November 11, 2004

Secession Diaries, Part III: Death and Taxes

The Prime Minister of the United States of Canada, Howard Dean, declared January 1 "Freedom Day" throughout the USoC. The eyes of the world focused on Times Square in New York City, where the official celebration of Freedom Day took place.

Freedom Day Celebrated in Times Square NEW YORK (NARN) - The first annual Freedom Day celebration in Times Square went off with few hitches last night, as nearly 200,000 people gathered in Times Square to watch fireworks and a performance by Barbra Streisand, Cher and the Frankenettes.

But it was the unofficial entertainment that got most of the attention from the hordes of revelers. Revelers dressed as caricatures of the Red State people they were now rid of.

"I see this as sort of a community celebration of the relief we feel over having cast off the autocratic, sexist, homophobic, racist, homophobic, anti-choice, sexist rule of the hicks in flyoverland", said Tamatha Bryce-Flobbert, 26, a documentary filmmaker and barrista. "Did you know the Red states used to own slaves?" Bryce-Flobbert was dressed in a "big hair" wig, rhinestoned jeans and cowboy boots, and a babydoll t-shirt that read "I'm With My Cousin". Her partner, Joshua Micah Geoffrey-Stephen Pillsbury, an interactive fiction designer and parking lot attendant, was dressed in a ten-gallon hat and a "wife-beater" T-shirt with the same saying, holding a longneck bottle of Lone Star Beer (a novelty import enjoying great success at the party, even at $12 per bottle) and Bryce-Flobbert were watching a troupe of performance artists' street theatre, dramatizing seven gay and lesbian partners marrying as a caricatured fundamentalist family was pelted with cream pies and water-filled condoms. The performance, in front of a newly-shuttered Broadway theater, drew a crowd of dozens.

"It's a sort of atheist Mardi Gras - a sort of Bacchanalium for smart people", said Pillsbury as Bryce-Flobbert filmed him pantomiming a lewd act with a reveler dressed as Jerry Falwell".

"It's a symbol, really, of our emancipation from narrowmindedness, bigotry, hate, Rush Limbaugh, idiocy...oh, I hate those people so much!" Bryce-Flobbert exclaimed.

The performance ended when a brawl between audience members from New Jersey and Manhattan erupted. "Oh, isn't that typical?" asked Bryce-Flobbert. "New Brunswick is the new Oklahoma."

Also in the papers that morning:
ER OoopsIt had been a rough day for bond trader Joshua Micah Blotnik, 35, of Manhattan.

A downturn in municipal bonds had wrecked his day - and now, paying $22 for an imported Jack Daniels, he was short of cash.

Walking to the cash machine, he felt cripplingly short of breath. He paid his tab and hailed a cab to the hospital.

The evening only got worse.

He walked to the charge nurse and asked if his doctor, Eli Goldschuh, was available.

"F**k you, D******ag", replied the charge nurse. "Can't you see we're f*****g up to our a***s with m***********g p********d d****s? Wait your f*****g turn" the charge nurse replied as she struggled to juggle too many patients among too few tables.

"No, I mean Doctor Goldschuh", Blotnik persisted.

"He only works here one f*****g week a month", the charge nurse replied as she fixed a mis-connected IV tube. "He started a clinic in f*****g Miami three months ago, and now he only practices here one m***********g piece of s**t week per f*****g month, to take in some shows and keep his National Health registry up to f*****g date. Now sit down before I have you arrested, beaten and your eyes gouged out".

After a six hour wait, Blotnik was briefly examined, wheeled into an operating room for a double amputation, and sent home at lunchtime with a bronchial inhaler.

Once the confetti from the Freedom Day celebration was picked up, though, things became dicey for the new USoC.

Minister of National Wellness Pinkerton announced that the National Healthcare System was in debt to the tune of several hundred billion Francs. Prime Minister Dean was forced to enact a tax increase - deficits had been rendered illegal in the new USoC Constitution.

Death and Taxes

This story appeared in the February 26, 2009 New York Times:

New Government Ad Campaign Raises Eyebrows in 'Burbs
PITTSBURGH (SOROS NEWS SERVICE) - A new ad campaign is sparking conversation in suburban Pittsburgh.

Overnight, thousands of lawn signs, like those used in political campaigns, appeared on suburban lawns around the Pittsburgh metro area. The 1x2 meter plastic lawn signs, done in a dreamy, pastel style, read "Happy To Pay For A Better, Safer Pennsylvania". Similar signs were reported in suburbs in Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

"I dunno, I never gave permission to plant the sign" said Letta Fleebert of suburban Pittsburgh. "I know the taxes have been rising in the 'burbs, and I guess someone wants us to feel good about it. I just dunno".

The head of the controversial ad campaign, Minister of Public Opinion Anneke Blinston-Poppenberg-Llewellyn-Poff, said "we're just trying to raise peoples' awareness of how happy they are to be contributing to the greater good".

The lower house of the USoC Parliament passed the tax hike by a 3-2 margin, but not without intense acrimony. The lower house was popularly elected by each electoral district (the USoC had abolished the Electoral College - in fact, Al Gore had presided over a ceremonial burning of the Electoral College in effigy in January of 2008), throwing it over for a mass popular vote using a weighted-preference ballot intended to foster small parties that, nevertheless, empaneled a Parliament that was solidly controlled by the new Social Democratic Party. The Prime Minister, elected by the Lower House, appointed members to the Upper House for ten year terms - a system borrowed from Canada. The appointments were subject to Lower House confirmation. Dean's first upper house, which was 100% SDP, had been the subject of a fierce floor fight decided on straight party lines. Dean solved the problem by forming an SDP coalition of inner-city and rural districts; united by the slow industrial and agricultural economies, they made natural allies.

Members of Parliament (MPs) from wealthier, white collar suburban districts in central New Jersey, suburban Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois and Minnesota protested bitterly, feeling that the tax burden was being shifted from the urban and rural districts to them. "Why should our hard work be used against us?" asked Leo Prigg, MP from Westchester, PA, before being shouted down by the front-benchers. The increase passed.

That bill was followed by two more in quick succession: a bill creating "Enterprise Zones" in the inner cities, and another creating a vast "Rural Initiative" cutting taxes on corporate farms. Despite bitter debate from the suburban MPs, both measures passed, not without intense ire on both sides. "We in Nyack are the city's cash machine!" complained MP Jerod Pflinzer of upstate New York. "The suburbs are the new Mississippi!" responded Boston MP Star Rabbit Preger during a nude appearance on "The Late Show".

"Well, at least we're not in the Red States, being ruled by a bunch of, make that dumbdementalist gun toting wackoes" said Mekhi Tostengard of Bennington, Vermont. "Did you know they used to be the slave states? I heard they burned a witch in Minnesota", he added, before being told that Minnesota actually was a Blue state and member of the USoC.

The Consitutional Crisis That Wasn't

In the "Red" US, the economic news remained good. The US Government "LINUX Gambit", despite the predictions of the pundits, was successful beyond its proponents' wildest expectations. "We'd figured people wouldn't be comfortable enough or familiar enough to most people - but this nation's Information Architects and Software Human Factors professionals have provided yeoman service", said Raj Prathvandandigar, technology correspondent for NARN News. "Their work was the fulcrum between success and failure, and they delivered magnificently. They are the heroes of this economy!".

But a social storm cloud arose that threatened some of the nation's progress. As Feff Jecke of the Atrios Foundation asked in the run-up to the separation, "What happens in the South when Secretary of Religion James Dobson issues his order requiring mandatory Christian prayer in school, "For the good of all the unenlightened?"

To a large extent, it was a moot point - the mass privatization of the nation's schools made it largely a moot point for 85% of the student body. But a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 15% of students that remained in purely public (as opposed to private, charter, parochial or hybrid) schools by the US Civil Liberties Union. The Blue State press had a field day. "Oh, right. Prayer. That'll solve a lot of problems" said Oliver Willis, commentator for Soros News Network.

The problem was solved when President Lincoln and James Dobson appeared jointly on the Instanetwork. "Public school kids can pray if they want, and God help the teacher who stops them on my watch", said Lincoln, as Dobson nodded and smiled. "They can pray to any God they want, any time they want. The schools just shouldn't be requiring it. Now - don't make me stop this car, America!", he said to a mass, ecumenical standing ovation. It was never an issue again.

As the headlines told of an economy growing at a 9% annual rate, a new problem arose; immigration from the USoC.

It started small; "guest workers" travelling from recession-addled California to Las Vegas and Phoenix to work at the jobs that were more plentiful than skilled workers. A steady stream of medical professionals from major urban areas in the USoC began dividing their time, or even emigrating, forsaking the bureaucracy of the USoC's National Health Service for the cash-and-carry fluidity of the Red State system. "I actually love being a doctor again" said Dr. Bernie Brickman, former Chicago internist who moved to Saint Louis. "Before, I spent 50% of the time arguing with lawyers and case managers from the NHS. Now? I actually had a patient thank me last week! I used to get spit on in Chicago!".

Many doctors from Chicago, LA, DC and Minnesota moved to bordering states, and ran thriving cash-and-carry clinics for Blue-staters who, tired of waiting days for appointments, furtively snuck across the border for care. The changes weren't good for all physicians, of course - Hollywood plastic surgeons found that their job prospects in the Red US were extremely limited, and saw their incomes in California drop by nearly 70%. In a celebrated episode of "60 Minutes", a once-prominent plastic surgeon was filmed moonlighting at a coffee shop to pay his property taxes, prompting legislation to retrain "transitional physicians" in fields more in demand.

As the stream of doctors widened into a torrent, legislation was proposed making it a gross federal misdemeanor to seek medical care outside the National Health System. "Get Healthcare in the USoC or Die", said an ad campaign featuring rapper and Undersecretary of Culture P. Diddy, and people joked that that wasn't far off.

The next wave of emigration was more prosaic; middle-class professionals from small towns and suburbs in the Blue States who, lured by the prosperity they heard about in the Red States, decided to move on to greener pastures. "I used to vote Democratic all the time. I wouldn't now, that that it'd matter" said Beth Brecker, 33, a single mother and unemployed waitress from Willmar, MN, interviewed while packing her minivan to move to North Dakota for a spot in a Management Training program . "The taxes are killing me, and they killed the restaurant I worked at. I'm happy to pay for gas to get me the hell out of here, she said, pointing at one of the ubiquitous "Happy to Pay..." signs that had been planted in her lawn.

"I'm tired of feelin' like I'm the beeyotch of every special interest that needs a few thousand more bucks from the trough" said Tyrone Jenkins, 44, a construction welder from Pomona, CA. "My cousin in Dallas says that I can get work there, or anywhere in the Midwest, for the asking. We're outta here". Jenkins planned to move to Dallas, and send for his family later.

The efflux continued, a group of SDP MPs proposed legislation calling for a 95% wealth and property tax on all immigrants - but the bill was withdrawn from the '09 Parliament because the two sponsors resigned to take jobs with immigration law firms in Denver.

Emigration helped strain the slowly-worsening relations between the US and the USoC.

Shih-Tzus of War

In August of '09, a mob of Islamic radical and students stormed the USoC embassy in Karachi, Pakistan, taking 75 USoC diplomats hostage. The group declared itself disgusted with the "American moral imperialism" (taking specific umbrage with the popular Michael Moore documentary "Fundamentalists Look Silly and Smell Bad", which took swats at Moslem fundamentalists as well as Christians.

The government was paralyzed. The Dean wing of the SDP wanted to negotiate, while the Kucinich wing and the Greens thought that negotiating as equals was an authoritarian, Western concept, preferring instead to pay reparations to the militants and their societies.

Prime Minister Dean was brought up on a vote of No Confidence after nine days of debate, and lost 446-440. The announcement of the results was halted by news reports that the radicals were going to execute hostages; debate became deadlocked between those who wanted to accelerate the payment of tribute and a faction who thought death was appropriate given America's legacy in the area. A compromise candidate, Eleanor 1092, a Greener Party candidate from Minneapolis, swept to the Prime Ministership on a fluky vote, promising to get the UN even MORE involved. As the results were counted, word came in that the hostages, about to be executed, had been rescued by 13 US Marines (from the vestigial Marine Corps kept in being to guard embassies) who opted to take the issue in their own hands, broken into the Embassy, killed hundreds of the radicals, rescued the hostages without loss, and escaped to safety with a howling mob of radcials and French foreign service workers at their heels.

The issue sparked heated debate in both legislatures - in the US Congress, Republicans got into a fierce floor fight over who admired the Marines more, while in the USoC Lower House, debate on the complete failure of the Ministries of Intelligence and Peace to predict or react to the disaster raged for months. Prime Minister 1092 convened a Blue Chip Summit of Summits to investigate.

Feel Like a Number - and Loving It!

Born in a commune in Idaho in 1966 as Eleanor Strunk, the new Prime Minister was a colorful character. After spending the eighties as a member of an anarchist group in Seattle, Strunk moved to Minneapolis, became active a full-time organizer for a variety of protest groups, advocacy groups, non-profits and, in 2005, the leader of the Greener Party and it's first elected official, when she swept to a seat on the Minneapolis City Council. It was that year she changed her name from Strunk to 1092; "1 stands for the unity of being, zero stands for my place in the universe, 9 is three sets of three, which is the union of perfection, and 2 is myself and my partner, Marcella". It had taken four years to to from fringe city councilperson - 1092 preferred "Citycouncilbeing" - to Prime Minister of the USoC.

Prime Minister 1092 and the First Partner were the first chief executives in former-US history to abjure living in the White House - 1092 called it a "symbol of white male rectangularity". The 1092s lived in a yurt Lafayette Park, and turned the White House over to a non-profit that promoted self-actualization through Andean drumming.

Blown Away

In September, as the Summit of Summits convened, a hurricane blew ashore in New England. Coastal residents recieved no warning; the National Storm Warning Center had been embroiled with the Ministry of Sensitivity over the naming of the storm (factions advocating naming the storm after a Gay American and a Mentally Handicapped American were deadlocked) until it was far too late to issue a warning. Thousands died, tens of billions of dollars of property damage ensued, from New York through Maryland.

As people cleaned up, the questions started: Why no warning? Why did the Ministry of Labor's attorneys file injunctions against the Ministry of Peace sending troops to help? Why did the Ministry of Information not get the word out?

The questions about both the Karachi Hostage Crisis and the No-Name Hurricane dominated the debate through the winter. People thought it couldn't get any worse.

They were wrong.

Part IV - World of Hurt
Part II - Irrational Exuberance
Part I - Push Comes to Shove

Posted by Mitch at November 11, 2004 12:43 PM | TrackBack

Say, if I leave a critical comment, and am famous enough, maybe I'll be written into the narative too!

"Hey, Red-Staters! You've got a boogie!"

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at November 11, 2004 02:29 PM

Well, yeah! It's called "interactive fiction".

Posted by: mitch at November 11, 2004 03:09 PM

Mr. Berg, you have outdone yourself.

Pity that none of the people you are (tongue-and-cheekedly) lampooning would think this was funny at all.

"That's not funny. It's sick."

This secession talk is the final, dying gasp of the Me Generation. How very typical...

Posted by: Pete (Alois) at November 11, 2004 04:40 PM

Man, if anyone came down to my suburban Pittsburgh home and tried to stick a sign like that on my lawn, they'd soon be wearing it for a bow tie, perhaps permanently. And not necessarily around the neck, either.

Posted by: Dave in Pgh. at November 11, 2004 04:42 PM