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Star Wars?

Crank Call


Published February 25, 2004 at 5:00 p.m.

How sad to think that the universe has only 30 billion years to go before it loses its battle with some "mysterious, repulsive force" and either "expands so incredibly that it ends in a Big Rip" or, conversely, changes course and smashes us to a pulp, in a final, cataclysmic "Big Crunch."

Scientists are calling this force "dark energy," with a nod to Einstein, but they have no idea what's causing it. "Galaxies are receding from each other at an ever-faster pace," is the most they can say. "Gravity is losing," news that's bound to upset the God Bless America, One Man-One Woman, Four Cars in Every Driveway crowd.

"About 70 percent of the universe is made up of dark energy," explains Dr. Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, "while most of the rest is another mysterious thing called dark matter, and only a small fraction is real matter like stars, planets and living entities" -- such as animals, vegetables and the Christian right.

According to Dr. Riess, the universe is already 13.7 billion years old -- he said it, I didn't -- and it isn't clear if Jesus will return in time to stop those nasty, "activist" judges from forcing Americans into homosexual marriage and taking away their guns.

For the record, I note on the obituaries page of the local daily that a lot of people, rather than simply dying, are "going to be with the Lord." May I suggest that they take Him a message? Unborn babies and queers cutting wedding cake aren't the only things God's Little Toddlers have to worry about. A secret report, prepared for the Pentagon and leaked last week to the London Observer, affirms, "Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters." Major cities will be "sunk beneath the seas," while "mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world."

I know this is what Christians desire in their hearts, but please -- "So dramatic are the report's scenarios," the Observer maintains, "that they may prove vital in the U.S. elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem," while the Bush administration, with its head in the sand, "is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies."

That'll get the leftists out to vote, I predict! Howard Dean was the first -- and last -- to ask, "Why shouldn't companies be accountable to investors and the public on important matters like environmental standards and labor relations? Knowledge is power."

You have to read the newspapers, of course, to know these things. That's all I've been doing since Dean got the axe. I won't watch television, the weapon that killed him, or hear the excuses of the Democratic Party, which ordered the hit. I only hope that Howard, in the vulgar parlance, is a big boy and can take it -- though I'm sure that no one who hasn't experienced it firsthand is ever prepared for the malicious idiocy of the American media in full-frontal assault.

Please, don't bother to object. "In forty years of observing presidential contests," writes William Greider in The Nation, "I cannot remember another major candidate brutalized so intensely by the media, with the possible exception of George Wallace."

May Dean take some comfort from the words of Woodrow Wilson, another "failed" idealist of American politics: "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Or these, from Dorothy Thompson, a Vermonter and my favorite dead pundit (as, right now, I wish all of them were): "A head that stands above the mass must expect to be removed."

Alas, words can't cut it at a time like this, when the lies are flying so thick and free you don't even notice that the pilots are AWOL -- somewhere in Alabama, no doubt. Poetry is what the doctor ordered, oratory, verse:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold …

That's Yeats, should you care, and there's more -- it gets worse:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and


The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all convictions, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity ...

Get this for hard-hitting news, in The New York Times, February 21 -- "Mr. Likable vs. Mr. Electable." I kid you not:

"‘Voters find Kerry aloof and distant,' said Frank Luntz, a pollster who has conducted focus groups for MSNBC ... ‘They find Edwards smooth and enticing. Women really find him sexy.'"

Dean, by contrast, lacks "a pleasant disposition" and "consistently showed anger by pressing his lips together or tensely holding his mouth slightly open." Says another expert, huckster, pollster, whatever: "Last fall, Kerry was showing definite signs of contempt and disgust by raising his upper lip. He's trying to be more likable by smiling more, but rarely can he get past the social smile to the genuine smile. Edwards gets there much more often. He conveys the most optimism, and lately he's been adding gravitas by knitting his eyebrows to show that he feels the pain of the other America."

"Gravitas," do recall, is what Dick Cheney brought to the Bush campaign in the blessed year 2000. "Mr. Edwards learned his speaking technique from looking into the eyes of jurors," the Times suspects, a trick he must have seen on TV. Most important, "He has mastered the fundamental rule of motivational speaking, which is to tell the audience that I'm one of you [and] we can all dream together."

Brother, can we! We can and we are ... we are ... we are.

Speaking of Crank Call