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Section Gee! | Off-Kilter

Time to Make Predictions, Not War

April 07, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vietnam II Bureau: Unless you watch CNN 24 hours a day, it's virtually impossible to figure out what's happening in Serbia, the Yugoslavian province being bombed by NATO in a bitter dispute over the correct pronunciation of Kosovo.

As a service to readers, we recently sent our time-traveling journalist several months into the future aboard Caltech's experimental time machine for a look at how the war will unfold:

* April: President Clinton issues a solemn promise that the U.S. will never send ground troops to Yugoslavia, although he later admits, "It depends on what your definition of 'ground troops' is."

* May: Antiwar protests multiply. Jane Fonda flies to Belgrade to film her newest workout video.

* June: In a daring retaliatory move, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic warns that unless the bombing stops, he will export more Yugo automobiles.

* July: To counter criticism that the U.S. is shouldering most of the war effort, Clinton stresses the contributions of other NATO nations. For example, Britain has sent eight planes, Denmark has contributed several dozen pastries, and France has shared its most valuable military secret--the blueprints for the Maginot Line. Even historically neutral Sweden donated an Ikea furniture set, Clinton boasts. And Canada offered a sound loop of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," to be blasted at Milosevic's headquarters.

* August: Confirming military experts' fears, the fighting in Kosovo spreads to Macedonia, Albania and an episode of the "Jerry Springer Show."

* September: NATO bombs the "Jerry Springer Show."

* January: The Y2K bug causes CIA computers to think it's 1900 and begin warning of a possible Serb assassination attempt against Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.

* February: NATO tackles a new civil war: the San Fernando Valley's secession attempt from Los Angeles.

Lawsuit of the Day: Burlington Homes of Bakersfield says it won't sell any houses to lawyers because experience indicates that "home buyers who are also lawyers threaten litigation at a dramatically higher rate than home buyers who are not lawyers."

Naturally, a lawyer is now suing Burlington for discrimination.

Loser of the Week: Last year, we reported on a New Jersey school district that changed the name of Valentine's Day to "Special Person Day" because too many students used "St." in front of "Valentine," thus giving it a religious connotation.

This year's secular conversion--courtesy of the school system in East Lansing, Mich.--involves the Easter Bunny, who has been replaced by the "Special Bunny."

What's next? Will the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have to be referred to as "the Special Civil Rights Person"?

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Satan Puts Down Revolt in Hell!" (Weekly World News)

The rebels had gained considerable support by promising to improve conditions in Hades, but Lucifer was prepared and the coup attempt failed.

Off-Kilter's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Unpaid Informants: Pamm Higgins, Martin Miller, Bakersfield Californian, Chicago Sun-Times, Terry Mattingly, National Catholic Register. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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