Thursday, July 19, 2001

"Houston, we have a problem."

7/19/01


“HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM”

(7/19/01----This just in: Dick Cheney wants Congress to take his annual $186,000 electrical bill off his Vice Presidential budget and stick it someplace else. California has a small energy surplus and is selling power back into the national grid.)

Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart has been racing, so he got himself a pacemaker. First of all, I want to say, as a Californian, that it warms my heart to learn that he still HAS a heart. Judging from his attitude toward our energy crisis, I wasn’t sure.

Of course, I knew he had a “bad” heart a few days after he was elected, because it wasn’t working and he had to get that stent installed. But once he got his procedure, I figured that he now had a good heart, because he and his running mate said they were compassionate conservatives, and ipso facto you can’t be compassionate without good hearts.

If I still entertained any doubts about just how good a 4-attack heart could be, I stuffed them, because Dubyuh and Dick were having a honeymoon with me, the electorate. I’ll admit I didn’t vote for D&D, but once they were legally, if not ethically, in office I was prepared to recognize one or the other them as my leader. I’m sorry to say I can’t see anything resembling a leader in the designated President, so I’m assuming the other guy, the quiet, smart one with the poker face, is really running things.

And I figure that the Cheney Administration’s refusal to protect California from astronomical prices charged by Houston-based energy producers must NECESSARILY be goodhearted because I’ve been told that Dick Cheney is goodhearted and who am I to argue? Oh sure, I worried a bit that President De Facto Cheney might be harboring resentment against my state because we voted overwhelmingly for the other guy, so he might have a good reason, were he mean-spirited, to take vengeance against us. But I have it on good authority that he is goodhearted and compassionate, so by definition he could not even THINK of wreaking vengeance against us. There’s NO WAY he delayed FERC intervention out of sheer meanspiritedness.

So it must be that Dick Cheney advised against capping astronomical energy prices charged by manipulative Texas corporations because he IS compassionate. He was overcome by brotherly love for his fellow oil executives, and he did what he felt was the right thing, the brotherly thing, the compassionate thing, by allowing his friends and supporters to maximize their profits and nail California’s pelt to the barndoor.

I’m sure there’s a little battery in Dick’s new pacemaker which should make him independent of foreign energy producers. But what if, just what if, that battery needs to be recharged every day, like a golfcart? What if when Dick returns from a hard day at the White House, he has to plug in and get rejuiced? And what if that energy has to be shipped in from outside the District of Columbia? That’s not so outlandish. Everything else does. Except hot air. Which has yet to be exploited as an alternative energy source.

And what if that energy has to be shipped all the way from California? And what if the energy market supplying D.C. is in crisis? Should we take vengeance and charge what the market will bear? Or should we impose voluntary price caps on ourselves for the commonweal?

Now remember, California’s economy, especially in the energy sector, has already been turned upside down by the insane prices legally, if not ethically, exacted by Texas-based companies like Duke, Enron, and El Paso. So that means we’re already in an energy pinch. Demand exceeds supply. And in a free market, when demand exceeds supply, the sky’s the limit on price. That’s just the way it is. And I’m sure Dick Cheney would no more want California to re-establish regulations on a deregulated market than he wanted to cap those astronomical prices his Texas buddies were charging in their free, if gamy, market.

So when President Dick comes back to the Vice Presidential mansion after a hard day cleaning up after Titular President 43’s syntactical gaffes, he may need an extra hearty jolt of jamba juice in that new pacemaker battery of his. Plus, you probably know how hot and steamy it gets in the District this time of year, so he’ll probably need to turn up the air conditioner, as well, and we all know how THAT can precipitate an energy crisis and soaring prices.

He gets home, his 5-attack heart tachycardioing up a storm, mops his brow, turns up the AC, sits down in front of the TV, and plugs in. And wouldn’t you know it, everything conks out! There’s a rolling blackout. Now a very surprising thing happens. President Dick starts to sweat.

Nobody ever saw him sweat during the Ford Administration, or while he was Secretary of Defense, or while he was running up a voting record, a compassionately GOODHEARTED voting record, in the Congress---a record which would have done Attila the Hun proud. In fact, nobody has seen Dick sweat since August two-a-day football practices back in Wyoming when he was a boy. That was before he learned how to stop sweating. But there you have it. It’s dark, the Playboy Channel or the Family Values channel or whatever it was he was watching has gone dead, and it’s hotter and stickier than a White House intern, and Dick’s good heart is redlining.

So he gets on the phone to Governor Gray Davis, “Yo Gray, send some juice my way.”

There’s a long pause. President Dick can’t see it, but he knows Gray must be wearing a big ol’ grin. “Houston,” says Gray, “we have a problem.”

“My name’s not Houston.”

“I know. But I’d been waiting for months for the right moment to call you that, and there it was.”

“Don’t piss me off. I’m in delicate condition.”

“Sorry, De Facto President Dick. How can I help you?”

“I’m having an energy crisis. I want to watch those rightwing commentators on the Fox Network pretend to be unbiased and evenhanded, and my screen’s blank! What’s more, my heart’s fibrillating, and a man in my condition can’t risk getting fribrillated. What’s more, it’s hot as Hades.”

Now on the other end of the line, Governor Davis is grinning again, and Dick just knows it, but he’s too cool to say anything about it. There’s another long, long, pause. “Hell, Dick, any man who can use fribrillated twice in the same sentence can’t be TOO sick.”

“But I AM. I’m sick but I’m smart. That’s how can I say ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fribrillation while having a cardio-energy crisis.”

“Now you know how some of our heart patients in California felt, and will feel, during those rolling blackouts which HAVE to happen as part of the natural workings of a free energy market, President De Facto Dick.”

“I’m sweating over here, Governor Davis.”

“Wow. I didn’t know you could.”

“You know what happens if I go under, don’t you?”

“Strom Thurmond becomes the De Facto President?”

“No, the President becomes the President.”

There’s a long pause on Davis’s end. Then he just says: “Jesus.”

“So will you be sending over some energy?”

“We don’t have any. Why don’t you ask Houston. They own most of our generators, anyway.”

“I asked them, and they said their generators are offline for phony repairs and maintenance so they can game the free market and jack up their prices.”

“Well DAMN. Why don’t you go ahead and drill in some pristine wildernesses and produce the extra energy you need that way?” says Governor Davis.

“No time for that. I need to watch the Fox Network now! And my heart will start scarring up pronto if I don’t get a jolt of juice. This may prove to be a terminal event.”

“Here’s the best I can offer,” says Governor Davis compassionately and liberally. “We’re going to turn to some alternative renewable energy sources here in the Golden State, plus, we’re going to conserve energy, plus, we’re going to rush to build some new energy generators which won’t be held hostage by Houston. And maybe after we do all that, we’ll be free enough from our OWN rolling blackouts that we can afford to send some extra juice your way.”

“There’s no time for half measures. I’ll pay whatever it takes. What will it cost me to remain in the land of the living, cool down, and watch the Fox Network tonight?”

Another long pause. President Dick knows Gray Davis, who normally doesn’t know HOW to grin, is grinning so he’s like to split his narrow head in two. “First of all, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his bunboy, Justice Clarence “Long Dong Silver” Thomas, must resign immediately.”

“But that’s the JUDICIAL BRANCH,” says President Dick. “It’s completely SEPARATE and HERMETICALLY SEALED from even the hint of influence from the executive branch. Don’t you know your 8th grade civics?”

“Well, OK. Have it your way. We’ve got an energy crisis here, so we’d best not spare ANY juice. And that’s not ALL it will cost you. But there’s no use listing the rest of my demands if you can’t meet that one.”

“I’m puddling over here, Governor Gray, I’m soaking my barcalounger. And you know that can’t be good. But tell me, what are you other demands?”

“Second of all, I want the Texas energy pirates to return to California all their ill-gotten energy gains.”

“I can’t do that to my brother oilmen! It wouldn’t be compassionate!”

“This is the first time in your life that your interests have diverged from those of your fellow petrolopists and petrologarchs… And you can’t handle it!”

“Don’t be throwing those long words at me! Everything’s going dark and I believe I’m defribrillating!”

“And also, no more snowmobiling in Yellowstone Park.”

“That’s the last damn straw!” shouts President De Facto Dick. He gasps and wheezes a couple times, and then can be heard no more.

“My,” says Governor Davis. “I never heard the man raise his voice or lose his cool before, much less SWEAR.”

Then a voice comes on the line. It is NOT a commanding voice. It is not a voice which projects or inspires confidence. “Who is this?”

“This is Governor Gray Davis of California, who is this?”

“This is your President, George W. Bush, and from the looks of my running mate, I’M in charge now!”

There’s a long pause on the line. This time it’s clear Governor Davis has lost his grin. His mouth is pursed so tight he’s zipperlipped. “Wow,” he says. “Oh Jesus,” he says. “Lord have mercy on us all.”

--FIN--

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