnacle of aviation achievement is back in the skies as British and French Concordes agreed to no longer use Bridgestone/Firestone tires....The super-sonic planes, which travel at twice the speed of sound, safely landed in New York City during a major slump in cross-Atlantic air traffic, and after their own 15 month absence. One change on the big bird is the lack of silver cutlery, newly replaced with plastic for security reasons. Yet at $10,000 a ticket they ought to cut the food up for you....The next terrorist challenge? How to hijack a passenger plane with a spork.

ON A WING AND A PRAYER...The airlinesí prayers were indeed answered when Congress responded to their financial pleas like a pavlovian cargo cult with an ATM card. Our leaders gave the industry a $15 billion bail-out from US taxpayers because these same Americans, after 9/11, decided not to fly for SOME "neurotic" reason....Once upon a time the airlines wanted government out of their way. Uncle Sam supposedly stood in the flight path of even greater profits. They cried out: "If only we could run things ourselves" and the mantra "Let the market decide."...So what happened? They got their deregulation wish and proceeded to run the industry into the ground: closed service routes; cancelled flights; fliers sometimes stranded for days; rampant bankruptcy and take-overs until the few remaining airlines claimed to be operating to the bone. And that was BEFORE September 11th!...Like any sore loser, capitalists love the thrill of risk-taking in the market - until they get seriously burned. Then they come running back to Uncle Sam asking for a "do-over."...If the airlines paid their security personnel more than fast food workers, they just might have prevented terrorists from super-sizing four airliners. How perverse that by [potentially] being criminally negligent in airport security, the airlines end up reaping financial rewards. They actually became richer BECAUSE they were irresponsibly greedy! (And when corporations get this sort of a windfall, how do they celebrate? The old fashioned way: by firing 100,000 employees.)...The airlines clearly cared more about their shareholders than their ticket holders. But that strategy backfired when, it turned out, no one really wanted to be a dead ticket holder....So the market had spoken; the airlines just didnít like what it said.

CRASS COMMERCIALISM/PATRIOTIC ROT...When you think of war profiteering, you seldom think about toilet paper sporting the image of Osama bin Laden. Yet thereís money to be made in marketing the misery of September 11th because when it comes to a sense of patriotism, too many Americans have little sense. Sure, most of the terrorist trinkets are recycled Ayatollah products, but think long-term. This wasnít the first conflict to exploit anti-Arab jingoism, and unfortunately it wonít be the last. Meanwhile, someoneís laughing all the way to the bank - and make no mistake about it, theyíre laughing at YOU....But then the major corporations got involved with their "patriotic" commercials demanding we spend money on their goods "for the good of the company, er, country."...Whatís more offensive, Osama bin Laden condoms or big corporations exploiting the deaths of thousands of American lives for profit? When it comes to capitalism, you can always count on SOMEONE being exploited, so donít be too harsh on them. Theyíre only trying to capitalize on the situation. Itís what they do. They donít know any better....As for terrorist toilet paper? I guess weíre expected to do our patriotic doody.

GLO BULLS

OILY WAY...If you believe the war on terrorism is unconnected to oil, just examine a few facts. 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 4 planes used in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi Arabian. Saudi Arabia pays extortion to Islamic fundamentalist groups to assuage their desire to topple the illegitimate Saudi government (supported financially and militarily by US dependence on their massive oil reserves). Are the Saudis feeling nervous? Well, theyíve placed severe restrictions on the US militaryís use of their territory for staging areas against Afghanistan - compared with the Gulf War. Yet the President claims weíll go after states who support terrorist activity. So, why arenít we bombing Saudi Arabia if weíre so serious about "draining the swamp" of terrorism? Oil. That slippery slope....According to the BBC, Afghanistan was chosen for the site of an oil pipeline to deliver the precious commodity from the Caspian Sea region towards the Arabian Sea. Recall that the Bush presidential campaign was heavily funded and supported by the oil industry even through advisors and, too, he did own an oil company. Vice-President Cheney (is he still alive?) made millions for himself at Haliburton supplying oil corporations after the Gulf War (where he was Secretary of Defense) and constantly harps on opening up the Arctic refuge to oil drilling - even if it will take 10 years to deliver the 6 month supply. With all that in mind, what exactly does America need in order to put these puzzle pieces together? A smoking oil well? [See Kuwait, 1990]

ROGUE ELEPHANTS ...Once again Vietnam has been terrorized by a herd of rogue Republicans, er, elephants that has killed 12 people in the past three years. Two of the estimated six-to-eight member group were shot with tranquilizer darts, resulting in the capture of the larger one, ironically nicknamed "Tricky Dick" by locals. However, the smaller of the two is deemed the most dangerous, and is simply known as "Kissinger." He remains at large.

AMERI CANARDS

DISSING DISSENT/WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LOYAL OPPOSITION? ...Americaís tendency to shout down dissent was very apparent after the September terrorist attacks, displayed in an array of comments drawing outcries from the fashionably fascist. Targets included: Susan Sontagís piece in the NEW YORKER, the BOONDOCKS comic strip, POLITICALLY INCORRECTís Bill Maher, the ever unpopular Noam Chomsky, even the ultra-conservative Anne Coulter in NATIONAL REVIEW ON-LINE. Despite their differing perspectives, it failed to prevent the demonstration of how America is dominated by the stupidity of popularity and the unpopularity of intelligence....And for all of their critical individual comments, none called for the following response from President Bushís Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: "Americans...need to watch what they say, watch what they do." Just because Ari wouldnít mind living in a police state doesnít mean he speaks for the rest of us. Maybe Ari better watch what HE says.

SLEEVELESS IN SEATTLE (AND PANTLESS TOO) ...Recently, the rainy climate of the Pacific northwest did nothing to prevent a naked man from attempting to board a plane at the Seattle airport. Which only proves that some people are willing to do anything to speed up the strip search process.

YOU KNOW YOUíRE LIVING IN A FUCKED-UP WORLD when an airliner crashes and everyone hopes the cause was mechanical failure and not terrorist success.

RED CROSS BUNS/JUST GIMME MONEY ...Although a crucial organization in any major disaster, the Red Cross has received heat for their fundraising activities for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the criticism isnít limited to the current Liberty Fund. In fact, in at least a half-dozen disasters over the past decade, local authorities have had to pressure the American Red Cross to give victims the donations the public intended for them - including Oklahoma City. It appears that the organization is comfortable in raising donations for a deserving cause, only to allocate a substantial portion for other uses, such as upgrading their phone system....If theyíre so desperate for cash, why not do something else that relies on their proven expertise - like conducting "bait and switch" seminars?...Forget about blood, it looks like the Red Cross needs an emergency ethics transfusion.

VIRAL CULTURES

PUT ON A PRETTY FACE/DEATH MASK ...Mary Kay Ash, founder of the billion-dollar cosmetics company bearing her name, has died at the age of 83 - barely in time to premiere their new line of morticiansí make-up. Remember, thereís no reason to let yourself go just because youíre dead.

BIG MAC RETIRES/YOU WANT POP FLIES WITH THAT? ...Mark McGuire has announced his retirement from Major League Baseball after 16 seasons and briefly setting a new home run record of 70 (broken by Barry Bonds this year with 73). In an even more astounding move, McGuire turned down a $30 million offer, admitting that after hitting .180 this past season, he didnít really deserve the money - St. Louis could better use it on other players. How weird is that in this age of greed? I guess that "dietary supplement" finally went to his head.

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME ...After two cancellations (due to the 9/11 tragedy and the 10/7 US military response) the Emmy Awards were finally broadcast in a desperate search for excellence in television. Why the postponement? It couldnít be because attendees thought the terrorists would go after THEM next, could it? Why else didnít they want to show up? Humility? Believe me, theyíre NOT that good at acting.

SOMETIMES ITíS PATRIOTIC to burn the flag in protest - like when you see a gas-guzzling SUV covered in them.

DEC 2001/JAN 2002

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