The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist, Earmark-Free Edition

What Washington is talking about this week.

Sadr Every Week
Iraq. With violence escalating, and his approval ratings dwindling to the low 30s, President Bush finally agrees to seek a diversity of opinions about Iraq, as long as they all coincide with his. Bush apparently plans to send even more troops to Iraq, and if that doesn’t get him down to single digits, he plans to ask Mark Foley to send more text messages to congressional pages.

We Also Care About Justice Stevens
Illness. Republicans and Democrats send their best wishes to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., whose condition after brain surgery may determine control of the Senate. They all insist that they’re not even thinking about politics, that they only care about Sen. Jackson, or Johnston, or whatever his name is. After watching a videotape of the patient, physician and outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., issues his diagnosis: The GOP lives!

Who’s Disappeared Now?
Death. Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the corrupt dictator renowned for making dissidents disappear, dies before he can face trial. The Zeitgeist has a feeling Pinochet is going somewhere that won’t be so Chile.

Sign of the Apocalypto
Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosts a conference for people who think the Holocaust never happened—not that there would have been anything wrong with that! Afterward, he insists he never said that Israel should be destroyed, never served as a consultant to James Baker on the Iraq Study Group, and never warned Mel Gibson to watch out for Jews on the California Highway Patrol.

Failure of Intelligence
Democrats. Incoming Senate appropriations chairman Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., stuns his colleagues by accepting a one-year moratorium on earmarks. It will be known as the Robert C. Byrd Earmark Moratorium, and scholars will study it for decades at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Earmark Analysis. Meanwhile, incoming House intelligence chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, flubs a quiz on Iraqi sects. Here’s a quick primer, congressman: The Sunnis hate the Shiites. The Shiites hate the Sunnis. And they all hate us.

Political Football
2008. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., appeals to male voters with a guest spot on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Expect Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to appear soon on Oxygen or Lifetime, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, to show up on the SciFi Channel. Kucinich proclaims himself a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination, but refuses to explain why his campaign slogan remains “Just Here for the Bud Light.”

“I loved it!” – Mel Gibson
Middle East. Former President Jimmy Carter defends his best-selling new book, which blames most of the problems in the Middle East on Israel. He’s now planning a sequel, which blames most of the problems in Ishtar on some assistant producer named Mordecai Rabinowitz. In other news, Ahmadinejad insists he’s never worked as a presidential ghostwriter.

The Unkindest Cut
Health. A new study suggests that circumcision may reduce HIV transmission rates by as much as 50 percent, the first evidence that removing the foreskin can prevent sexually transmitted diseases. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation immediately funds the fledgling relief group Mohels Without Borders.

Did Hillary Want Fashion Advice?
Royalty. Revelations in British tabloids about the Clinton administration wiretapping Princess Diana turn out to be false. Right-wingers who seized on the breathless reports to attack the Clinton family swiftly and profusely apologize for fanning the flames of a bogus scandal. After which the Redskins win nine straight, Baghdad becomes a popular tourist destination, and Mel Gibson founds a Malibu chapter of B’nai B’rith.

Backdoor Cut and Run
Sports. NBA Commissioner David Stern ends his league’s disastrous experiment with a lousy new synthetic ball, admitting his mistake and bringing back the old leather ball. His PR strategy is dismissed by Bush, who thinks Stern should stay the course with the lousy ball and force his successor to make the choice to ditch it, and by Ahmadinejad, who thinks Stern should insist that the new ball never happened.