April 18, 2005

A Canticle For Lieberman (pt 5)

Pacific Views theater presents the continuation of a short work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters to persons living or dead is purely in the interests of parable, satire, and entertainment. See the fiction archive for previous installments.

"Hey, babe."

"Hey? All I get is a hey?" Robin slipped onto Paul's lap, displacing a serious looking binder. "You've been reminding me about tonight for a week. I think you were complaining about how we never seem to be free at the same time lately? That was you, right? Not your evil twin, pod replacement, body double, something like that?"

"Ah, yes." He hugged her, continuing to read the binder he now held behind her at arms' length. "Yes, that was me. But I ..."

"You figure you're going to get a lot out of something you're reading over my shoulder?"

"Not really." He let the binder fall to the couch next to them, and leaned his head on her shoulder. "Oh god, they're just expecting miracles by now. The IMF is asking for higher interest rates to shore up investment, what a joke. The British lost their shirts in the 2009 crash, and there just isn't much interest in a high-risk, low-payoff market. Congress is screaming for lower interest rates to stimulate the domestic economy, what's left of it. It's not a new debate or anything, but the chairman called an emergency meeting set for Tuesday and the debt ratio ... Oh, screw it." He wrapped her in a tight bear hug and didn't seem inclined to say anything else, so she ran her fingers through his hair and kissed his forehead until he relaxed and leaned back into the couch.

"You're not yourself tonight. Is it just work?"

He laughed weakly, bitterly. "Yes, just work. Just work. Robin, do you know what the 'full faith and credit of the United States government' means right now? It means nothing. Goose eggs. Zip. Bupkiss. Nada. Nichts. Rien. Sefr. Arnastatva. And finally, lìng. Do you know what language 'lìng' means nothing in? Chinese. Of course, that's not really accurate. But I don't know how to say 'so deep in debt that the fish are the only light source' in Chinese."

"Sounds dire. Can I take a look?"

The bitter little laugh again. "Sure, go for it. I'm going to go get in the shower ... no, no, I'm too tired for company in there ... I'll shave, put on some fresh clothes, and come back out here pretending for both our sakes that I don't know the Federal Reserve exists."

She skimmed through the report's executive summary.

The economic outlook is troubling. Despite the fact that international agents have a great interest in protecting their current US investments (more than the annual GDP of Japan, China, and India combined, sec 1.5), the prevailing sentiment is that further investment would merely encourage further profligate spending.

... many investors and Central Banks (particularly in Asia, sec. 2.8) are on the verge of following Europe in writing off the bulk of their investments as unrecoverable. Increasing military commitments abroad (over 25% of annual GDP, sec 3.2) and lack of fiscal oversight for independent military contractors and third-party support staff continues to drain resources without yet producing significant stimulation of the non-defense domestic economy. The failure of new taxation to cover deficit spending has triggered comparisons to the Russian and Argentinian meltdowns around the turn of the century.

... Of particular concern are the year on year drops in consumer spending, and unemployment rates hovering around 13% (sec 4.1), which has decreased the attractiveness of the American market as an export destination.

... The IMF has recommended a suite of standard structural adjustment policies, some of which are likely to be politically unacceptable (sec 5.1-5.32) and others considered suitable for recommendation to Congress. Chiefly, it's the preliminary intent of the Board to suggest extending the Prison and Detainee Work Program to include the residents of the Contaminated Zones, to enact fees for public schooling, expand extraction and exploration rights in national parks, expand of the highway toll system, eliminate carbon emission restrictions, and continue efforts to identify public utilities for sale. At some point, the subject of borrowing from personal Social Security accounts will have to be broached if spending doesn't come under control, or government income through taxation ...

Paul came back out, looking nearly perky. "Alright, let's go."

"I'm ready." The report was interesting, but ...

"You didn't unpack while I was in there?" She shook her head, and he spotted her bag still sitting by the door. "Good, someone recommended an Ethiopian restaurant we haven't tried, and we're headed for a bed & breakfast afterwards, so we can get out of our offices away from work. You'll love it."

"Serious planning, I'm impressed. Let's, ... those bastards! They're kidding, I told them not to call, not for anything." Her pager was vibrating, her cell phone was ringing, and a smug little beep indicating an urgent email was coming from the PDA. "What? ... Yes, Ms. Grace. ... well no, I'm not busy. Yes, I can come right away, I'll be there in 15, 20 ... Yes, I'll try to hurry, I don't want to keep the Permanent Secretary waiting." She looked back at Paul. "It's ..."

"I know. I heard. The call that never gets refused. I'd think he had something on you, but no one in the press ever seems to get enough of him. I think I see Lieberman's mug on the news more than I see you in person. And you're being stolen away again. I'm beginning to personally resent someone I've never ... Oh, don't look at me like that, I'm not upset, anyway, it could have been for me. Tell you what, I'm going to order some take out and get back to my reading, you call your cab. If you come back before I fall asleep, there'll be leftovers & maybe we'll still be up for a little excursion. I picked up the room keys on the way home and we're booked for the whole weekend, I'm sure there will still be a little of it left when you get in."

"You're the soul of understanding." She kissed him as she got up to get her things together and make the call. He watched her pacing, drumming her free fingers on her hip, fighting for control over impatience and anxiety. Losing. She came as close as he'd ever heard to letting her temper get out of hand and snapping at the dispatcher.

She stepped into a cab full of an evening news broadcast and tried to tune it out. Was there anything she wanted to hear less at the moment? Not really. She would have asked for a change of station, but the driver seemed to be listening and she didn't want to bother him. They were headed through some fairly dangerous areas. And at least it was competing for attention with the sweaty plastic smell of the cab, particularly sharp in the evening's muggy drizzle.

" ... oil decreased in price to $12.50 a gallon, but due to new, more efficient processing technologies, ChevTex is poised to reap windfall ..."

The evening's plans forgotten, she turned Ms. Grace's 'polite request' over and over in her mind. It reminded her of the first time she'd talked to Him about her doubts. The meeting where He promised her proof of the circle's hold on power, only to deliver in spectacular fashion.

It had started with a simple question. "If the circle is so powerful, what about these leaks, the embarassing stories that make the newsstands? Why can't we put an end to all that? It could ruin everything."

"No. It can't. Quite the opposite. In fact, it's the backbone of our plan, tried and tested time and time again."

"How? What if someone found out about ..."

"You don't understand anything yet, it's not sinking in. You read 1984 once when you were a teenager and you think that absolute power looks like brownshirts marching in the streets and the destruction of inconvenient public records, that's all just nonsense. It isn't a smart way to go about things. Very messy, very expensive, very public. It's hard to serve a greater good in the middle of a civil war, or even mass riots.

"You already know that the American people haven't actually picked the president since 1996. You see, the first time was really just a test run in one state, no one knew how close it would be, but it worked. And if you remember that election, it will tell you all you need to know. No one is paying attention anymore, at all."

"But Sir, some people pay attention. There are still people who follow the news and ..." He cut her off with a shake of His head.

"And nothing." His palm smacked the desk. "They do nothing, and for all practical purposes, say nothing. There's always an alternative, a more plausible sounding story that gets repeated so many times that it's pointless to sort it out. Everyone knows that such things as we're doing don't happen in America. They don't happen in democracies, and since America is still clearly a democracy, these things couldn't be happening.

"Most people look at the neighbor going on about the dangers of privatizing the IRS and stifling the media and the first thing they wonder is when this lunatic in front of them is going to start whispering that that the CIA is intercepting their thoughts through an alien skull implant.

"They look around and see you and your colleagues going about your business like always and notice very little change in their lives. They've forgotten that government ever had any purpose beyond fighting wars, collecting taxes, and passing laws against public immorality. They still see a democracy. They still get their sitcoms and summer blockbusters. They can go to church, or on a vacation, do what they like. And obviously, free speech couldn't be being stifled, because anyone is still free to spout anti-government nonsense in decent company. The most obvious, logical explanation to them is that the person they're speaking with, the one who read the story about the election discrepancies on the bottom of page A 28 is some crazed conspiracy theorist.

"They think, 'Oh well, there's one in every crowd,' and ten minutes later they've completely forgotten about it. Or if they remember at all, it's to tell as a joke at the office, get a laugh from their co-workers." He stopped and looked at her, but not as if He was waiting for an answer. Which was a relief when she found herself unable to say anything.

"But I can see that you don't believe me. Not really, that takes a while. Still, I've had this conversation one too many times. I'd like you to be fully on board with us, I've got a lot of work for you to do, and I expect that you'll be very useful. So I'll tell you what, come to my press briefing tomorrow, I'll show you something that you'll want to write a wire story about. You can go now."

The press briefing couldn't have been more of a shock. It was a Friday afternoon, barely anyone was there, and in the middle of it He casually mentioned that everyone might want to look into a set of newly declassified documents listed in the briefing memo they were handed.

Robin looked into them. She spent several days taking notes at the National Archive.

The JFK assassination files had been declassified. The Warren commission's full report was on offer for anyone to come look at. Redactions were few and far between. There was evidence of CIA involvement, assistance from unexpected foreign governments, a quid pro quo with the defense contractors, and the complicity of Nixon, Johnson, Specter, and many others in the coverup. She wrote a wire story about it, as did a few other reporters here and there, fully expecting a media firestorm that would spark wide public protest.

The story made the front page as expected in the subversive triumvirate of Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. New Orleans and Dallas picked it up to front their local news sections. A total of 56 papers, most of them on the west coast, ran with it.

On the broadcast side, around a dozen local news stations ran brief 'well, would you look at that' spots. The national network news shows spent about 5 minutes each presenting the rebuttals of those named in the documents who were still living. There was a 7 minute segment on 60 Minutes II that presented both sides of the coverup debate. Her own editor told her privately that he didn't really want to go into it, drag their organization into a debate for kooks and historians.

For a week afterward, Gerald Posner was the most popular guest on the talking head shows, insisting that the source documents were forgeries. Posner's basic argument could have come straight out of the Permanent Secretary's mouth. It simply didn't make any sense that so many people could have kept such a secret for so long, and anyway, the story sounded so conveniently like what the loony left had been claiming all these years that you couldn't trust it. Not one bit. The whole thing must have been cooked up in Kucinich's office.

She'd always admired Representative Kucinich's persistence in the face of utter defeat. One of 158 Democrats left in the House, with only 37 Senate colleagues to back them up, you had to give the last of them credit for their persistence. Not that they deserved any mercy; there were bounds to sentiment. The representative from Ohio had taken to the floor of the House, drawing parallels between the history revealed in the newly uncovered files and the corruption of power run rampant in the corporatized, blah, blah, blah.

He might as well have painted a target on his chest and offered to make himself useful at a sharpshooting competition.

The cable debate gangs gamely discussed whether or not the old man could have possibly looked more gnomish, what kind of medication he was on, and whether he'd engineered the fuss over the files in the first place. They reached a consensus that this would surely hurt the Democrats in Ohio. It was further admitted that if anything, this reflected badly on Kucinich's own party, since they were in power at the time of the Kennedy assassination. That is, if any of the new information was legitimate, and if this historical exercise wasn't just a desparate Democratic publicity ploy.

It was over in a month and a half.

She'd really known it was over when she overheard a conversation about it on the morning train. The impassioned truthspeaker got the details mostly right, if somewhat vague, he'd obviously followed the story very closely.

"... Look, I'm telling you why it's important. Don't you get that there was a coup in this country for which no one has ever been held accountable? That the people responsible got rewarded with public office and the right to give out federal contracts and appoint judges? Yes, they're almost all dead now, but they got to set up everything you see today. Heck, Nixon's dream of controlling the media worked so well they won't even talk about the important issues this brings up. And you do know about the 2000 election. Another coup, only nobody got ..."

"Listen, Jack, the politicians are all crooks. You shouldn't pay so much attention to things that don't affect you, just gets you all worked up. We've got a presentation to make in an hour, and our promotions are riding on it all the way. Kitterling expects us to get the contract negotiations going ..."

The people nearby had been smirking at the 'nut' behind their hands. Shaking their heads under cover of their newspapers and magazines. The hapless seatmate's desire to steer the conversation elsewhere before someone laughed out loud was palpable. At that moment, there was nothing to do but believe Him with all her heart. The wire story confirming the authenticity of the documents went out a month later. It was picked up by 14 papers who, to a one, chopped the story into a muddle and used it as unheralded filler for the back of the news section.

If the economy was really doing as bad as Paul thought it was, as the report had indicated, no one would even notice.

Finally, she reached His office. It had been around 25 minutes, and she hoped it wouldn't be counted against her too much. She buttoned her overcoat snugly over the cocktail dress before going in, almost surprised to find that she was wearing it.

"Hello, Ms. Grace, I hope you've been having a good evening. I tried to get here as fast as I could, please accept my apologies."

"That's alright, dear. We knew where you were, but I had to make sure you'd hurry over. Go on in, he's expecting you."

To be continued.

Part 4 < > Part 6

Fiction Archive

Posted by natasha at April 18, 2005 02:12 AM | Fiction | Technorati links |

Lieberman is Judas... Lieberman is Benadict (sp) Arnold. To hell with Joe Blow Lieberman!

P.S. I think big-brother shut down my Spective.blog.com ;)

Earthian.blog.com is still up. Remind me to tell you how I chased away the Anti choice crowd from outside of the Ballard Safeway off of 15th and Market! One Spective Earthian with a hand-written sign that stated "Free Choice" with about 13 or so Anti-Choice fools, and they left our Blue turf. Chalk one up on the good-guy's board!

Sincerely (and intelligently) challenge the Red, and they will crumble!

Posted by: TABS Golden at April 18, 2005 10:08 PM