Monday, August 6, 2012

Interview With An Oligarch

Just for fun -- take a break from the political grind!  Visit the first days of the Adelson/Romney Presidency.

A MeanMesa Future History
A Dark and Frightening Novella
An Interview With An Oligarch

No! No!  Interview with an OLIGARCH!  AN OLIGARCH! (image source)


It is a couple of months into the Adelson/Romney Presidency.  The newly elected President, Mitt Romney, is enjoying a suspiciously thorough victory which has delivered both the House of Representatives and the Senate into Republican hands.

Sheldon Adelson, exercising his new Citizens United legality, has poured hundreds or possibly thousands of millions of dollars into the Romney campaign.  His influence on the government is now a fait accompli recognized by both Romney supporters and others.  Sheldon has tastefully avoided moving into permanent White House quarters after the violent public protest problems following the vote count.

MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters
The Delivery

The invitation to interview Adelson came as a complete surprise when it arrived at MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters.  The immense limousine was so long that it couldn't even navigate the parking lot in front facing the entrance to the Headquarters offices.  When the rather stuffy, liveried servant approached the city desk to silently deposit the faux gilded personal envelope with the now famous Adelson "A" monogram in pearlescent plastic embossed in its center, the entire office froze.

A few of the staff frantically exited the building while a few others, the level headed bunch, screamed to call the bomb squad as they desperately snatched the thumb drives from their computers.  When it was clear that the envelope was, in fact, not a bomb, it was ceremoniously and quite tenderly opened as most of the MeanMesa editorial staff looked on, transfixed.

The envelope's contents seemed to flow out into a limpid pool on the desk, revealing a message which could be read while still not so much as touching the card itself.  The predictably gaudy array of "titles" commenced almost immediately, leaving only room for a couple of lines of actual message toward the bottom of the thing.

There were a lot of media types who would have not so much as even flinched to sacrifice their right hand for a chance to interview the unquestioned "power behind the throne" of the lack lustre Romney Presidency.  The man had been understandably private even during his weekly $100 Million dollar contributions to the flagging Romney for President campaign.

Rumor had it that Adelson ponied up $400 Million all at once just to ease the Mormon's angst.  Prior to embracing Romney, Adelson's favorite had been the hard hitting ex-Speaker, and it had been Adelson who concocted all the hate that Gingrich had dumped on Mitt during the Primary.  Adelson, infamous for "letting by gones be by gones," may have spurred the Newt to sharpen the long blades during that fight, but once the thing had been decided by the Party's owners, the gambling magnate slithered comfortably into the Romney camp almost instantly.

Oh sure, there had been the anticipated outrage over the voting irregularities and there had even been a bit of a hoo haw in the streets just before the heavily guarded Inauguration, but now, only a couple of months later, things had returned to a dull state which most observers would concede was "about as normal as it was going to get."  

The Limousine Calls

The offer to send the car was routine.  Adelson had grown understandably paranoid after the long series of failed bomb attacks and the assassination attempts, but the old bird still had plenty of hubris,  lots of cash and nerves of steel.  No vehicle which was not part of the magnate's security system could penetrate the myriad of locked gates and check points which punctuated the long road to the mansion proper.  Even President Romney had to abandon the "beast," disarm his Secret Service contingent and take his place in one of the Adelson limos in order to pay a visit -- all of which he, of course, did eagerly.

On the appointed day, MeanMesa waited patiently at the curb in from of the Headquarters building.  An impressive, obviously armored, limousine with heavily tinted windows seemed to suddenly appear in a silent rush.  As it came to a stop, the driver remained behind the wheel while another man, also dressed in a tuxedo, quickly stepped out to open the rear door.

Once inside, a beautiful woman was waiting.  She was the "protocol secretary" who was responsible for the proper behavior from all of Adelson's guests. She introduced herself as Miss Grey.

Protocol Secretary -- actual photo prohibited (image source)

"We have a few minutes to talk before we arrive at the gates to the castle. There are a few things we should go over to prevent any unpleasantness during your interview."  She rambled uninterestedly.  "First, do you have any questions?"

"Well yes, there are a couple of things.  Maybe the first thing on my mind is why Mr. Adelson offered MeanMesa an opportunity for an interview at all?  Of course I'm delighted for the chance, but, well, MeanMesa just seems like an unusual choice."  I responded cautiously.

"That's none of your affair.  His Grace always has very good reasons for the decisions He makes.  When that decision is to interview with MeanMesa, that is simply the decision.  I would have assumed that, by now, you might have had a better understanding of how this works."  Miss Grey rambled.  She had obviously been through similar conversations in the past.

"This is your summary of interview regulations.  The Kevlar case has a security identification chip which will allow you to take it with you through the strip search and x-ray check point."  Miss Grey nonchalantly handed over a bullet proof, transparent plastic case with a single sheet of paper inside.

"I'm also a little nervous about the titles.  I've heard a number of different titles used by various people when addressing Mr. Adelson.  What is the appropriate title for me to use during the interview?"  I asked.  "In fact, how did Mr. Adelson wind up with so many different titles?"

"Well, first of all, every one of Mr. Adelson's titles is completely legitimate.  A respectful and grateful Congress has bestowed each and every one of them on Him as an act of the deepest gratitude for the 'democracy-work' He's performed for the country."  Miss Grey had clearly gone through this explanation before, too.
"During the interview you should begin by addressing Mr. Adelson as 'Your Eminence,' but only for the first or second times.  After that, if Mr. Adelson seems to be in a pleasant mood, you should begin to address Him simply as 'Governor General' or 'Liberty Viceroy Adelson.'  However, if you notice that He is becoming perturbed in any way, you should begin at once to address him as 'Father Protector of Capitalism and Peace' or, perhaps, simply as 'Enlightened One.'  I'm sure that you've heard what kind of things can happen should Mr. Adelson begin to feel unappreciated or otherwise uncomfortable during an interview like this one."  Miss Grey stared out the window as she droned on and on.

The magnate had a very bad, infamous reputation for not tolerating even the most subtle disrespect or defiance from those who were allowed into the inner chamber of the mansion.

"Also, I usually suggest that you compliment 'First Citizen Adelson' on his home and furnishings.  Many of the things you'll see inside came directly from the liberated palaces of Sadam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi.  The 'Prelate Cardinal' considers all of this to be a 'gift from God to the righteous.'"  She added.

"I notice that, while 'First Citizen Adelson' is a practising Jew and a staunch proponent of the expansion of Israeli colonial dominance, many of the the titles are much more Catholic than Jewish.  How did that happen?"  I had to ask.

"As the universally ordained 'Defender of the Sacred Western Freedom,' Cardinal Prelate Guardian Adelson has embraced the authoritarian quality of the Catholic Faith as one which can be useful in the rehabilitation of the country.  His good friend and staunch, indentured supporter, President Romney, completely, totally and energetically agrees with this."  Miss Grey answered.

"Of course, both President Romney and 'Inspired Gift From the God of the Old Testament Adelson' are 'uniters.'  The whole country can now appreciate how much better things have become once the Great Free Market Faith Traditions of Judaic Freedom, Mormon Confidence and Catholic Obedience have been reconciled and amalgamated to found the Faith of the New Prosperity.  Many of us who love 'Prophet and Protector Adelson' as a sort of Earthly Servant to the Deity think of Him literally as Moses' Honorary Brother, and, in fact, He does, occasionally, use Romanized versions of Judaic titles such as 'Rabbinus Perpetualus' when He feels  a need to connect His prophetic qualities to his own heritage." she continued.

By this point my head was spinning.  I frantically searched through the remnants of my cogency for some stable refuge from Miss Grey's glacial barrage of talking points and titles.

The giant limousine had now stopped at the first of the check points.  The assistant to the driver opened the door to allow me to exit.  Once again, Miss Grey acted as if she were the only person in the car.  There was no "Good luck" or "Have a good interview."  Absolutely nothing beyond a blank stare and steely silence filled the passenger compartment.  I suddenly realized that what had seemed to be the woman, Miss Grey, had actually been an android, permanently mounted on that rear seat.  This was the predictable bent of Adelson's paranoia about security.

Clutching the plastic coated sheet with my interview rules, I stripped off all my clothes and carefully placed them in a basket.  One of the guards handed me some poorly fitting orange coveralls and a new pair of thongs, still wrapped in heat shrink film from the Chinese factory where they had been made.

I was hustled into a fresh limousine which had appeared from inside the compound.  This time, the passenger compartment was completely empty aside from myself.  There was an overwhelming presence of some sort of noxious antiseptic gas.

"Adelson Acres" -- actual photo prohibited.  (image source)

Zipping silently along the tree lined approach, within a few minutes the thing  arrived at the castle proper.  Amazingly, the place was completely deserted.  As if in a creepy sort of science fiction script, the limo door opened automatically, closing again when I had stepped out.  The main door to the palace automatically swung open in a similar way as I approached. 

Once inside, the lights in an immense atrium blinked on only after I had stepped inside.  I wasn't sure if it were just my imagination, but I seemed to feel another sweep of powerful x-rays passing through my body.  The thing looked like an out of control Holiday Inn from the 1950's -- one where the facility's decorators enjoyed a permanent contract and just kept going, year after year.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by six large guards dressed in the uniform of IDF (Israeli Defense Force) officers.  They were all bedecked with mirrored sun glasses, and each one held a fully loaded automatic Uzi.  Wordlessly, one gestured that I should walk in the center of a sort of phalanx they had quickly formed around me.  We made our way some distance through the entry chamber of the mansion to a heavily fortified steel door with two more guards standing on either side.

The soldiers saluted each other, and one of the guards at the door checked his watch.  He informed the guards in my escort that the door would unlock in 90 seconds, at which time, I was to be escorted inside.

When the massive door opened, I could see that it was quite similar to a bank vault.  Once inside, the thing rolled closed again almost at once.

I found myself in another grand room which must have been a hundred yards long and twenty or thirty yards wide.  The decor in this inner chamber was even more grotesque than the unsettlingly tasteless atrium had been.  I now understood just how many "decorative items" His Grace had lifted from the ruins of the liberated Hussein palace in Baghdad.

Throne Room for His Grace -- actual photo prohibited (image source)

There were gigantic mirrors along a colonade set into both walls.  Giant paintings, most darkened to illegibility by age, punctuated the glaring reflection of huge, overly done, overly bright chandeliers which dangled in a string down the center.  There were sculptures, but every one of them was of too small a size for the burden of balance in the room.  It was impossible to even speculate what they might have represented from this distance.

Everything which hadn't been stolen from one of Sadam's wrecked palaces was just as cheap as everything which had been stolen.  Things seemed uniformly, well, greasy.

The immense room was clearly divided into "regions."  As one moved from the entrance toward the far end of the place, a series of three dias-like steps ascended from the floor where I stood to a gaudy, Sadam-style throne at the top.  Next to the throne proper was an ever so slightly less magnificent, ever so slightly smaller throne with the Presidential Seal clearly visible on the chair's back.

Looking quickly around the gigantic room, all sorts of other unexpected things could be seen.  For example, off to one side, a row of uniformly clad "brokers" sat at a long row of desks making trades based on information displayed on a series of computer screens.  Each one wore a green visor and rubber bands on each sleeve of the white long sleeve shirt which was clearly the uniform of the day.

Over their heads, a huge computerized board displayed a constant total of Magnate Adelson's wealth in dollars.  When the number was increasing, the screen was green, and when the numbers decreased, the characters turned a blood red.  I watched as a subtle trade made somewhere along the row of desks impacted the "rate of profit."  A clanking, mechanical red arrow advanced along a track at the bottom of the screen until it pointed down at one of the traders.

An obnoxious little bell rang once when the arrow stopped.

The man's face was instantly filled with abject terror.  He looked around to his fellow workers, desperately seeking assistance from any of them, but, pointedly ignoring his predicament, they steadfastly continued their frenzied infatuation with the trading screens.  From no where three more of the IDF clad guards in sun glasses appeared, roughly snatching the man at whom the arrow had pointed.  I saw the glint of a syringe in the dimly lit place, the man collapsed, a frightened young replacement scurried in to take his seat and the now unconscious victim was quickly dragged away.

Adelson, himself, sat, uninterested in the events on the floor three levels below his great chair.  He was wrapped in a hideous, multi-colored cape heavily bedecked with jewels and satin ribbons.  All of the jewels looked quite real.

A man who looked very much like a Swiss Papal guard stepped forward onto the middle level of the dias, loudly thumping his ornate, ceremonial peltate as if to catch my attention.  Another, lesser, toadie scuttled quickly to remove a kneeling cushion which had been left before the throne on the room's floor level by the last supplicant.  This signalled permission for me to approach.  At last my interview was to begin in earnest.

I was frantically reviewing all the flood of possible titles in search of the best choice.  Adelson himself seemed to be drilling through my face with eyes like bottomless black pits.  As it turned out, my hesitation was actually an elementary display of reverence and protocol.

The man on the throne began to speak.  It was clear that his voice was being amplified by some unseen mechanism, probably something hidden among the the gilded gargoyles and glitter of the throne itself -- it seemed to boom after it was broadcast through the myriad of speakers around the dias, but the words were also awkwardly delayed from the physical motion of the man's mouth and lips.

I frantically looked down at the interview guidelines which Sheldon's protocol secretary had provided to me in the limousine.

"First Citizen Monsignor, thank you for granting me the honor of an interview. My first question deals with Your Eminence's selection of MeanMesa.  Can You explain why such a small outlet as MeanMesa was chosen over some larger, grander media enterprise?" I began nervously.

"WE have chosen MeanMesa exactly because it is a small, inconsequential and inconspicuous media outlet which will provide an opportunity to measure the public response to OUR latest decisions.  Today, WE are announcing several important new policy decisions, and WE are mildly interested in a small sampling of the public response."  The amplified sound which now seemed to ooze from every corner of the entire dias was irritatingly detached from the man's which could now be heard faintly through the amplified signal.  It seemed as if Adelson was saying everything twice.

"Your Grace, will you now indulge me with the announcements You've decided to make?"  My efforts at appearing sincerely scraping seemed to placate Adelson.

"Yes, WE shall.  You remember to report exactly what has been said here just as MY protocol secretary, Ms. Grey, has instructed you.  You will report these two announcements in the order you have received them."  The magnate boomed.

"Of course, my Duke.  I am Your eager servant for all such matters."  I thought that the faux humility in this response was particularly pungent.

"Very well then.  Pay careful attention so there will be no mistakes or confusion.  First, the people of the United States have expressed a complete eagerness and an entirely favorable opinion with respect to the immediate invasion and liberation of Iran.  Thousands and thousands of the nation's teenagers will be leaving their expensive and ineffective high schools for military training in the next few days following the President's order for a general mobilization."  He was obviously reading from some sort of tele-prompter although none was visible from where I was standing.

"But Highness, it seemed as if the American people had grown tired of Middle Eastern Wars.  Does President Romney actually intend to issue an order like this?"  Afterwards, I realized that I had asked the question too quickly, but the announcement had taken me by surprise.

"Naturally, President Romney completely agrees with my idea that this will be the best possible course.  Both he and I understand that immediate ground war with Iran will permanently solve the unemployment problem for this conscript age group in the US.  I've asked a few of MY own friends and acquaintances about the proposal.  At first, some seemed reluctant, but when WE spoke further about dividing up the liberated oil reserves, opinion settled into a strong positive.  This is clearly the will of the American people.  It's the job of tiny germs like MeanMesa to make it even more popular -- or else."  Now it was impossible to tell if Adelson was still continuing to read his prompter or had simply slipped into bombast.

"Of course, Excellency.  Is there more?"  He had mentioned two announcements before the war proclamation.

"Yes.  The President and the Congress have decided to further elevate the Baroness Bachmann du Minesotaya to the official position of Royal Queen Princess  Michele I as a token of their great appreciation of Her work for the furthering of democracy in the Republic.  Her escort will become Marguis Marcus. The Coronation for the Royal Bachmann Family will be this evening.  For security reasons, no commoners will attend."  The old bird continued.

Royal Princess Michele I, Adelson's Queen of Iran (image source)

"Royal Queen Princess Michele I, Glorious Protector of the Faith,  will be installed as the Rightful Absolute Monarch of the new Kingdom of Iran once OUR armies have established ownership there."

There was a pause.  Adelson seemed to be staring through me even more than before.  He was clearly thinking of anything he wished to add to the MeanMesa story.  Finally, I cautiously broke the gloomy silence.

"MeanMesa is, naturally, always eager to fulfil its duties as a responsible media outlet, Lord Protector of Democracy. Will there be anything further?"

"There remains just a few minor details to be noted.  An appreciative Congress has passed a new bill which makes it a felony to report any news whatsoever about OUR Chinese connections, about OUR tax returns or about dogs on station wagons.  President Romney has wisely signed this into law this morning."

"You weren't thinking of mentioning this in your MeanMesa report were you?"

"Oh no!  Of course not, Prophet Prelate Adelson!  MeanMesa will only be reporting the facts which have been officially approved for reporting."  I rushed to reassure the magnate before he spun off into one his lethally dangerous little tantrums.

"Very well then.  This interview is finished."  The magnate signalled to someone behind the drapes which framed the throne.

The amplifying system scratched off line loudly as my personal phalanx of heavily armed guards quickly reappeared around me.  Following the instructions in the protocol for the audience, I carefully took three steps backwards, bowed deeply and turned to walk out of the throne room.  The clang of the massive steel door closing and the hum of the steel rods sliding into the bomb proof frame actually sounded reassuring.

The remainder of this tale is of little importance here.  The trip back to Galactic Headquarters was uneventful, but upon arriving it was obvious that the entire staff of MeanMesa had been removed and replaced with a strange, thuggish bunch with nearly opaque sun glasses and very, very little to say.

As MeanMesa visitors can see, this story was carefully and accurately reported.

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