Report from the Badlands

The J.C. Penney Polyester Christmas Slacks

Remember when you were a kid on Christmas mornings, when you rushed to the living room to tear open your presents from Santa? And there would always be that one present from Aunt Ethel or some other relative: When you opened it, hoping for the latest version of a game called Lie Detector, you were crestfallen to see … the dreaded J.C. Penney polyester slacks.

My siblings and I were always cheerful and happy for any presents, at least outwardly. But when alone, I can remember my sister Mel and I grousing eternally, when we were just 9 or so.

“Christ! All I wanted was a Mr. Potato Head. Did you get those freaking slacks?” Mel inquired. She always had a mouth like a sailor, even when she was a tot.

“Yeah. I’d rather wear a clown’s balloon shoes,” I griped. “I suppose you have to wear that hideous Nancy Reagan bow-tie blouse for dinner. For Dog’s sake, just a deck of Old Maid cards would have been better.”

A portent of things to come.

“Why on Dog’s earth do they give us children clothes for Christmas?” And on and on.

Why, indeed. But getting the J.C. Penney polyester slacks for Christmas was what it felt like when I beheld neocon Ann Coulter doing the talking head TV circuit Sunday as she defended the Bush Administration’s illegal wiretapping program. Coulter is the stringy blond conservative fascist with the Adam’s apple who is a constant staple for Fox(hole) News, ballyhooing America’s new use of torture and Bush-Cheney-Rummy’s criminal incompetence. Now she’s saying that Bush’s spying on Americans is merely comparable to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. And they were put there for the sake of our national security, don’t you know.

Like, that was a good thing. Could someone tell me what planet that broad was born on?

Here’s another pair of J.C. Penny polyester Christmas slacks: the death count of American soldiers in the Iraqi War is now up to 2,175, according to the Department of Defense. What the DOD doesn’t tell you is that the death toll is based on soldiers who die on the battlefield, with their “boots on the ground” in the nation of Iraq. That means if four American soldiers fall into a booby trap and one gets killed instantly and the rest are wounded, and the three wounded are airlifted out to Germany and two die en route to the German hospital, those two are not listed officially as Killed-in-Action because they did not die on “the battlefield.”

Or, say, five soldiers in a cheaply-made hummer with inadequate armor plating hit a hidden roadside bomb, one dies instantly for not having adequate vest protection so the DOD counts him as a dead-on-the-battlefield soldier. But the other four continue to careen wildly in a disabled vehicle while the wounded driver fights to regain control. They end up slamming into the wall of a building, which kills them all, but they’re not listed as Killed-in-Action because their deaths will be listed as a “vehicle accident.”

So, with this kind of statistic-fudging, it’s no wonder that anti-war activists have been trying to tell the world – with very little media attention, I might add – that the real number of dead soldiers in this War Based on Lies is more like 10,000. This is how the DOD counts the numbers, and any war historian can tell you that the real death counts are usually four times the amount the government tells you during the time of the conflict.

Of course, you won’t get the real numbers out of President Cheney. What would that chicken hawk know about fighting a real war, anyway? He got five deferments during Vietnam because, as he told reporters not long ago, “he was busy doing more important things.”

J.C. Penny polyester slacks. That’s what this world has come to.

I’m glad I don’t have a family member in Iraq or Afghanistan. This Christmas, I was lucky to be with all of them. But it was a Christmas that was very, shall we say, 2006.

On Christmas Day I was on the phone trying to talk to my Aunt Ethel when my ear drums got blasted with a supersonic CLICK, followed by a loud echo. That’s what happens when BushCo is wiretapping you. Auth Ethel didn’t like it.

“What in Dog’s name was that confounded hellish [frickin-frackin, blankety-blank]?” asked Aunt Ethel.

“Well, Aunt Ethel, you know how this Administration bombed the wrong country after 9-11? Now they’re wiretapping the wrong people,” I explained.

“Oh, I see,” was the answer. “How’d you like the slacks?”

“I’m lovin’ it,” I said, in homage to the McDonald’s jingle.

Auth Ethel got me the polyester slacks again. But the rest of us exchanged McDonald’s Big Mac gift certificates. And socks. One each.

San Carlos Creek Update: I gave Mayor Orange a homemade sock hat for Christmas and I gave Molly the Dog and the other welfare bums in New Idria dog sweaters.

They all looked at me as if I were a veterinarian. Or, more precisely, as if they had just opened up the box with the J.C. Penny polyester slacks.

Since 2001, it’s been hard to remember that even I was once a kid.

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