April 2003 Archives

You can call me Jay

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It seems like everyone is talking about Jay Garner, the man hand-picked by the Pentagon to become the new viceroy of our recently-conquered colony in Iraq. Most of the talk has focused on the fact that it might be inappropriate to appoint a weapons manufacturer as the peactime leader of a country that was just firebombed by the very missile systems his company produces. There are also certain points to be made about how Garner has received more than $100 million in government contracts because of his friendship with Donald Rumsfeld, about how he was involved in the Reagan-era Star Wars missile defense boondoogle, and about how he lied to Congress regarding the effectiveness of the Patriot missile system that he helped develop during the first Gulf War.

We should know as much as possible about this complex and important man who's about to move into Saddam Hussein's former palace. But we should know one fact over all others. I think Jay Garner is perfect for the job of imperial consul to the Iraqi terrorities. After all, he is one of our finest actors.

Who among us, especially if you grew up in the 1970s, didn't enjoy watching Jay Garner every week in The Rockford Files? In an age of malaise, Jim Rockford, the put-upon private eye who Jay Garner utterly inhabited, was an American everyman with a nose for trouble. I don't remember if he lived on a houseboat or not, but I think he got beaten up on a houseboat once, and I'm also pretty sure that he dispatched ethnic foes with some regularity. The combination of world-weary cynicism, an eye for the ladies, and the ability to punch out brown-skinned thugs is the perfect recipe for running Iraq.

Jay Garner has had a long career. He played Jimmy Buffett, billionaire investor, in the HBO movie Barbarians At The Temple, and he was hilarious in Space Cowboys with Clint Eastwood, a movie that made me proud to be an American, or, in my case, half-American. When I hear people on the left whine about Garner's "conflicts of interest," I think, who would you have wanted to get the job? Ed Asner? Alan Alda? Hal Linden? OK. Maybe Gabe Kaplan would have been amusing, I'll admit. But no one represents our interests and great, forgiving Christian spirit better than Jay Garner. He's the man for the job.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! My name is Neal Pollack, and I am the greatest living American writer. It's been a true pleasure keeping you amused and informed during this very difficult month in the history of the world. Now I must take a short break to work on an important screenplay about country music. For the next week, this space will be ably filled by the ample Susannah Breslin, known to you as The Reverse Cowgirl. Susannah has promised more politics, less midget porn.

Meanwhile, enjoy yet another interview with me. This one is extremely apolitical. In fact, it seems to mostly be concerned with basketball. Well, this weekend, my beloved Phoenix Suns travel to San Antonio once again. Only this time, it's the playoffs. The odds are always long for a Number 8 seed, but I nonetheless throw the full weight of my fandom behind the orange, purple and white. Go Suns! Make me proud!

See you all in ten days.

Peace,

Neal

Yesterday morning, as I was sitting at my desk putting the final strokes on a masterful article for Slate titled "Who Cares About Looting?, I received a wonderful surprise. My lovely Iraqi war bride, Fatwa, pulled herself over the balcony and drifted across the room in her muslin nightdress. She sat on my lap.

"I drugged my mother and escaped, my darling," she said. "So I could be with you."

"Rock!" I said.

"There is much for us to talk about."

"Sure," I said, as my erection ballooned.

"In particular, I wish to talk about a comment that Education Secretary Rod Paige made last week."

My erection deflated.

She continued:

"If you recall, he said that public schools need to teach the values of the 'Christian community.'"

"I vaguely recall that story," I said, "But I kind of ignored it. Say. I didn't know you could read!"

Fatwa sighed.

"In Iraq, I was a doctorate student in medieval Arabic poetry. Alas. All my research materials were set aflame earlier this week."

"I had no idea!"

"That's because the only words you ever said to me before today were 'hey baby, come over here an sit on the love monkey.'"

"And you did!"

"Yes. I am sexually gratified by you, as all women are. But I also love your mind."

"Aw, baby," I said. "I love your mind, too!"

"So we must discuss this issue."

"Only if we agree first that the Syrian government is harboring key Iraqi leaders, has weapons of mass destruction, and was integral in planning 9-11."

"No," she said. "Now be quiet and listen to me. This Mr. Paige says that American schools should teach Christian values, right?"

"Certainly," I said.

"What is the primary value espoused by Jesus?"

"Blind vengeance against unknown enemies?"

"Humility," she said. "And it strikes me that America's leadership, which strikes a very Christian posture under George W. Bush, hasn't behaved in a very humble manner over the last year. In fact, the President's myopic advancement of his questionable doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes seems the diametrical opposite of humility."

"Um," I said.

My annoying war bride got up from my lap. She began pacing the room like an out-of-work graduate student seeking an audience.

"What's another important Christian value?" she asked.

"Jingoism?"

"Charity," she said.

"Right," I said, "and we gave the Iraqis their freedom, which was the most charitable act of all time."

"But with true charity, you ask for nothing in return. Can you honestly say the U.S. invaded Iraq with purely altruistic motives?"

"Sure, I can," I said. "I say it every day on my widely-read weblog."

She stopped. It looked like I'd won a point. She wound up for the rubber game.

"Another Christian value is compassion," she said, "and it strikes me that there's nothing compassionate about sucking dry the national treasury to pay for ill-advised foreign adventuring, all the while clear-cutting health care for the elderly, school lunch programs for poor kids, and veterans' benefits. It seems to me that any Christian education worth its collection plate would teach kids to think about how nearly everything put forth by the Bush Administration runs counter to the true teachings of Christianity. I'm frightened that the government is funding construction of religious schools to teach a skewed version of what it considers Christian values. They could literally brainwash a generation of unsuspecting students, many of whom aren't even Christian. Don't you find it disturbing that the leading secular education official in the country is talking like a fundamentalist mullah?"

"You're getting hysterical, dear," I said. "Now why not come over here and sit on the love monkey like a good little girl?"

But later, as I lay awake on my four-poster bed, staring into the skylight, I began to think about what Fatwa had said. What if George W. Bush is deeply misinformed about the true meaning of Christianity? What if he has been, willingly or unwillingly, using a perverse form of religious bullying to pass some very scary laws? Could this country's government really be veering toward becoming a fundamentalist Christian quasi-dictatorship?

Nah, I thought, and I slept like an angel.

Mandatory tax commentary

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Like many of you, I find myself on tenuous financial footing after yesterday's tax bloodbath. You may be surprised to discover that freelance writing isn't the most lucrative career in the world, even at my exalted level. At times like yesterday, I'm glad that I get residual monies every time the name Pinkerton is used in public, and double when it's used on The History Channel. Thank goodness I'm from a long line of strikebreakers.

Before the war to liberate the Holy Land began, this site was often a hot plate of spirited tax debate. I still hold fast to my thesis, originally rejected by The New Republic, that tax money shouldn't be wasted on subsidies to family farmers, on health-care for the elderly, on public education, or on highway repair outside of the Beltway. Yet I still against my will see my hard-earned money going toward the construction of swimming pools that I'll never use and the two-cigarrette-pack-a-day habits of certain lingering denizens of our secret welfare state.

That said, I'm glad to pay my taxes every year, and I wish President Bush would back off on his tax-cut crusade. Because if $550 billion comes out of the tax rolls, who in the world is going to bail out the airlines?

I believe it's the duty of every citizen to give as much money as possible to badly-run businesses with terrible histories of customer service. After all, isn't it the stated mission of the Republican Party to use the state to prop up failed companies? If I could check a box in my tax form indicating that all my money should go to, say, Northwest Airlines, then I would. Airlines are that great. No other airline should go under, ever, because transportation dinosaurs operating under de facto government subsidies are healthy for everyone. I fear that if taxes continue to get sliced, we may lose more than one airline brand name defined by incomptence and lax safety checks. If that happens, I'm not sure that I want to live in the United States anymore. I may be forced to move to Malta full-time. It's better for Roger's allergies anyway.

As you can tell from today's entry, the end of the war has left me pretty much out of ideas. I'll crawl through the next couple of days, but I need a week to recharge. From April 21-25, this space will be ably filled by Susannah Breslin, known to saavy Internet readers as The Reverse Cowgirl. As you can see by clicking on the previous link, the site is going to be a little different for a few days, though I've urged Susannah to lay off the posts about midget porn. She offered a preview in an email to me:

"I guess I was vaguely thinking that i would sort of mimic what the love child of your blog and my blog would sound like. Pompous lit porn crap about world events."

Beagles. Buy an extra box of tissues today. You're going to need them.

You can't be Syria

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The title of today's entry has little to do with its actual content, but I think you'll all agree that it's a most clever pun. By June 1, we'll all have read approximately one million words about Syria. Our minds will be racing with Syria-related thoughts and opinions. To help us process the muddle, I announce another one of my famous contests. Please send in your Syria puns. I will, in my methodically consistent way, post them on my letters page.

Now, a brief word about Syria. I deliver it in the unique vernacular style of George W. Bush:

Fuck Syria. We're taking 'em out.

From the war to come, we turn our attention back to the war that just was. Last Friday, much to my delight, I began receiving emails again from Raul, the last Iraqi teenager with access to the Internet. When we left our hero, he had turned against the United States and become a Fedayeen Saddam. It looks like he's changed his mind again, and I welcome him back. His transmissions began anew last Wednesday, the Day The Earth Stood Still.

5 PM

My friend Neal:

I hope you forgive the personal jihad I declared against you and your country. It was conceived in a fit of anger because an errant bomb had killed my entire family. But a few days heal all wounds. Plus, the U.S. plowed into town very fast, and, you know, Saddam is a dick. As Bright Eyes, led by the soulful Conor Oberst, sings, why die for a dick/ when you can get your love for free?

By now, I'm sure you've seen the amazing images of me getting pulled down the street in Baghdad. It sure was fun riding Saddam's iron head around the block! Liberation is amazing, like a free carnival. Later, I went to visit my girlfriend, who's working as a volunteer nurse at a hospital. She looked pretty tired. "What are you doing?" I asked her. She said she was burning important scholarly papers so she could make fire to boil water which would then be safe for amputees to drink.

"I rode Saddam's iron head down the street," I said.

She threw her arms around me.

"The amputees can wait," she said. "Let's have sex!"

Friday, 9 AM

I was interviewed by CNN today, which completely sucked. The reporter asked all kinds of dumb questions.

"What do you think about the daring rescue of Private Jessica Lynch?" she said.

"Like, I haven't been following that story, " I said, "because I've been exhuming Saddam Hussein's Secret Graveyard of Dissident Bones."

"We're not allowed to talk about that particular subject on air," she said, "because it would reveal our complicity in Saddam's crimes over the last 12 years. At the very least, it would reflect an extreme moral weakness and a frightening willingness to sacrifice the truth for the sake of ratings."

"That's so gay!" I said.

The reporter was totally embarrassed. She said, "Whoops! My mistake. What I meant to ask was, 'what do you think of the daring rescue of the seven brave men and women from the 543rd Ordnance Division who are returning home to their praying families?'"

I said, "Whatever. That story kind of passed me by because I attended a boring meeting of Hussein Killed My Relative For Speaking Out Against The Government Anonymous."

"Sorry," she said. "We have to cut this short because Donald Rumsfeld is about to spend an hour telling the world entertaining lies."

Saturday, 3 PM

Today, along with my surviving friends, I stormed the Museum Of Antiquities and scored myself a tapestry and also the oldest set of eating utensils known to mankind. I took the stuff down to the Black Market and I traded the utensils to a Marine for the X-Box version of NBA 2K3. My girlfriend came over to where my home had once stood and sucked me off among the ruins.

Monday, 9 AM

Man. Life is so fucking boring under U.S. occupation. I'm sick of it already. There's nothing to do at all, and the Marines totally don't understand what I'm about. Fuck them. I don't want to live under their authority. As Good Charlotte sings, Lifestyles Of the Rich And Famous/something/something/something. Last night, we burned down the national library, which was kind of cool, but also kind of lame. I mean, who cares if the entire historical record of the cradle of civilization goes up in smoke because an occupying army neglected to post a couple of guards? It's not like I want to read anyway. My dead parents don't understand me, you don't understand me. Nobody understands me, except for Bright Eyes and my girlfriend. It sucks to be a teenager in liberated Iraq.

Out in left field

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I applaud Dale Petroskey, President of the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame, for not giving into pressure from certain Fellow Traveller sportswriters. He's bravely stuck to his bats by refusing to allow Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon to appear at the Hall. Those two "married" people, the kinds of leftists who still believe that the Rosenbergs were executed unjustly, should be put in prison for the crime of releasing The Cradle Will Rock, an unreconstructed piece of lefist agitprop.

That said, Petroskey's sense of history is a little off. When he said, "Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have every right to express their opinions. But The Baseball Hall of Fame is not the proper venue for highly charged political expressions, whatever they may be," he ignored the Hall's ignoble history of inappropriate left-wing induction-ceremony speeches. At long last, he's put a stop to the torrent of drivel. But lest we forget history, I now provide a summary of Cooperstown's most politically-charged moments.

1936

Ty Cobb: "How much longer can the workingmen of this country suffer under the yoke of capitalist oppression? I urge all of you to throw off the chains of industry and take to the streets for the final overthrow of the system. Unite, my brothers! Long live the revolution!

1939

Lou Gehrig: "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. But across Europe, the dark shadow of fascism looms. And America's industrial leaders are funding the Nazi Party through a shadowy system of dummy corporations and money-laundering! Until the United States declares war on Nazi Germany, I decline my membership in this august hall."

1951

Jimmie Foxx: "Though I am heartened by the integration of the American Negro into our great game, we should not rest until the Negro is considered a full citizen under the law in America. You should all be ashamed of yourselves, you fat crackers! What have you done for the civil-rights struggle?"

1955

Joe DiMaggio: "I am ashamed at the way women are treated in contemporary America. They are capable of everything that men are, and more. That's why I love nailing Marilyn Monroe. Because I believe in her."

1962

Jackie Robinson: "In solidarity with my oppressed Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world, today I am officially changing my name to Rashim El-Alaam."

1969

Roy Campanella: "Fuck the pigs! Free the American Indian! U.S. out of Vietnam! Impeach Nixon! Equal rights for the disabled!"

1974

Mickey Mantle: "Mother Earth is our friend. We must treat her with care, for the environment is precious. What kind of a world do we want to leave for our children? I'm throwing off my worldly possessions and moving to a commune in Sonoma Valley."

1985

Lou Brock: "I urge all corporations to divest from South Africa immediately, especially the beer companies, or risk losing my endorsement, and also possibly Steve Garvey's."

1987

Catfish Hunter: "This award is for all my fellow transgendered. We're here. We're queer. Get used to it. So fuck you!"

1999

George Brett: "Globalization equals extermination! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! To quote Reggie Jackson, The People. United. Will Never Be Defeated."

In other news, last week Joseph Biden, senior Senator from the corporate tax-shelter state, managed to sneak the RAVE Act into a seemingly innocent bill designed to prevent child abductions. As I discussed here last week, the RAVE act makes it a crime to have people use drugs on your property, whether it be a business or private home.

Well, I say, up yours, Joe Biden! Party at my house! I'll grill the bratwurst, and you all bring the super skunk. People. I will take the fall for you. But if you don't want to come over, fine. We'll have fun anyway. You can also go here to take less overtly rebellious action.

I leave you now with the Beastie Boys, who, before they were writing didactic antiwar ditties, sung with force about what really matters:

You wake up late for school, man, you don't wanna go

You ask you mom, "Please?" but she still says, "No!"

You missed two classes and no homework

But your teacher preaches class like you're

some kind of jerk

You gotta fight for your right to party!


Your pop caught you smoking and he said, "No way!"

That hypocrite smokes two packs a day

Man, living at home is such a drag

Now your mom threw away your best porno mag

(Bust it!)

You gotta fight for your right to party!


Don't step out of this house if that's the clothes

you're gonna wear

I'll kick you out of my home if you don't

cut that hair

Your mom busted in and said, "What's that noise?"

Aw, mom you're just jealous it's the Beastie Boys!


You gotta fight for your right to party!

You gotta fight for your right to party!

Cha Cha Chalabi

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Perhaps the most unfortunate unintended consequence of the war now wrapping up is that increasingly often, I find myself watching the news with my hirsute Iraqi mother-in-law. Fatwa, my war bride, has been locked away in the north tower since just after her arrival. My mother-in-law dropped the key into her brazziere. No way am I going fishing among those sweaty mounds.

"It is custom in our country," she said to me the other night, "to sequester the bride for at least two months after her wedding day."

"Bullshit," I said.

I turned on the BBC, which, despite its pro-Soviet bias, has pretty funny commericals. A journalist with an agenda was interviewing Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's Number One choice to become Iraq's first President.

"He seems like a very nice guy with no ulterior motives related to his shady business connections," I said. "Anyone who has Richard Perle's unwavering support is OK with me."

My mother-in-law was crying.

"What the hell?" I said.

"That is Ahmad," she said.

"Yes? So?"

"Many years ago, he was my deflowerer."

I gagged. Behind me, Roger dropped a silver tray.

"WHAT?" I said.

"Do you think I was always the mustachioed harpy that I am today? No. Once I was considered the most beautiful woman in all of Iraq. Thousands of men clamored for my hand."

Roger dropped another tray. She narrated.

"But my heart belonged to Ahmad Chalabi. During the day, he would organize opposition groups of children in our neighborhood. At dusk, he'd take me to the Ba'ath Soda Shop, gaze into my eyes, and tell me that he dreamed of someday attending the Massachussets Institute Of Technology. I did not know what Massachussets was, or Technology, but I knew that I loved him more than all the water in the Tigris.

One night, Ahmad came to my bedroom window to tell me that he was leaving. 'Why, my love?' I said. 'Because I am the opposition,' he said, 'and the opposition must go into exile and engage in suspicious business dealings so as to generate headlines among the usual crowd of doubters when the time comes for him to lead.'"

Her weeping, brought on by fickle memory, continued unabated. Roger brought her cucumber sandwiches and tea. She continued:

"We held each other through the night, and all into the next day. I kept my family out of my room by telling them I had my period. That usually shut them up. 'Ahmad,' I said. 'How will you pay for your exile?' He said not to worry, because he'd tricked the national bank out of more than 200 million dinars. 'I'm going to America, where I will study,' he said. I begged him not to hook up with any American women. 'Don't worry,' he said. 'I'm going to MIT and the University of Chicago, and I'm going to major in mathematics. Sex will not be a factor.'

Then, with a wave of his hand and a promise that he'd send me a postcard from Jordan, he was gone. Ahmad Chalabi. My one true love."

It was a deeply moving story. I'm slowly learning that Iraqis are creatures of history. As for my personal situation, I saw an opening, and dove through.

"Well," I said. "Now that Ahmad's back in Iraq, don't you think you owe it to yourself to go see him?"

I nudged her.

"Maybe you could rekindle your love."

She laughed.

"You must be joking! That country is a stinking mess! I'd rather do anything, even live here with you, than go home to a ruin. Even if dreamy Jake Gyllenhall were named President of Iraq tomorrow, I wouldn't return."

I asked: "Can I please visit your daughter tonight by the light of the half moon?"

My mother-in-law contemplated the key nestled between her breasts.

"No," she said.

With Iraq free from oppression for the first time in more than 20 years, with the television finally full of images of hope after six months of government fearmongering, with the extraordinary possibility of building a peaceful world order in front of us despite months of hideously botched diplomacy, my first natural instinct as a writer is to attack my imagined ideological enemies. I could hatchet them subtly, in a witty, carefully-composed essay. There's also the option of lashing at them through my chosen medium of the shrill, exaggerated blogpost smear job. Or, I could just enjoy the moment and not really care that people disagreed with me during one of the most contentious periods in recent human history. I think the latter will be my choice, because I'm not a man to hold grudges against the invisible.

So. Many of you are probably wondering, with Baghdad now in American hands, what's happened to Iraq's colorful spokesman and spicy-hot media darling Mohammed Said Sahhaf. Fortunately, I know. Yesterday morning, as soon as the statue fell, I said, "well, that show's over," and immediately started watching sports.

As always, I tuned to The Best Damn Sports Show Period, the hilarious daily talkfest hosted by Tom Arnold. Guess who stopped by? That's right. Sahhaf! Apparently, he's quite a sports expert.

I taped the show, and in case you were watching the fall of Baghdad instead, I'll print some of his choice comments here. The subject yesterday was 2003 Baseball Preview:

"The Detroit Tigers will vanquish all their foes, mightily swooping their bats into the hearts of their enemies! Even as I speak, they are demolishing the New York Yankee oppressors with their superior firepower and top-notch bullpen! The Yankees are fleeing in terror!"

"One cannot overestimate the immense power that the mighty Colorado Rockies hold over the fearful cowards from San Francisco! The Rockies are great mountains that will turn the Giants into puny little midget dogs! The Colorado pitching staff has not given up a run all year, especially at home, and will most definitely set a major-league record for lowest team Earned Run Average despite the imperialist squealings emanating from throughout the National League West!"

"The Texas Rangers, a team once owned by George W. Bush, have no chance of posing a serious threat to their opponents because they overspent on A-Rod! Whenever a team puts all its hopes into one player, it inevitably fails."

Actually, that last comment was made by Harold Reynolds on Baseball Tonight. But here are a couple more choice picks from Sahhaf.

"It is my contention that the Milwaukee Brewers will win this year's World Series! Reports that they have lost their first seven games are entirely untrue! They will not lose more than 25 games all year, and will triumph in the National League Championship series over the powerful Mets, led by the perfect-fielding Mo Vaughan. Then, they will vanquish the mighty Tigers in the fall classic!"

"Pittsburgh Pirates shortshop Jack Wilson, who swings the most potent bat in baseball, will hit a major-league record 85 home runs!"

"Pay no mind to their 7-1 start despite the injury to Derek Jeter! We will defeat the Yankees!"

Mohammed Said Sahhaf. Is the man ever wrong?

One brief housekeeping note. The Cooper Vane, a two-man band from New York City, has recorded a song based on my essay Why Am I So Handsome?, which appears in my book The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature. If you've ever wanted to hear a song that rhymes "handsome" with "Ted Danson," then click here. Enjoy.

I hope this morning's scenes from Baghdad have sent the antiwar crowd scurrying into its collective hole to look for more evidence of the "evils" of U.S. imperialism. My first thought as the crane ripped down the false idol, revealing a flimsy two-barrelled copper penis as the core of Saddam's dessicated regime, was that all antiwar people should be herded into re-education camps unless they issue a statement recanting their sympathies. But that probably won't happen, to my regret, because this administration doesn't need to use strong-arm tactics to get the job done.

We are the champions, my friends. Can someone tell me how I can nail down the cigarrette concession at the university? On to Damascus!

Never more rave on

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By now, my reputation as a degenerate retrograde has been more or less permanently sealed in the minds of the types of people who keep track of such matters. I've ingested enough Scotch to hornswoggle a mess of moose, and my glandular systems have been warped by a Skittles rainbow of party pills. Every day, I find a new prescription bottle in some undusted corner of my mansion. One from 1971 appeared a few nights ago. Naturally, I popped a few reds, washing them down with the Veuve Cliqout that I use as a digestive aid when Roger serves me sweetbreads. Within minutes, I was slithering along the floor like a garter snake, my body simultaneously wracked by a prickly sensation of burning from within and the feeling that I would soon convulse with God's most hellacious orgasm. Needless to say, I took some more pills. I found myself in the emergency room, somewhat gratefully, before Aaron Brown came on.

It was a dreadful, wonderful night. I won't do it again soon, unless I find another bottle. But regardless, I take full responsibility for my behavior. My mad flame-out was mine alone.

Our busybody government seems to believe otherwise. The infamous Rave Act has returned, this time by the hand of Senator Joseph Biden, the Party Butcher Of Delaware. I guess with a war raging and the economy collapsing, high-ranking Democrats don't have any actual work to do. That said, certain aspects of this bill don't bother me much. I've visited several crack houses in my time, and they all pretty much resemble those described in the novels of Donald Goines. They're not pleasant, and more than vaguely dehumanizing. Good crack, though.

But from there, the bill declines. As I wrote in my groundbreaking collection of widely-reviewed essays, Give Me Libertine Or Give Me Death, "the man who seeks to prevent property owners from leasing or renting their space to medical marijuana festivals is the man who strikes at the very heart of the American dream. Nightclub owners are the backbone of our society, and they should never be punished."

In the early 1990s, along with my silent partner Suge Knight (not the famous one), I owned and operated a hotel and restaurant that also hosted all-night dance parties. The first time someone OD'ed at my club, I buried her out back. But after that, I learned to call the cops, slip them a couple of Franklins, and go on vacation for a week or so until the heat died down. I didn't need some paternalistic law to teach me the difference between right and wrong.

I like drugs, and I think they should be legal. At the very, very, very least, one shouldn't be prosecuted just for having drugs on the premises of one's business. If that had been the case all along, I'd have been an eight-time loser every year since 1987, except for 1989, when I was in jail for something else. So for once, my Beagles, I urge you to oppose your government and take action. Raves are an important part of our society. Why, without raves, we wouldn't have the music of Paul Oakenfold or Moby, we wouldn't have adults wearing Cat In The Hat costumes, and the world would be short a few hundred thousand glowsticks.

All right, so maybe we should ban raves. But purely for aesthetic reasons. The Rave Act is still a bad idea.

Now you must excuse me. I'm going to drive down to Delaware, where I assume Senator Biden still keeps an office. There I will snort a delicious line of cocaine. It's Biden's property. Therefore, my drug use is technically his fault.

Prisoner Number 34093. Senator Joseph Biden. Convicted April 10, 2003, letting some guy snort coke in his office. Sentence, 50 years. Up for parole...in 30.

Who's your Baghdaddy?

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Three weeks ago, in this space, I wrote, "Within 20 days, U.S. soldiers will be pissing in Saddam's bidet, and the war will be over. Also, the Giants will start the season 6-0, confirming that they do, indeed, have what it takes to repeat as National League Champions." Well, looks like Captain Fancy is two-for-two. This morning, I sat in my study gloating at the simultaneous miseries of the anti-war movement and Dodger fans. My God, it feels smashing to have once again aligned myself on the right side of history!

Roger stumbled in, looking a fright.

"What happened to you?" I said.

"My Christian Peace Ministry affinity group was praying on the Old North Bridge," he said. "A pickup truck bearing the logo of the local AM talk station plowed into us."

"Hmm."

"Then the police came and shot us with rubber bullets."

"Serves you right for protesting a just war," I said.

He sighed.

I continued: "Maybe now you won't be so quick to criticize your government."

"Perhaps," he said. "By the way, your bride has arrived."

Here, I must catch you up to date. A few weeks ago, I announced that America was going to choose a bride for me so I could take advantage of federal monies to promote marriage. Then the 21-Day Up Yours Salute began. Roger and I both thought it would be inappropriate to engage in a public display of mating while thousands of Iraqis were dying so they could be freed.

I was sad. It had been a while since I'd had sex that didn't involve a rubber sheet and the exchange of at least $100. Fortunately, the Pentagon provided the perfect solution.

The Iraqi War Bride Program is ideal for someone like me, a man of infinite intellectual integrity on the the winning team who really believes in freedom. Also, let's face it. Baghdad and Basra aren't exactly teeming with eligible bachelors right now. So Roger and I sent in an application. As a founding member of both the PNAC and PNAC II: The Quickening, secret organizations whose goal is world domination by the wise men of the West, I was first on the list.

A trembling young thing with perfect olive skin stood in my doorway.

"Well," I said. "Aren't you fetching?"

She wept quietly.

"Fatwa," Roger said, "Please greet your husband as you were instructed."

My Iraqi war bride! Adoptive mother of my clone baby, Peggy, my dog, Hercules, and my beloved cat Mr. Hitchens! Oh, sweet Fatwa! She genuflected before me.

"Master," she said, in heavily-accented English. "I am the spoils of war!"

She stood, walked toward me, and sat on my lap. Within seconds, she was weeping again. Women.

"What's the matter, bubbeleh?" I said.

"The war has left my family dead," she said.

Great, I thought. The Pentagon sent me damaged goods. I ran my hand up her leg, trying to spice her up for later.

"Except for my mother," she said.

"Your mother?"

In the doorway stood a battle-ax with a mustache as thick as Saddam's. She was carrying several suitcases, as though she intended to stay awhile. I gasped.

"What?" said my new Iraqi mother-in-law. "You think you can install a temporary military government in my country without any consequences?"

"Well, yes," I said.

"You're wrong," she said. "Also, the dining room is drafty."

"Roger!" I shouted. "Rogerrrrrrrrrrrr!"

I'll put this scene of wacky domestic comedy on hold for today. Now, I must announce to my Bay Area readers that I'm daring to descend onto the People's Republic Of Berkeley on April 24, for a reading at Pegasus Books. Details on my tour page. For those of you who've been desperate to know how my events in Georgia went, well, wait no more. Ben Brown, my Number One Lickspittle, has written up the near-disastrous Athens event in excruciating detail. Pictures of the remarkable happening in Atlanta can be found here.

Michael Kelly, R.I.P.

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On Friday, journalism lost one of its most noble soldiers when Michael Kelly was killed in a Humvee accident in Iraq. I have little to say about Kelly's heroic life that hasn't already been covered by Peggy Noonan, Andrew Sullivan, Maureen Dowd, this guy from The National Review, and several writers for The New Republic. But I'm always willing to produce hagiography about a complicated man if I think it might further my career or advance my political agenda. So here goes:

A great dark cloud has obscured the sun. Torrents of rain fall around the battlements of my heart. Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage. For a great American media figure has died, and our hearts, our souls, our memories are forever shattered, like glass. In times of war, individual tragedy has a way of making the grand things small, and the very grand things even smaller. Why, Lord, why? Why?

In 1997, when Michael Kelly was the editor of The New Republic, I gave him a call. Joyce, the magazine's receptionist, answered.

"Hey, Joyce," I said. "It's Neal Pollack!"

"Who?" she said.

"Don't you remember me? I worked there as a reporter-researcher for about 10 weeks in 1991!"

"No," she said.

"Anyway, is Mike in? I've got a story idea!"

"He's meeting with Tom DeLay right now. Can I take a message?"

I inisisted that she patch me through. A few seconds later, Kelly was on the line. Through the pay phone at the YMCA where I was staying until my luck improved, I could hear the generosity in his voice.

"I have a story idea," I said.

"I don't know who you are," he said. "But go ahead anyway."

"Um," I said. "You should send me to Guatemala. There's some interesting stuff going on down there."

"I know. I'm fascinated by the peace accord that they signed last year."

"Wait," I said. "There was a peace accord?"

Shame filled my marrow as I slammed the receiver into the wall. That night, in my room, I cried and cursed the parents who'd raised such an idiot. Three months later, I got up the courage to call him again.

"Sorry we got disconnected last time," he said. "How've you been?"

"Eh," I said. "I've felt better."

"So what can I do for you?"

"I want to write a piece about how Bill Clinton is an asshole."

"I wrote three brilliantly-reported columns on that very theme last month," he said.

"Well, he is," I said.

"Agreed. Any other ideas?"

"No!" I shouted. "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

I hung up the phone again, went to my room, opened the window, climbed onto the ledge, and fell nearly two stories. It was muddy outside and I got dirty. Why wouldn't Michael Kelly run my stuff?

The last time I talked to him was in October 2001. I called him at The Atlantic.

"Hey!" I said. "Why not send me down to Ground Zero? I bet it would be really interesting to have a three-part story about the reclamation efforts!"

"Someone's already on that," he said. "Sorry."

"But I'm a spoken-word artist who supports George W. Bush!"

"Really," he said. "I'm very sorry."

I began sobbing without control or shame.

"Why does everybody hate me?" I said.

"I don't hate you," he said. "In fact, I'd like to invite you over for dinner on Friday night. I'm a wonderful cook, and a wonderful dancer, too."

"But I'm not good enough to dine with the likes of you!"

"Sure you are," he said. "I'll let you sit on the chaise lounge that Maureen Dowd bought me for my wedding..."

In the end, despite his warm heart and giving spirit, I turned Michael Kelly down. How stupid of me! I'm such a loser, loser, loser! God, I hate myself!

Part of me will always miss him.

The Pearl of Kuwait

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Despite my best efforts to resist the facile temptations of war punditry, I have become a war pundit. An alterna-pundit, to be sure, but a pundit nonetheless. For the latest example of the art of hipster punditry, which I am currently trying to perfect, please read this piece in the current Stranger, Seattle's only newspaper that dares to publish me.

And now, a treat. Actual fiction! By an actual fiction writer! Nealpollack.com is proud to present an exclusive excerpt of the Gulf War novel The Pearl Of Kuwait, by Tom Paine. The excerpt starts now. Enjoy.

Anyway, one evening we three were sitting around shooting the shit, and suddenly we three see the lights of some vehicle in the distance barreling toward our camp. Krebes had just completed writing KNIGHTS WITHOUT A FIGHT in the sand with his M16 when we saw this vehicle. Me and Trang and Krebes look at the words and give each other a nod like there it is, and then raise our eyes to the oncoming vehicle. It was a limousine. It slowly slid to a halt before us three, and the tinted passenger window slides down, and this voice from within says, “Private Carmichael.” I kind of recognized the Arab voice, and then I see the face with these dead black eyes in the window, and it is old Colonel Fawwaz!
Colonel Fawwaz was kind of rude to Trang, he just kind of nodded to him. Then he turned his big face to me and said, “Care to go for a pleasure ride?” And I’m like no thanks, on account of his rudeness to Trang and to Krebes too, who was sitting there and who the colonel ignored also. But Trang like says, “Go with him man,” and as Colonel Fawwaz’s face slips back in the limousine to answer some question from his driver, Trang whispers to me in a stoked way, “You go with him, and find out the status of Princess Lulu.” So I now have like this mission, and the limousine door is opened by the driver, and I’m like, “I can’t just go without asking Captain Pettigrew.” So Krebes is sent off on the double by the Saudi colonel to get Captain Pettigrew, and when he shows up Colonel Fawwaz goes off for a walk with him, and when they come back I am like cleared to hang with Colonel Fawwaz for as long as the big Saudi dude needs me for his special mission.
So then we are in the limousine, and the colonel calls me Cowboy, which he made up on the spot and said like we were old buddies. And he hands me a drink of Jack Daniels on ice, and puts some Donna Summer on the cassette player, and starts wagging his finger at me telling me I should of told him of my important father long ago. I take a sip of Jack, and like say, yessir, I should of told you. But I have no idea what the hell he is talking about. And he rattles on about how now he knows I am that son of that Carmichael from that certain city in Texas. And it is all wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and a good laugh was had by we two about my hiding that I was that Rich Son of Texas Oil!

I am like not as good as Trang about surfing a wave of shit, but for the good of the mission of finding out about Princess Lulu from the big drunk Saudi colonel I do what I can, and it was kind of easy, but still, at first I wasn’t all that comfortable with all the lying.
I guess because I wasn’t a good liar, our like conversation came to an end. He had been telling me about his time at Oxford, and had the idea somehow that his imaginary Cody Carmichael the rich Son of Oil from Texas had dropped out of Yale to join the marines, and that this imaginary Cody Carmichael had known the colonel’s brother Abdul at Yale, and that me and Abdul had hammered back the beers and chased American sluts together. His brother Abdul had told Colonel Fawwaz I was A-OK, and so Colonel Fawwaz had decided to let the past be past and take me away from the war for a few hours. This was all totally nuts, but I decided to go with it for the sake of, as I said, finding out more about Princess Lulu for my man Trang.
Plus, it was getting interesting. I was a couple of drinks into it now, and Colonel Fawwaz slapped me on the shoulder and told me we would have fun! I don’t know about his idea of fun, because the first stop wasn’t much fun! We pulled in front of this like huge old-looking concrete building, and from the animal-looking Arab guards at the door, I was wondering if I had been tricked and was being sent to a nasty prison or something on account of what happened in Kuwait. We walked past the guards and into a courtyard. I was almost running to keep up with the big Colonel Fawwaz. And then he braked his bulk in the middle of the courtyard and clapped his hands and yelled in Arabic. Strange, but right then I was thinking about the earth erupting with like fiery gas plumes. Maybe it was kind of the nasty vibe of the place was giving me a walking nightmare. Colonel Fawwaz squeezed me on the shoulder and said he had promised his brother from Yale to keep an eye on me while I was in the gulf.
And right then these huge metal doors opened, and in march guards in robes, and behind them come these like four black dudes. I mean they were not Arab, but black, like real African looking. And they looked bug-eyed scared, and I would have been too, as right behind them comes this huge mother of an Arab waving a big scimitar.

That’s what Colonel Fawwaz called it, a scimitar. The black dudes are like dropped to their knees, and then their heads are pushed down. And then I hear something overhead, and I look up and it is these gallery windows sliding open. And there are all these dozens of Saudis like gaping out through these windows. And when I looked down again at the black dudes, one of them like locked eyes on me, like as if to say, man, this is 1990, they don’t cut off heads in 1990!
I like take a deep breath, and was thinking what to do! when some official little midget dude starts reading this long riff, I guess on their crimes, from this scroll thing that looked real ancient. Then Colonel Fawwaz gets a sly look from the official dude, and the colonel nods, and the official dude nods, and like the dude with the scimitar pokes it into the first black guy’s back, and like just as his back snaps upwards in pain, whoosh, that scimitar had his head bouncing on the floor. The other black guys start like moving out on their knees like chickens running, but Mr. Scimitar went into swishing action, and Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! off go all the heads rolling around on the concrete floor.
And I shit you not, right then Colonel Fawwaz like looks at his watch and says: these official duties take so much time. And when we rush back in the limousine Colonel Fawwaz slugs back his whiskey and pours us both a couple, and then kind of snuggles his massive back into the seat with a cozy sigh. And all I can do is slug a straight drink back and say: What did they do? And the colonel is reading some papers and looks up as if surprised and says:

“They? They are rapists.”

“Who did they rape?”

“They have tried to rape some Saudi women.”

“They tried?”

“Luckily, they were caught.”

Colonel Fawwaz made it clear he wanted me to ask no more questions, and shoved some papers in my hands. He said it was a recent speech by President Mubarak of Egypt about the war and that he had tried to get our General Schwarzkopf interested in it, and had translated it personally from the Arabic at great pains, but that our general had shown no interest at all. From what I could gather this brush-off from General Schwarzkopf was really bugging Colonel Fawwaz, and he started hammering drinks and rattling on about Showing Respect for Arabia and Arabs! Which led him as we drove into some historical territory. It suddenly became real upsetting that I had never heard of these Saudi dudes of ancient times called the Ikhwan. They were like some seriously whacked-out but important religious dudes, as far as I could tell, because Colonel Fawwaz was cranked up I didn’t know about the Ikhwan. So I’m feeling short-tempered on account of seeing the decapitations, and am like, “Hey, Colonel Fawwaz, tell me about the Mormons. We’ve all got our religious nuts.” But Colonel Fawwaz didn’t get the point about the Mormons, except when I said the Mormons had the option of a lot of wives, which kind of calmed him down and turned him on as he was imagining like a harem of blond-haired blue-eyed American sluts. But once he lost his erection, he got back on the topic of the Ikhwan, who were these ancient camel-hoppers who would cover their face rather than be looked on by an infidel.

Colonel Fawwaz put down his drink and covered his fat face with his hands and turned to me and said through his fingers, “You, Cowboy, you are the infidel. You see?”

I wasn’t sure I liked being called an infidel. Say what you will about the Mormons, the few I’d met going door-to-door in California were always extremely friendly guys, and not one ever covered his face rather than look at me or insulted me and called me an asshole, which is what infidel sounded like the way Colonel Fawwaz said it. I was thinking on these things, and Colonel Fawwaz lowered his hands and slapped me on the knee and said, “Cowboy, why do I go on like this? I am certainly not Ikhwan!”

“That’s cool,” I said. “I’m not Mormon. Can we drop the God thing?”

“The God thing?” said Colonel Fawwaz.

“You know,” I said. “Let’s just chill on the God thing, cease and desist that conversation, if you see what I mean.”

And here Colonel Fawwaz sat up his bulk and slapping his chest with a thud yelled out, “Never! I am a slave of Allah the Most Merciful!”

I was thinking yeah, yeah. Allah the Most Merciful who slays some black dudes whish, whish without a trial. It just really was becoming clear we as Americans were in bed with some crazy Arab mothers just off their camels civilization-wise, and it was becoming harder to keep on a party face. I was wondering if deep down they were secretly all these Ikhwan dudes who hated us Americans on sight. But Trang had sent me on a mission to help scout out the Princess Lulu situation, so I bit my tongue about old Allah the Most Merciful for the moment.

On to Damascus!

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I've been so busy making fun of the Cheneys the last 25 hours that I haven't had time to comment on the escalating war of words between the United States and Syria. Rather than succumb to hysterical rhetoric like so many of my former colleagues on both the right and the left, I wish to subject the Syria situation to careful analysis. In his epoch-making book, "The Stud Of Sparta: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor," Heraclitus wrote, "When one is faced with an enemy on the battlefield, one must look beyond the borders of battle, even as the battle itself rages on. Also, it is perfectly acceptable to kill women and children if they attempt to run a military checkpoint, and if anyone questions your actions, they are being unfair and unpatriotic."

There you have it, out of the pages of the classics themselves. If you ever feel yourself going soft on this just war without end, if you ever find yourself concerned that an influential ministry is distributing pamphlets in Iraq asking soldiers to pray for the President, if you ever consider protesting President Bush's plan to eliminate overtime pay for hourly workers, stay strong. Somewhere in the library you can find a text or article or historical allusion that, if twisted properly, can justify your silence.

Therefore I say without any qualms that the United States, whether it's finished with Iraq or not, should march its troops right into Syria and burn the entire country to the ground. Don't you remember what the Syrians did to us in 1983? More than two hundred dead Marines, and they would have killed more if they'd killed more. Oh, sure, Quaddafi's been quiet for the last 15 years or so, but he's just biding his time, unwisely waiting until our resolve reaches zero. I believe the song goes, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Well, Tripoli is the capital of Syria, and soon it will fall. When the the Syrian people are finally liberated from their oppressive ruler, Mummar Quaddafi, when they finally taste freedom, then, and only then, unless we do it before then, will it be time to invade Iran.

Awkwardly transitioning into another persona, I can tell you that Thursday and Friday will feature guest blogs from ex-soldiers who are now novelists. I'll be in Atlanta, attempting to persuade CNN to give me Aaron Brown's slot. His performance during this war has been less than, how shall I say it? Competent. Plus, I have better hair.

Thanks again for all your help in making fun of the Cheneys. It was beyond successful; I think the participants actually might have totalled in the hundreds. May the Star Creator bless the infinite wonders of the Internet. Some final entries can be found here, here, and here. Also here and here. But no more for now. Must sleep now. Must not dream of Cheney.

We're winning!

It appears that Make Fun Of The Cheneys Day has achieved its ultimate goal. Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, has pulled out of bidding to be a primary contractor in the rebuilding of Iraq. Cheney may or may not have said he could no longer stand the grass-roots ridicule he's been subjected to on the Internet. Speaking of ridicule, the sites keep flooding in. Another partial list is below. But keep reading way down the page for original content from The Onion's Todd Hanson and from me, Neal Pollack. If you don't, it would be like skipping out before the final scene of View From The Top, the one where Gwyneth has to make the ultimate choice between her man and her career. Now, more sites:

The Grand Old Party, The Hamster, Mark Scribner, American Politics Journal, What Jail Is Like, Scribbler, The Agitator, Yar's Revenge, T Bogg, Digby, Toad A La Mode, Tornado Magnet, and Ben Brown, as the Beaver!

While I gallivant around Georgia, some thoughts from a frequent visitor to this site, Christian Bauman, author of the Somalia war novel The Ice Beneath You.

NP

A very well-intentioned NPR journalist raised the question recently of the effects of embedding; namely, the live and up-close combat scenes being played out on American TVs. In the same context, she brought up those poor souls from the captured army maintenance company, and the tape of them – alive and dead – being broadcast.

She was asking the question: is this right? Is it right to show this on television?

“We feel awkward,” she said, “we feel dirty and voyeuristic, sitting in our comfortable living rooms, while right in front of us on the TV we can see American soldiers in obvious pain.”

Yes, I’m sure you do feel uncomfortable, and you should. But as a former soldier, I can tell you there's a worse thing: you sitting in your comfortable living room with no camera shots of what’s going on, and no idea of the pain being suffered by those who fight in your country’s name, and both those who die in your country’s name and those who die by your country’s hand.

There are so many things wrong with in-your-face combat footage: it is voyeuristic, it is inherently sensational. Sometimes, in the case of POWs, it may be illegal, or closely treading that line. For the families of the soldiers involved, it is most certainly exquisitely painful.

But the alternative…ah, that is so much worse. The alternative is a country, a superpower, so big it knows not what it does. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what your country is doing.

Those of us in Somalia in 1993 watched the cameras drift away, disinterested. We knew it: we had CNN, and watched it. We weren’t on it. When 18 American soldiers died in the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, it was a big surprise to many Americans that our country had troops there at all.

One of the major factors in ending the Vietnam War was the introduction of regular combat footage into the evening newscasts.

It goes beyond a question of whether a war is just or not. War, even just war, tends to become self-perpetuating, a living, breathing thing snarling in its corner of the globe, drawing all the oxygen from around it, wanting to continue, wanting to advance and burn, consuming the lives and souls of those who fight it, and the politicians who wage it, and the innocents whose claws it rests upon.

War, even just war, must be documented. And you, whether you want the war or don’t want the war, must watch. Because if you don’t watch, then that soldier stands alone, and fights alone, and dies alone. If it is awkward and uncomfortable for you to watch then all the better. Because it is axiomatic that the more uncomfortable you get, the more truth you know, the quicker that soldier can come home.

Watch this. Keep watching. Don’t turn your head. For the sake of the soldiers, for the sake of yourself, and certainly for the sake of your country. Don’t look away. Watch, watch it all, be the witness. If it is true that democracy dies behind closed doors – and I believe it is true – then it is an equal truth that war thrives and builds behind closed doors. The cameras are rolling tonight. Open your eyes.

Cheneys on the run

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The response to my call for relentless mockery of Dick and Lynne Cheney today has been most excellent. I provide the latest round of links here. Keep reading below for a special report from Todd Hanson of The Onion, for more links, and for my own filthy, half-hearted contribution to this effort. Thanks again, everyone.

NP

> World Of Pete (via Blogcritics)

Jory John

Skippy The Bush Kangaroo (via Dr. Menlo)

A Skeptical Blog

Satanosphere

Noho Missives

Rob Curran

Virtopia

Frognblog

Human Torch

Todd Hanson, head writer for The Onion, contributes the following to Make Fun Of the Cheneys Day. Keep reading below for more fun-making.

BUSLOAD OF SAILORS GOES DOWN ON CHENEY'S WIFE

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A busload of sailors went down on Vice-President Dick Cheney's wife today, sources close to the couple reported. "This is outrageous!" Cheney's lawyer, David S. Addington, said of the sailors' marathon oral sex session with Lynne Cheney, 97, which took place in full view of much of the drive-time traffic in downtown Washington this morning. "This sort of thing should not be allowed. I must insist that any sailors going down on the
Vice-President's wife cease and desist this deplorable and offensive action immediately!" A spokesperson for the sailors, the ACLU's Denise Franks, defended the orgiastic behavior of the Mavy non-coms. "This busload of sailors is protected by the Bill Of Rights to go down on anyone they choose, as long as it is a willing and enthusiastic partner of the type represented by Mrs. Cheney." The sailors, as well as the sated Mrs. Cheney, adopted a similar position in their defense, adding that once Operation: Iraqi Freedom has brought liberty to the people of Iraq, then busloads of Iraqis would enjoy the same right to go down on the Vice-President's wife as we Americans already enjoy. Mrs. Cheney expressed "fervent hope" that war ends soon, and that she eagerly awaits the opportunity to "hopefully start going down on
busloads of free, democratic Iraqis" in the near future. Added Mrs. Cheney, "I urge all Americans to join me in my full support of the troops."

The People! United!

Support has been pouring in all over the globe on this glorious Make Fun Of The Cheneys day. Thanks to everyone for making this effort a success. I expect Dick Cheney'ss resignation on my desk by noon Friday. A partial list of participating websites follows. Read as many as you can stand.

Leonard Pierce

Suckful

Fetus X Comics

Max Sawicky

Capital Influx

George W. Bush

General J.C. Christian

Tom Tomorrow

Indie Disco

Jim Treacher

Fengi

Christopher Monks

Haypenny

More reports as the day warrants. Now read below for some filthy second-rate Cheney porn.

NP