Happy New Year, mon fréres 

What very few experts (well, actually, nobody but me) have discovered is that the Y2K mess is the Roman Catholic Church’s fault. Back when the French Revolution was in high gear, Danton, Robespierre and those other garçons didn’t just chop off heads.

They also invented an entirely new, much better calendar in which the months had beautiful names, were each 30 days long, and the year ended with five holidays (six on leap years) called sansculottides, literally, without pants.

Enchanting, especially considering my knees in the autumn twilight, but never mind. Had they stuck with it, New York, as always with Paris fashion, certainly would have followed; by 1900 or so, the new calendar might even have spread to Toledo.

Not only that, Wednesday, Sept. 22, would be New Year’s Day – 1 Vendemiaire (vintage time) of the year 208, which means even an ancient Radio Shack computer would work just fine, and none of us would have to worry about all this Y2K merde.

Unfortunately, Napoleon cut a deal with the church that returned the empire to the clunky system we are stuck with today, with every new year starting in the frozen gray and all civilization now threatened by bad planning and lurking, ancient computer chips.

So what is really going to happen when the false millennium hits?

Thanks to my own native brilliance, the mystic arts of journalism and a course in applied science, I have a pretty good idea. Nothing much, in the United States. Oh, the lights will dim briefly some places, mainly from everyone turning them on to see if they still work.

Gertrude Schlembocker, a 104-year-old widow in Iowa, will be sent notice to report to kindergarten in the fall, and somehow, 58 pallets of really bad furniture bound for a Montgomery Ward warehouse in Utah will be sent to a fish hatchery in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, the world is likely to end, anyway. Everything in Russia and the dozen countries ("stans") flung off from the chaotic wreckage of the USSR is run by old computers. None of these countries can afford toilet paper, let alone new programming.

That means their power will go off, their nuclear plants may do scary things, and the odd missile may be launched, here and there. (Viewing Dr. Strangelove might not help calm the nerves.) Now if we can get just get past that, we should all be more or less fine, at least until the world’s oil reserves dry up in mid-April 2019 or so.

Incidentally, you’d think the Vatican would be the one institution to know better. Remember last time we had a millennium change? Thanks to the Y1K problem, we were stuck in the Dark Ages another 500 years.

Nasty Rumor: Speaking of computer glitches, the hottest rumor on the media front these days concerns the Free Press official line that Bob Talbert (a popular columnist in the ’70s who forgot to retire) is recovering from bypass surgery.

Talbert’s column disappeared some weeks ago, and some reader finally noticed. The dish is that his condition, professional or physical, is much more ominous. The truth is very different. Though a stout man with a gray ponytail and a bad Southern accent occasionally has been hired to smile and wave, there is no "Bob Talbert."

Those words are a code name for an early Atex computer experiment that lists names and adjectives at random in a valiant attempt to re-create human prose.

Unfortunately, the program is not Y2K compliant, and technicians are currently attempting to install new software. Further updates as news warrants.

Our Next President: Not everybody is sorry our daily newspapers are so bad.

Take Bill Ballenger, who publishes the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics. Thanks to the corporate newspaper entity largely abandoning the franchise, Bill can sit in his comfy riverfront home in Lansing and make a tidy living providing information and insight to a few thousand people who want or need to know what’s happening in the capital.

Ballenger doesn’t always get it right; he occasionally misses the mark on what downstate folk are feeling. Yet he is the best in the business, and last week, accurately pointed out that the conventional wisdom that Bush Minor can go ahead and line up the longhorns for his inaugural parade is premature.

The latest poll does show Dubya still ahead of Wooden Al in the state, but by only six points, far less than a few months ago. Ominously for Republicans, Debbie Stabenow continues to hold a significant lead over the moonfaced incumbent, which ought to be viewed with enormous alarm by the Abraham forces.

What you can bank on is seeing a lot more of what John Gotti should have called the candidattori over the next year. Electing a president is a giant board game in which each piece (state) has a number value; you have to get 270 to win.

Last time, poor Bob Dole got 159, mainly from states any Republican is sure to win, like Texas and Oklahoma. The problem for Bushie is coming up with the other 111 he needs; virtually the entire Eastern and Western seaboards seem out of reach.

That leaves the Midwest; he has to score big in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, or back to the tumbleweeds. Here’s hoping that on his next pass through Metro, our valiant media will ask him a relevant question. One.


More by Jack Lessenberry

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