Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hops, Shoots, & Quails

Texas (Gambel's) Quail

Quail is both a noun and a verb. The noun refers to a beautiful smaller bird that some people consider sporting to shoot. The slang meanings of quail as a noun are numerous and usually sexual in nature. As early as Elizabethan times, quail was slang for prostitute.

As a verb, quail means acting cowardly, shrinking away, or seeking cover.

Quailing is very much in the news this week. There was an accident in Texas involving quail that was potentially extremely embarrassing to the Bush administration. Not since 1994, when George W. went hunting pigeons, shot a rare bird (charadrius vociferous) by mistake, and paid a $130 fine have Texas Republicans been so chagrined.

The current VP, the secretive Dick “No Tracey” Cheney (halliburtanus pusillanus), engaged in one of his favorite pastimes: shooting quail, perhaps bobtail (colinus v. texanus). Except in this case Cheney by mistake shot Harry Whittington, who is not a rare bird but a familiar species of well-heeled senior Texas Republican (septuagenanus texanus).

The typical first reaction to bad news by the Bush administration is to try to cover it up, which the VP and his party may have been foolish enough initially to think they could do. No such luck, because the buck-shotted Whittington, even if buck naked, will for the rest of his life be unable to pass through a metal detector without setting off the alarm. No, the cover-our ass tactic didn’t work, but Carl Rove (odious toxicanus) was involved and when Rove is the name, blaming others is the game. Rove kicked the well-heeled Whittington in the ass. Rove swift-booted him. “The geezer is at fault. The geezer is practically senile. The geezer didn’t know what the hell he was doing. The geezer blindsided the innocent VP.” The Mercury News reported that “The White House blamed the 78-year-old man whom Vice President Dick Cheney shot during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas for the incident, as officials struggled Monday to explain why they waited nearly 24 hours before making the news public.” Loyal Texas Republican that he is, Whittington took the fall, like a dying quail. He even suffered a “minor” heart attack when one of the pellets migrated to his heart.

Quails and Chicken Hawks

Why was the quail story such bad news for the administration? Because Cheney, who is very unpopular with the electorate, had avoided serving in the military, and shooting off anything in defense of his country except his mouth was never one of his priorities. Unfair or not, the impression is out there that the tough-out-of-the-side-of-his-mouth-talking Cheney is a craven coward. He was gung-ho for invading Iraq even while he was hiding, or quailing, in bunkers. The Texas quail story was potentially very bad because a hunting accident in which he was driven to his quail by a rich host lobbyist and then allowed to carelessly shoot his hunting partner would only call attention to Cheney’s, and the president's, quail- accomplished Chicken Hawk image.

There is also the possibility that the administration tried to kill the story because alcohol was involved. If not during the hunting, then possibly before; either the VP or Whittington, or both, might have been drinking, not necessarily very much but enough to impair somebody’s judgment or reflexes. It is only a possibility, but that possibility would have been eliminated if the accident had been promptly reported and Cheney, perhaps playing hopscotch, had not avoided the media. The sheriff later reported no alcohol was involved, but since officers were initially turned away from the Armstrong ranch, what kind of investigation did he conduct? You can bet the VP will be sober as a Judge Scalia when he does face the public and the media.

Humulus Lupulus: Wolf Among Sheep

John Nichols, author of a book on Cheney’s controversial career, points out in a posting in The Nation that, as an undergraduate at Yale, Cheney hit the bottle harder than he hit the books, which was one of the reasons he flunked out. GW drank heavily, too, but he later swore off the stuff. Cheney did not. He earned two DUI's in his 20s. Nichols also points out that Katharine Armstrong, the quail hunt hostess, has admitted that some drinking took place on the day of the hunt, but she said, vaguely, it wasn’t much, “a beer or two.” Will we ever learn who quaffed how many hops at the quail hunt? And was the delay part of the attempt to cover up how much the VP consumed? Incidentally, the scientific name for hops (humulus lupulus), shown above, means wolf among sheep, because the potent hops used to grow, or prowl, among willows.

Since a lobbyist was the host of the Texas quail hunt, that also did not look good, not now that Jack Abramoff, beginning to sing like a canary, is causing the administration so much acid reflux. Abramoff donated to an organization of Israel sharpshooters when what was really needed was a practice range for Republican quail hunters. In a New Yorker piece, Jane Mayer dubbed quail hunting Cheney’s “contract sport.” She reported that in 1998, Cheney negotiated a $7.7 billion contract for Halliburton during a weekend of quail hunting. No wonder the VP has such an enormous nest egg.

Most state laws are very liberal where hunters are concerned because legislators at all levels quail before the NRA. In a hunting accident, only a fatality requires the hunters to notify authorities. Imagine if that were the case in automobile accidents. GW had been arrested for driving under the influence, and now Trigger Finger Dick ran the risk of being arrested for shooting a septuagenanus texicanus under the influence and without a license. Not having the right stamp to hunt was also, of course, somebody else’s fault, not the VP's.

The next best thing to covering up the accident completely was to put a spin on it by releasing the story to a subservient local newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, so that the story could start being spun in the administration’s favor. Kathryn Garcia, a reporter for the Caller-Times said on MSNBC's Countdown that the relationship between the paper and the Armstrong family had been very friendly for a long time. We in Portsmouth know about the cozy relationship between the local newspaper and local over-privileged.

Following the shooting, the VP immediately ran for cover, where he will probably remain until such time as Rove can arrange a press conference in which Cheney and his victim, preferably out of his hospital bed, can exchange wisecracks, and repeat the spin Rove had already begun for the story: It wasn’t the Vice President’s fault; it wasn’t a serious injury; it was only a minor heart attack; it wasn’t a big deal.

Cowards Shoot “Quail” near Kroger's

Before Cheney went quail hunting in Texas, somebody was hunting quail, i.e., prostitutes, in Portsmouth. The Shawnee Sentinel is an alternative on-line newspaper that prints all the news that the Portsmouth Daily Times (PDT) considers unfit to print, all the news that reflects poorly on the over-privileged who control Portsmouth economically and politically. In a story dated Feb. 10, a writer reported, “The Sentinel has learned there is a new so-called ‘sport’ in town called ‘painting hoes.’ Cowardly men are practicing drive-by shootings [using paint-filled projectiles] of prostitutes in Portsmouth. A recent shooting that Sentinel reporters are aware of took place right across the street from Kroger's in broad daylight.”

It is fitting that the cowardly quail hunters of Portsmouth are doing their shooting in the neighborhood of Kroger’s because that is where the current Portsmouth mayor, James Kalb, was previously employed. Though a Democrat, Kalb likes to serve the needs of Portsmouth’s rich over-privileged Republicans. Birds of a feather flock and hunt quail together. Kalb's platform is to tax the middle and lower classes and abate and abet and abase himself before the over-privileged. He is doing all he can, figuratively and literally, to tear down the Municipal Building so that some developer can acquire the land on which it rests. As a council member and now as mayor, he has been an architect of the scam by which a local lawyer is palming off a hundred-year-old empty department store as the future home of the city government.

A duck allegedly trapped in storm drain was a front-page story in the PDT, but the shooting of prostitutes around Kroger’s is not the kind of news they want to investigate. And not all the prostitutes in Portsmouth work the streets and not all of them are women. Just as street prostitutes serve the sexual needs of their clients, the prostituted PDT reporters serve the political needs of their clients – the politicians and over-privileged of Portsmouth. The quailing reporters of the PDT duck the news, like the anthrax hoax at Shawnee State, and decline to publish anything that might reflect unfavorably on their clients. A letter-to-the-editor from a seventy-seven-year-old Portsmouth woman, a subscriber to the newspaper for a half century, was withheld from publication because she dared to criticize the mayor's craving for secrecy and his closed door policy in regard to public documents. The similarity between what is happening in the Municipal Building and what is happening at the White House is uncanny.

We are all sitting ducks and pigeons for those running the government, in Washington and Portsmouth, and we will continue to be so until we stop quailing.