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Lonely at the Top

Crank Call


Published August 3, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

How is it that anyone, anywhere, still cares that Lance Armstrong has won his seventh Tour de France? How many times is he supposed to do that? This "cancer survivor" thing is wearing a bit thin.

Alternatively, how much suspense can we endure about the "space shuttle," tiles damaged or undamaged? Let's face it, the only really exciting thing about the space shuttle in recent times is that it blew up twice -- though God forbid it should ever happen again.

I'm sorry. That's in bad taste. But so much is nowadays. It was in bad taste for President Bush to "flip the bird" at journalists on his way to yet another vacation in Texas, as he reportedly did last week, when they asked him some questions about the CAFTA agreement. It's in bad taste for Bush, ever, to call his wife Laura "the lump next to me in bed," as he has done in the past.

It was in bad taste for the president's mother, the stinking-rich Barbara Bush, to appear with him at another of his Social Security "stumps" and declare again how "worried" she is about the financial future of her grandchildren. It was in bad taste for his father, the first and only slightly less murderous President Bush, to complain in an interview how "hurt" he is whenever he hears his little boy criticized in the press.

It was in terrible taste for Bush to leave 40,000 Boy Scouts sweltering in near-100-degree temperatures at their jamboree last Wednesday because it was "too hot" for him to appear, and then to stand them up again the next day because of the threat of "thunderstorms." The Boy Scouts had had such a bad week already, what with all those lightning deaths, and inasmuch as about 300 of them had to be treated for dehydration, heat prostration and exposure while waiting in vain for Ding-Dong to appear. (That he finally did appear, in the cool of Sunday evening, was in even worse taste, an obvious exercise in damage control.)

It was in dreadful taste, also last week, for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to announce plans to "accelerate the demise of Castro's tyranny" in Cuba by appointing "a transition coordinator" to hasten his downfall by any means necessary. Assassination, maybe? Oh, wait, we tried that before.

It was in rotten taste for the U.S. Congress to grant $14.5 billion in tax breaks to energy companies at the very moment that the world's largest oil giant, ExxonMobil, announced a $7.5 billion profit in the last three months alone. It was in disgusting taste for the same Congress to grant immunity from lawsuits to gun makers, just because "po' widdle Smith &; Wesson," as columnist Greg Palast observes, didn't actually pull the triggers that killed 32,436 Americans with handguns last year.

And it's in really execrable taste for Bush and his British lapdog, Prime Minister Tony Blair, to keep insisting that we need to "fight the terrorists over there so that they won't fight us over here" -- the clear implication being that foreign lives are worth less than our own.

The list goes on and on -- you might say that Bad Taste is Bush's middle name.

And about that space shuttle: Don't imagine that it has anything to do with "exploring space," because it doesn't. It has to do with the perfection of war -- from the skies. And even then it's a bust -- a great, big Edsel of a federally funded project that's kept NASA afloat ever since Americans landed on the moon and discovered there was nothing there.

That was in 1969, for those who don't recall -- just a few weeks after Judy Garland was found dead on a toilet in London from cirrhosis of the liver, and about a month before actress Sharon Tate and some of her friends were brutally murdered by the Manson gang.

I mention these events not to be outrageous, but because they were closely connected at the time. Garland, Manson and the moon -- what better juxtaposition could there be of American dreams gone sour, American violence on the rampage, and American know-how all for naught? Garland's death, at least, led to the Stonewall riots in New York, when urban "homosexuals," grieving their favorite cultural icon, got tired of having their bars raided and threw anything at hand -- mainly drinks -- at the police, thus giving birth to the gay-rights movement. But can you think of a single thing the American moon landing accomplished besides making us feel like "Number One?"

Now Bush wants the "Star Wars" missile system back, even though American taxpayers have already expended $130 billion on this turkey (more than is spent on cancer research, according to the TrueMajority campaign), and even though not one aspect of it has so far proved workable. Worse, the U.S. "is planning its first production since the cold war of plutonium 238 -- one of the most deadly forms of the element -- for use in secret missions, possibly including spy satellites and undersea devices," while still bullying and chastising other nations about the proliferation of "weapons of mass destruction."

We're Number One, all right -- in

military spending, arm sales, foreign debt and useless consumption. And, I would say, we're Number One among warmongers, hypocrites and goddamn fools on the planet. But it might be in bad taste to say so.

Speaking of Crank Call