Aerospace lobbyists, military in satirist Buckley's cross hairs
Political satirist Christopher Buckley takes on aerospace lobbyists, military spending and political stereotypes in "They Eat Puppies, Don't They?" Buckley will appear at Town Hall on Monday, June 11.
Special to The Seattle Times
Christopher BuckleyThe author of "They Eat Puppies, Don't They?" will appear 7:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5 (800-838-3006, brownpapertickets.com and at the door).
In 2011, Boeing, the aerospace and defense behemoth, spent $15.9 million on lobbying, according to its federal disclosure reports. Big as that number is, it could be construed as thrifty. In 2010, Boeing spent $17.9 million.
And what exactly did Boeing want for all its access? Good luck telling from those disclosure reports.
In its fourth-quarter filing for 2011, Boeing makes reference to U.S. relations with about a dozen countries — including Sri Lanka, China, Azerbaijan — and lists a host of defense-related items. But aside from highlighting Congress' dopey infatuation with acronyms, the list is cryptic with a dash of creepy: "Rare Earths Supply Chain Technology and Resources Transformation (RESTART) Act of 2011 ... Military Aircraft Applications from Commercial Derivatives ... Prompt Global Strike."
Prompt Global Strike?
For a political satirist, this kind of setting is an invitation to play. In his novel "They Eat Puppies, Don't They?"(Twelve, 352 pp., $25.99), Christopher Buckley, the best going at poking fun at our political culture and foibles, accepts the invitation, to delightful effect.
"Bird" McIntyre, a richly compensated lobbyist for aerospace giant Groepping-Sprunt (love the name), is tasked, in Bird's words, to go rustle up some anti-China sentiment, the better to make Groepping-Sprunt's case for a big boost in military spending.
The storyline includes plots, real or imagined, to assassinate the Dalai Lama; weapon systems, real or imagined, that could do wonderful, awful things; pilfered urine; an unstable subatomic particle; and creative use of satellite technology.
I'd tell you more, but why ruin the fun? Suffice it to say that Buckley does sendups of stereotypes of China, think tanks, intelligence operations, neocons, media spin, pop culture, Civil War re-enactors, the compulsion to quote Sun-tzu and equestrian chic.
For years now, Buckley has been one of the country's finest lampoon artists. What Carl Hiaasen does with the sleaze and swamps of Florida, Buckley does with our nation's capital — or, as he calls it, "Gomorrah-on-the-Potomac." The only thing more twisted than his plots are his characters, and to top it off, he treats readers to splendid wordplay along the way.
Bird refers to one of his domiciles as the Military-Industrial Duplex. A lobbyist true, he offers up a new turn on an old saying: "You can fool some of the people some of the time — and those are the ones you need to concentrate on."
His partner in conspiracy, Angel Templeton, chairs the Institute for Continuing Conflict and offers up a saying of her own: "An ounce of preemption is worth a pound of enriched uranium."
By the way, I looked up "Prompt Global Strike." It's a Pentagon plan to enable the United States to strike any target anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
Popular Mechanics described one scenario, employing a "hypersonic cruise missile," like this:
"Traveling as fast as 13,000 mph, the warheads are filled with scored tungsten rods with twice the strength of steel. Just above the target, the warheads detonate, showering the area with thousands of rods — each one up to 12 times as destructive as a .50-caliber bullet. Anything within 3,000 sq. ft. of this whirling, metallic storm is obliterated."
Gulp was right.
It's a good thing Buckley is so deft a satirist. Because sometimes you wonder if satire is even needed.
Ken Armstrong: firstname.lastname@example.org. A Seattle Times reporter, he is the co-author of "Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity," winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for best fact crime book.