It's Halloween, 2002. We're nearing the end of a pretty scary year. And I've had a recent series of scary nightmares - recurring scenarios that make "Nightmare on Elm Street" fainthearted by comparison.

First, I dreamed that Congress passed a Freedom from Information Act. Calling the free flow of information the greatest threat to our well being and national security, Congress passed legislation to guarantee citizens protection from unpleasant information that could damage their peace of mind.

Pacific County officials, too, pledged to "stem the tide" of depressing information, such as details about Long Beach City Council meetings and sensible explanations about how the Pacific County Lodging Tax Committee makes its decisions to distribute funds.

I dreamed that an alarmed Patrick Buchanan claimed that hundreds of thousands of Americans were actually "made in China." Alleging that shoddy, Asian-looking, knockoff Americans were being mass-produced by low-wage, non-union parents, Buchanan urged the return of all bootlegged Americans to their countries of origin.

I dreamed that - in a display of might - Coca Cola introduced a new 30-liter bottle to satisfy Americans' desire for "bigger things." The four-foot-tall, 275-pound bottle required three men to lift it.

The new 30-liter bottle, they claimed, would "build a sense of community" - since it takes three men to lift it, open it, and pour its contents. The product introduction - tabbed "Family Size - will virtually eliminate "lonely soda drinkers," they remarked.

I dreamed that the new Long Beach Convention Center opened successfully, but was later abandoned after scores of guests reported that the facility was haunted. Some reported eerie noises and apparitions of deceased Peninsula residents and businesspersons ruined by land swapping and bulldozing tactics.

I dreamed that Congress enacted an "American with No Abilities" Act - sweeping legislation to protect over 140 million talent-less, hamster-like Americans. Many of the ungifted work at non-rewarding jobs like photocopying documents that nobody reads or fulfilling Black and Decker toaster rebates. Spokesmen noted that tough new measures were passed to prevent discrimination against less-than-ableds, including a ban on asking interview questions such as "Do you have any special skills that would make you an asset to this company?"

I dreamed that Congress - in a mood to approve everything President George W. Bush asked for - lifted the presidential salary cap of $400,000. Bush had earlier complained that his paltry salary doesn't begin to compare with some of his CEO pals like Vance Coffman, and that his current salary would require 150 years to make up the $60 million he spent to get elected in 2000.

Congress approved Bush's request that he be paid $10,000 for each presidential veto and that other nations be charged a sliding-scale fee for American intervention or invasion. Bush, however, concluded that his new salary is still way below that of many McDonald's managers.

I dreamed that federal government officials deemed a three-year Harvard study "too frightening to release." Refusing to identify the specific topic of the study, anonymous government officials claimed that the study is "too terrifying to release to the public at large" and that, if published, the study could stimulate riots, the abandonment of our current economic and political system, or even global thermonuclear war.

All primary data has been destroyed and several key members of the research team have been reported missing or dead-under mysterious conditions. One anonymous government source claimed the study concludes that the Lewis and Clark Expedition was a hoax.

My most recent dream was that everyone who dies - a substantial number of us - must pay for his or her sins, in cash - to the Lord. It seems that Father Guido Sarducci (a.k.a. Don Novello of Saturday Night Live) was actually correct.

When an individual dies, he or she goes through the long tunnel to meet the Lord, who immediately offers $14.50 for every single day lived. But we have to pay for all our sins. Thus a lie costs $10, a stolen hubcap $100, and a murder $100,000.

After the Lord adds the costs of all our sins and subtracts from the $14.50-per-day amount, some can proceed to Heaven. If the cost of sinning exceeds the Lord's cash payment, we have to come back for additional lives to make up the difference.

If Vatican gossip columnist Guido Sarducci is right, belief in reincarnation could get a real boost. And many of us will probably see many familiar faces in our future lives.

I pray that none of my nightmares come true, though there's an outside chance that a few might.

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