The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist: Scraggly-Haired White Boy

What Washington is talking about this week.

Don’t Hate the Players
Media. Scraggly-haired white-boy radio host Don Imus is fired amid outrage that he referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” Imus apologizes profusely, making sure to mention that some of his best friends are nappy-headed hos. Defenders point out that Imus’ remarks are nothing compared with what many gangsta rappers say all the time. But even Snoop Dogg calls for his ouster, pointing out the difference between Imus insulting college students and his own references to “hos that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing shit, that’s trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things.” In other media news, the Onion comes to D.C.; Zeitgeist surrenders.

Who’s Your Biological Daddy?
Celebrities. After two months of popcorn-munching drama, a DNA test concludes that Anna Nicole Smith’s baby-daddy is floppy-haired photojournalist Larry Birkhead. “I told you so,” Birkhead tells reporters, implying that this could have been over a lot sooner if everyone had just listened. The baby wonders if they can run the test once more just to be sure. Towheaded former Playboy model Willa Ford will play Smith in the forthcoming biopic Anna Nicole—perhaps the most physically schizophrenic role since Robert DeNiro’s turn in Raging Bull.

Now They Can Throw a Real Party
Crime. The North Carolina attorney general drops all charges against three former Duke lacrosse players accused of gang-raping a stripper. They may now return to their normal lives, if you can call crippling notoriety and lifetime Googlability normal. But as this case closes, another opens: Silver-maned District Attorney Mike Nifong, condemned by the AG as a “rogue” prosecutor, is already the subject of a bar-association investigation and may also face charges for withholding exculpatory evidence. If convicted, he could be sentenced to mauling by Duke fans.

Pac It Up
Sports. The NFL suspends dreadlocked Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry for their off-field conduct. Jones, who faces charges related to a shooting in a Vegas strip club, insists he’s simply taking a break to spend some quality time with his lawyer. Redheaded NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chides them for “damaging the reputation of players throughout the league” and tarnishing the otherwise wholesome reputation of the NFL.

Take Off Your Helmet and Stay a While
Iraq. The Defense Department announces a surprise minisurge: Active-duty soldiers will have their tours extended from a year to 15 months. Elsewhere, a suicide bomb rips through the cafeteria of Iraq’s parliament building, killing eight and wounding many more. It’s the worst attack yet on the Green Zone, but balding Sen. John McCain says it is not part of the “larger picture.” Muqtada Sadr, meanwhile, encourages Shiite militias and Iraqi security forces to stop fighting one another—a touching call for solidarity amid so much sectarianism. Now they can focus on blowing up Americans.

Banker? I Barely Know Her!
Business. Greasy-haired World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz apologizes for giving plum jobs to a bank employee who happens to be his romantic partner. Since taking over in 2005, Wolfowitz has made fighting corruption a major plank of his tenure, possibly as a distraction technique. The bank’s board promises to act quickly in deciding Wolfowitz’s fate.

War “Czar” Least Popular Job Since Human Shield
White House. Three generals turn down the job of war “czar”—a new post that, if created, would oversee military and civilian affairs in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lack of interest indicates a strong reluctance to get mixed up in a troubled war effort. Perhaps the administration would have better luck if it called the position, say, Imperial Chieftain, or Grand Vizier of Sand and Sea.

Computer Failure Probably Just Actual Failure
Law. The war over the fired U.S. attorneys gets hotter than Johnny Cash’s house: Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, suspended in his sensory deprivation chamber in preparation for next week’s hearings, gets served with a subpoena requesting another batch of classified documents. The White House also announces that e-mails dealing with the firings of U.S. attorneys, including many from Karl Rove, have been “lost.” Dome-tastic Sen. Patrick Leahy compares the mix-up to the Nixon tapes’ missing 18 minutes. Seems more like the digital equivalent of “My dog ate my homework.” You know it’s bad when even Newt Gingrich thinks you should resign.

So It Goes
Death. Curly-haired Slaughterhouse-Five author Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84—a fact he would probably find hilarious, or depressing, or both. Vonnegut’s formative experience as a writer was the 1945 bombing of Dresden, which he called “a work of art.” Legions of MFA students pour out Pabst Blue Ribbons in his memory.

Eloquence, Experience, Lymphoma 2008. Potential Republican candidate Fred Thompson reveals he has cancer—a seeming prerequisite for public life these days. Buzz also builds around Newt Gingrich, who defies all expectations at a debate with swoosh-haired Sen. John Kerry and advocates corporate tax incentives to combat global warming. Audience members half-expect “Gingrich” to tear off his mask and reveal himself as Al Gore. Meanwhile, as Sen. John McCain reasserts his commitment to this “necessary and just” war in Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama calls for a “surge in honesty.” Obama 2008: Where the “O” is for “Oh, snap.”