Episode 8: The Game

In our first seven action-packed episodes, we spent a spirited evening at The Last Chance Democracy Café discussing economic inequality and the damage it’s doing to our democracy. (Hey, it was a lot more fun than it sounds.) Many more such evenings are to come. But first, a small detour to visit the worst train wreck in the café’s brief history.

* * *

The Last Chance Democracy Café:
The Game

by Steven C. Day

No doubt about it: “Lie George” wasn’t one of my better ideas.

I got it from the old college drinking game, “Hi Bob.” Except in Lie George, instead of watching reruns of The Bob Newhart Show, the players watch George W. Bush give a speech. Then every time he tells a lie, someone yells “Lie George” and everyone takes a drink. It sounded like great fun.

We began playing for the first (and as it turned out the last) time during Bush’s State of the Union speech on Jan. 28, 2003.

Forty-five minutes later, someone called 911.

Looking back, I can’t believe how stupid I was. Having people take a drink every time Bush tells a lie is like having them drink every time one of Dennis Miller’s jokes bombs, or every time Trent Lott says something stupid. I mean, it’s just too much. No wonder five of our patrons had to be hospitalized for alcohol toxicity. In my defense, I did try to slow things down. At first, some of the guys were taking shots. I put a stop to that pronto. Then, when I could see that things were still moving too fast, I asked them to stop taking gulps: “Just little sips, boys and girls, easy does it,” I said. But it was no use. It didn’t matter how small the sips were. They were still drinking too much.

Bush was barely into the speech when things first started going wrong. But it all happened so fast. I just didn’t have time to react. Anyway, here’s what happened (with a few additional comments added in italic).

Bush was saying:

” . . . we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations.”*

*So just exactly what are those huge record setting deficits we’re passing along –– Christmas presents?

Sip, sip, sip, the crowd in the lounge responded.

” . . . we have seen what can be accomplished when we work together.”*

*Apparently, Bush defines “working together” as pushing through a highly partisan agenda with little or no consultation with the other side.

Sip, sip, sip.

“We achieved historic education reform . . . “*

*I suppose there’s a smidgen of truth here, assuming, of course, that your definition of “education reform” doesn’t involve actually doing something to improve the quality of education. True, under the deal Bush cut with Ted Kennedy, he was able to push through his “Leave No Child Behind” proposal, creating performance standards for schools nationwide. Unfortunately, he then welched on the part of the agreement that called for budgeting substantial new money to actually help improve student performance. As a result, a huge percentage of the nation’s public schools are receiving poor or even failing grades, but little new is being done to improve their performance. Meanwhile, schools increasingly find it necessary to teach for tests, instead of teaching for life.

Sip, sip, sip.

“To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation.”*

*Hogwash. Recession fighting had nothing to do with Bush’s budget-busting tax giveaways to his wealthy campaign contributors. The tax cuts were proposed before the recession was even a twinkle in the economy’s eye. In any case, most of the really big payoffs to the boys and girls at the top weren’t slated to kick in for several years. So exactly how were these future tax cuts supposed to jumpstart the current economy?

Sip, sip, sip, sip. (Notice how the number of sips per lie was starting to sneak up. We couldn’t help ourselves.)

Up to this point, I really felt the game was going well. Everyone seemed to be having a good time (no mean accomplishment, given we were listening to a speech by Bush) and no one was getting particularly rowdy. My big mistake, I suppose, was that contrary to my standing policy of never drinking in my own club, I started playing Lie George myself. I should have realized the booze was impairing my judgment when, during an audience shot of Katherine Harris, I found myself thinking, “man, what a babe.” But somehow it didn’t register. And the speech, the lies and the drinking just kept rolling on.

“To insist on integrity in American business we passed tough reforms . . . “*

*So, is your “I’ve got some swamp land I’d like to sell you” warning bell going off? It should be. Despite all the talk, few meaningful reforms were actually passed following the Enron debacle and those that were have been consistently undermined by the administration. Let’s get real: If George W. Bush is a crusader against corporate malfeasance, then Haagen Dazs ice cream is a crusader against obesity.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

“92 million Americans will keep, this year, an average of almost $1,000 more of their own money.”*

*What’s that phrase I’m looking for? Oh, yeah — fuzzy math. (You thought I was going to say, “Figures lie and liars figure, didn’t you? Well, that works, too.) I mean, do you think — just maybe — the fact a guy named Bill Gates is included among those 92 million Americans may make that $1,000 average a touch deceptive? And sure enough, it turns out that in the real “non-averaged” world almost 50 percent of taxpayers scored tax reductions of less than a $100 and many didn’t get a penny. And for that, we’ve mortgaged our children’s futures.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

” . . . to help nearly 10 million seniors who receive dividend income, I ask you to end . . . taxation of dividends.”*

*Liar, liar, the national debt’s on fire. The truth is that most of those 10 million seniors, for whom Bush expressed such heartfelt concern, receive their dividend income in the form of payments into retirement plans and 401k accounts that were already nontaxable. This is a standard Bush con: Take what is in reality a massive tax giveaway to the massively wealthy and dress it up to look like middle class tax relief. The man really is a political genius: It’s a pity he’s also such a crappy president.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

Looking back, I think it was at about this time that the alcohol really started getting the better of everyone in the lounge (Horace, Tom and Winston, who can generally drink the rest of us under the table, and thus might have added a “sobering influence,” weren’t there because they only come on Wednesday night). Booze affects people differently, of course. Take Donald, an English professor who visits the café most Tuesday nights: You can always tell when he’s getting seriously toasted, because he starts reciting poetry — really bad poetry he writes himself.

“Ladies and gentleman, if you will indulge me,” he began. “My tribute to the man on the television screen and his flexible views regarding the manliness of warfare.

There was a young man name of Bush
Who spent Vietnam on his tush.
He joined up with the Guard
But found drilling too hard,
So he went over the fence with a whoosh

Much later his ego all swollen
From an election he had just stolen.
He thought let’s give war a try
Now that it’s others who’ll die,
And through Iraq soon the tanks will be rollin’.

The lounge burst into applause. Donald bowed deeply, almost losing his balance, before slumping back into his seat. Like I said, everyone was getting drunk — really drunk. But still, for reasons I can’t explain, let alone excuse, I didn’t stop to the game. And the lies just kept coming and coming and . . .

“As we continue to work together to keep Social Security sound and reliable, we must offer younger workers a chance to invest in retirement accounts that they will control and they will own.”*

*Congratulations! Here you get two, two, two lies in one. First, absolutely nothing Bush has done since being elected [sic] can remotely be said to have contributed to the soundness of the Social Security system. Quite the contrary. By running up ruinous budget deficits at the very moment the baby boomers are getting ready to retire in record numbers, he has virtually guaranteed a crisis in the systems solvency (caused by his raiding of the Social Security trust fund to cover the tax cuts). Secondly, Bush’s proposal for diverting a portion of Social Security’s current revenue stream into individual investment accounts, while at the same time promising to maintain (or even increase) current benefits, is really more than a lie — it’s an out-and-out fraud. As Bush well knows, there is no way mathematically this can be done: He’s double pledging the same money.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

“Our . . . goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment.”*

*I’m sorry, but claiming that George W. Bush’s goal is even partly to dramatically improve the environment is like saying that Darth Vader’s goal was to spread democracy through the galaxy.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

“In Afghanistan we helped liberate an oppressed people.”*

*Yeah, we liberated them right into the hands of a brutal and corrupt network of warlords. Meanwhile, Hamid Karzai, our hand picked national leader, hides out in Kabul, nearly irrelevant, while American soldiers continue to die fighting resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda forces.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

“In the Middle East, we will continue to seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine.”*

*Excuse me while I adjust my hearing aid, but surely he didn’t really say that. No president in recent history has put less effort into advancing the Middle Eastern peace process than Bush the Younger. He’s been far too busy working to create an exciting new quagmire in Iraq, to be bothered with the boring old one in Palestine.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

“I ask Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.”*

*Sadly, this “commitment” turned out to be little more than budgetary smoke and mirrors, with Bush backpedaling ever since. In his 2004 budget request, for example, Bush proposed contributing only $200 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, a fraction of what’s needed. Spending on AIDS has increased overall, but by nowhere near the amount Bush promised.

Sip, sip. (We only took two sips, because at that time we merely suspected — but couldn’t know for sure — that Bush was lying and would never actually come through with all the money. Tragically . . .)

“We have the terrorists on the run.”*

*Yup - - a lot of them are running to Iraq to help kill our soldiers.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

“This government is taking unprecedented measures to protect our people and defend our homeland.”*

*If only it were true. Unfortunately, virtually every independent group that has examined the issue agrees that the state of homeland security is woefully inadequate and that the threat of terrorist attacks against Americans remains as great today as it was pre-Sept. 11. In fact, because Bush’s ill-considered invasion of Iraq has greatly increased the level of anti-American feelings in the Islamic world, the risk is probably even greater today. Thanks George.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

” . . . we are beginning to field a defense to protect this nation against ballistic missiles.”*

*Translation: We are beginning to field my multibillion (maybe trillion) dollar payoff to my campaign contributors in the defense industry in the form of a Star Wars missile interception system, which, based upon test results to date, couldn’t protect a squirrel from a falling acorn.

Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip, sip.

As Bush’s speech turned to Iraq, the situation in the café became critical. But by this point, shamefully, I was too drunk myself to intercede. So this is how things played out through the rest of the speech (with no additional commentary needed).

” . . . materials to produce 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.”

Gulp, gulp, gulp.

” . . . upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents.”

Gulp, gulp, gulp.

” . . . Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Gulp, gulp, gulp.

” . . . he attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.”

Gulp, gulp, gulp.

” . . . Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda.”

Gulp, gulp, gulp.

“We seek peace. We strive for peace.”

Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp . . .

The next thing I remember is EMS crashing through the door.

I guess I should count myself lucky. I didn’t personally become seriously ill and those customers who did made full recoveries. The state didn’t take away my liquor licence, although the threat was made. And nobody sued me. Like I said — I got off lucky.

But I learned an important lesson: Underestimating how often George W. Bush’s tells lies can be hazardous to your health. I guess you could say the same for the health of country.

* * *

When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at scday(AT)buzzflash.com.

© Copyright Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001

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