Friday, December 30, 2005

Let's Make a Deal

Let's Make a Deal
A Deal
That Would Change The World

If George Bush wants to secure his place in history as a great president, time is running out. But fate has created a historic opportunity for George. Only once before in my lifetime has a president been so uniquely positioned to change the world in a positive way. The first was rabid anti-Communist Richard Nixon and his sudden and unexpected trip to Chairman Mao's China, a trip that changed the US/China relationship for the better, forever.

George W. Bush's opportunity is no less radical, no less expected and, if embraced with the same stubborn enthusiasm he has shown for tax cuts and fighting terrorist, it would change the world, literally.

Here's the George's trip to China.

In his State of Union message next month he announces the following deal:

Congress will approve drilling for oil and gas in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. But, the legislation authorizing oil company exploitation of this precious and irreplaceable national asset comes with conditions: :

Terms and Condition's

1) 70% of profits (as determined by independent audits) that oil companies make off ANWR oil must be reinvested into a ten years of research and development of renewable energy products to replace their oil fuel products.

2) The federal government will match every dollar in oil profits oil companies reinvest in this ten year transition, including but not limited to their ANWR oil profits. Oil companies will be required to use this federal money to help finance the restructuring of their existing energy delivery and distribution infrastructure to accommodate new energy products, such as hydrogen refueling service stations for autos and trucks and grid-interconnected solar for residential and industrial electric generation, storage and delivery.

3) During this ten year program oil companies will not be allowed to sell a drop of Wildlife Refuge oil or its refined elements outside the the continental United States, or to use ANWR oil to replace domestic oil sold aboard. This will ease oil and gas prices for US consumers during this ten year transition to renewable energy products that will replace oil.

That's the deal. Ten years to cleaner energy and energy independence in return for access to ANWRs oil. A proposal from, of all people on earth, Texas oil man, George W. Bush -- the same man who has not only refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty stemming greenhouse gas emissions and refuses to even acknowledge there's a real problem. In one sweep of his Presidential pen such a deal would relegate Nixon's trip to China to distant second place in the annals of Presidential boldness.

History would place such a move next to John F. Kennedy's 1960 commitment to put a man on the Moon before the end of that decade – but only if he delivers.

I can hear the sound of a thousand eco knees jerking out there already. The Wildlife Refuge will be ruined, caribou will die, the wilderness defiled. How could I make such a suggestion?

Simple. Whatever environmental damage that might occur in ANWR by making this deal will be dwarfed by the catastrophic ecological collapse sure to occur if we just keep on doing what we're doing. And that's precisely where we are headed right now.

That ecological collapse is already in it's early stages. We have maybe a few decades left of living dangerously before the damage becomes irreversible. Polar bears are already drowning by the dozens as the arctic ice melts under them. Oceans are warming changing climate around the globe. Katrina and the dozen or so other hurricanes and tornadoes this season are signs that Mother Nature is suffering hot flashes from global warming – and She's getting increasingly cranky about it.

<>Nevertheless we are paralyzed by a combination of stubbornness and lack of imagination. Both sides have dug into their positions and refuse to budge. And if they don't budge -- both of them -- we and our children are all going to pay a price higher than can be imagined.

It would be nice if we humans always did the right thing simple because it was the right thing, without being forced or given incentives. But that's just not the way things are. So energy companies and environmentalists are insisting on their way and refusing to even consider the position or needs of the other side.

Oil companies are not about to change. Why would they, especially now. They are racking up record profits. The same goes for their bankers, underwriters and shareholders. Energy stocks soared in value last year. An era of shortages and higher demand is a capitalist's dream. Where's the incentive for them to change? Because it's the right thing to do? Forget about it.

On the other side we have hard core ecologists who rank oil companies right up there with rapists and child molesters, the kind of people you just don't make deals with. To them oil companies are conscienceless predators that cruise the planet in search of the next virgin paradise to defile.

The only way to break this stalemate is a deal - a deal of true historic proportion.

Any successful deal gives each side something it wants. This deal has that.

* Environmentalist want cleaner, renewable energy.

* Oil companies want to survive as profitable businesses.

We have the makings of a deal here.

And both sides have to give in on something:

* Environmentalists don't want to reward oil companies by letting them drill in the Alaska Wilderness.

* Oil companies don't want to give up selling a product that's more valuable now than ever before.

Yep, all the ingredients for a deal.

Both sides would have to swallow hard to make this deal work. But of the two parties Big Oil will need to swallow hardest. Because this deal would unequivocally spell the end of what has been histories most profitable product lines -- oil. To get Big Oil and it's shareholders to agree to such a thing they will need some kind of ironclad guarantee that they are not committing corporate suicide. They need a financially realistic path to a post-oil business model. The costs of such a massive reorganization is too high for any industry to shoulder alone. Like the national highway system, it must be subsidized to some extent by taxpayers. Energy independence, like putting a man on the moon, must be as much a national commitment as a corporate one.

That's the reason for the matching federal funds. They will not just provide the money needed to make this conversion profitable for energy companies, but will provide the assurance that they are not being asked to shoulder the risks alone. That, if they agree, we will make sure they have renewable energy products to sell us when the day comes, as it surely will, that oil is at last relegated to National Energy Museums.

This is probably the most important thing we as a nation can do right now. The stakes are higher here than they ever were or are in Iraq, Iran or North Korea. Far higher. As Tom Friedman wrote recently:

“Mr. President, what more has to happen - how many more Katrinas, how much more reckless behavior by Iran, how many more allies bought off by petro-dollars - before you realize that there is only one thing to do for the next three years: lead America and the world in an all-out push to conserve energy, reduce dependence on oil and develop alternatives? Because three more years of $60-a-barrel oil will undermine everything good in the world that the U.S. wants to do - and that's no myth.”

Assuming the President rises to this momentous moment and proposes such a deal, Democrats had damn well better make sure it succeeds. This will, of course, require a significant change of both heart and mind. A change no less momentous as Bush's would be. Democrats first instinct would be to turn this potentially historic suggestion into a weapon against Bush – "another sweetheart deal -- a giveaway to Bush's oil buddies.” Democrat strategists would ache to run ads pointing to his proposal as further proof that the President “cares more for corporate profits than the environment.”

If Democrats react in a purely partisan way to such a proposal they will only prove that it is they, rather than Bush, who are captives of narrow special interests. That it is they, not Bush, who are willing to risk the long-term health of the environment for short term political gain. And, that it's Democrats who offer no realistic alternative to foreign energy dependence.

It's an issue that must transcend political ideologies and allegiances. Energy, where it comes from, who produces it, how it's produced, what it's made from and how it's distributed will be the defining issues in the decade ahead. How we resolve those problems and how we pay for the solutions, will decide how we survive in the centuries ahead.

Or more to the point, if we survive at all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

December 20, 2004

"Hang-em All
Let God Sort it Out"

I really didn't give a hoot one way or another about Stanley Tookie Williams as a person. Maybe he was, as he contended right up to the last moment, innocent. Maybe he was guilty as sin and just playing his last hand as if his life depended on it – which of course it did. If so, he lost that hand.

I don't know which is true. I only know that just one of those two possibilities can be true.

And what if the one that's true is that he was indeed innocent? What then? And not just him, but others executed before him and those awaiting execution? Are any of them actually innocent?

There was a time, not more than twenty years ago, that proof of innocence or guilt was too often an entirely subjective decision – which is why so few rich criminals ever end up on Death Row. As Mark Twain observed about the American judicial system, “The jury listens to both sides and then decides who had the best lawyer.”

New technology has changed this equation, at least in cases where physical evidence can be subjected to DNA testing. Hardly a month goes by lately that DNA testing shows some poor sap was wrongly convicted and imprisoned.

Just one group, the non-profit Innocence Project, has freed 168 wrongly convicted prisoners. Just last week another innocent man was sprung after spending seven years of his life in prison for a rape he didn't commit --freed by DNA evidence.

Which raises the haunting question; How many innocent people have been executed in the US? From the cases of those recently proven innocent before they spent their entire lives in prison or were executed, we can surmise that some of those on Death Row could well be entirely innocent.

Based on the success of groups like The Innocence Project we can no longer pretend that every one of those already executed "had it coming." Some of them were almost certainly innocent. What a horror. What a disgrace.

And stop shaking your head as though you had nothing to do with it. All of them were killed by the State – in our name – mine and yours. And with our money, our courts, in the prisons built with our tax money and with poison gas and drugs they bought with our money.

Isn't it time we insist that all states with a death penalty declare a moratorium until we find out whether or not we are executing innocent people? Such a moritorium would provide time for a national, non-partisan blue ribbon panel of criminologists and DNA experts to re-examine every execution over the last decade in which any shadow of doubt exists and for which physical evidence can still be tested.

Because, as a citizen and taxpayer, I want to know if any of those men and women executed in my name and with my money were innocent.

Let me be clear. I am no bleeding heart. And I am not unconditionally opposed to the death penalty. But I do feel the death penalty has been applied too broadly and too recklessly by politicians simply trying to look busy. A death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst. For example, out here in California there is a prisoner I'd pull the switch on personally if given the chance – Richard Allen Davis. This piece of human garbage raped and murdered 11-year old Polly Klass. When his sentence was handed down his last public act was to turn to still grieving Klass family and flip them the bird. I'd pay for ten minutes alone with that guy.

Those who want to continue with executions, despite the alarming number of mistaken convictions turning up, remind me of Wild West Judge Roy Bean. When faced with a decision on which among a group of men murdered someone, he reportedly ruled, “Hang-em all and let God sort it out.”

Since “sorry about that” can't return to life an innocent person executed, and since we are seeing so many inmates freed on DNA evidence now, shouldn't we put the brakes on executions until we complete a thorough audit of recent executions? Because if we've been executing innocent people – and I no longer doubt that we have – it's about as wrong as wrong gets. It's a crime. It's murder, pure and simple. (Or, for those right to lifers out there who support the death penalty, consider it a very late-term abortion. Chew on that you pack of pious hypocrites.)

From the Bah Humbug Department:
Lyrical Torture
I want to report an crime against humanity. No not the death penalty. It's worse. It's the repeated playing of the Christmas ballad, The Twelve Days of Christmas. This maniacal song was clearly written by someone suffering from advanced obsessive compulsive shopping disorder -- and a serious stutter.

Seriously, has there EVER been a more annoying song? Even the Chipmunks Christmas songs pale by comparison. If the US wants to make al Qaida prisoners talk, throw away the water boards and thumb screws. Just pipe The Twelve Days of Christmas into their cells.

After three weeks of being forced to listen to this song's shopping list from hell, I have reached the breaking point myself.

* Twelve drummers a drumming? Oh yeah, that's what I want in my living room Christmas morning.
* Eleven a pipers piping? They'd need a proctologist to recover their pipes if I got my hands on them.
* Ten lords a leaping? What? Why are they leaping? Are the escapees from a Fellini film or the Castro Street Gay Parade? The mental image alone is enough, thank you very much. If I discovered ten lords leaping around my house I would assume they were either nuts hopped up on meth or suffering from terrible hemorrhoids. Either way, get them the hell out of my house!

Did I mention that I hate that song. Hate it hate it hate it! Has there even been a stupider gift list?

Seven maids a milking. There's something you'll find on everyone's wish list. Just what I want, seven women with rough hands and reeking of manure in my living room milking seven 1500 pound bovines. A dream come true -- if you're into things too weird to mention on a family Web site.

Four French hens? Great. Four snooty chickens that make fun of me and refuse to lay eggs because they consider me “unworthy” of their production? Thanks for nothin'!

Then again, the two doves and a partridge in a pear tree might actually be useful. The doves and partridge could be slowly baked and then smothered in a delightful pear sauce. (Bite me PETA.)

There. I feel better for getting that off my chest. I have hated that song since the day I first heard it. The Twelve Days of Torture, it should be called. The Twelve Days of Stupid, Annoying and Largely Useless Gifts, it should be called. It's enough to make a fella wish he'd been born Jewish, except that Hanukkah is almost as bad. The Eight Days of Hanukkah means eight gifts, most of which you can bet will be useless.

They even have their own annoying holiday song:

I Have a Little Dreidel
I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it's dry and ready
Then dreidel I shall play!

Eight days of lousy gifts. Great! No Xbox 360? And what's this clay top thing, that wobbles when it spins and then falls over? Another dream come true.

With such “festive” tunes blaring at us for weeks on radio, TV and over department store PA systems, no wonder the suicide rate jumps during the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

December 19, 2005

One is too many
A thousand not enough

There is something George W. Bush should understand, being that he's a dry drunk; one is too many and a thousand never enough.

That little rule of thumb is doubly true of torture and spying on fellow Americans. Justifying one water-boarding becomes justification for the next, and the next until, before you know it, torture become not just another tool in the box, but the tool of choice.

The same goes for spying on one another. Humans are born suspicious of each other. Just try handing a baby to stranger and see what happens. Distrust is programmed right into our DNA, and it knows no bounds. Employers and employees share a mutual distrust of one another. Parents don't trust their own kids unless they're right under their noses. And we trust those we don't know anything about least of all.

So, when the President of the United States gives the nation's most technologically intrusive spy agency, the NSA, the green light to snoop on US citizens it's not just another legalistic nuance, it's a sea change, a very dangerous one.

Why? Because there really is only six degrees of separation between all of us. One monitored individual's phone calls, for example, inevitably leads to dozens of other "suspects." Leading to the next inevitable question -- who are they? Then "are they part of "it." (what ever the "it" de jour, real, feared or just imagined, may be.)

If Uncurious George is interested where domestic spying leads a nation all he needs to do is have one of his aides read aloud to him some of the millions of files the East German Stasi compiled on their own citizens.

"The Stasi's influence over almost every aspect of life in the German Democratic Republic cannot be overestimated. Until the mid-1980s, a civilian network of informants grew within both Germanies, East and West. By the East German collapse in 1989, it is estimated that the Stasi had 91,000 full time employees and 300,000 informants. This means approximately one in fifty East Germans collaborated with the Stasi, one of the highest penetrations of any society by an organization....The Stasi monitored politically incorrect behavior among all citizens of East Germany. During the 1989 peaceful revolution, the Stasi offices were overrun by enraged citizens... files are available for review to all people who were reported upon, often revealing that friends, colleagues, husbands, wives, and other family members were regularly filing reports with the Stasi." (More)

An extreme example? Not at all. You can be certain that if we could get unfettered access to the intel files of Israel, Egypt, Libya, Russia, China and other nations nations with neither the scruples or constitutional limits on domestic spying, we'd find Stasi-like files there too.

Because domestic spying attracts folks that suffer from a kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. Once they begin collecting information on fellow citizens, they can't stop themselves. What begins as an exception inevitably becomes a kind of nervous tick. All that's required is that you come to their attention. After that they must know all they can about you and yours -- your finances, your habits, your thoughts your friends, your family. It must all be observed, examined, categorized, kept and updated.

President contends that we must make and except to the usual rules because the nation is at war -- a "different kind of war.". Our enemy this time are not nations but "terrorists." And who are these enemies? We can't sure. They travel. Some come here. Some are here already.

So who are the enemies within? After 9/11 it was just young Arab men. But then a young American boy, John Walker Lindh, got caught fighting in Afghanistan. And then another America, Jose Padilla, was caught hanging with al Qaida types. The enemy within suddenly also had an American face. So, the Pentagon was givien the green light to spy on Americans. And who did they catch? A group of Quaker anti-war activists. (Quaker/al Qaida – close enough – for the collectors. )

The Quaker peace activists were detailed in a Pentagon risk assessment list as a "serious threat." How can a group that espouses non-violence be a serious threat to national security? Ideologically of course. The Pentagon has a long memory and they have not forgotten how the peace moment of the 60's and 70's spread causing the US -- in Pentagon-think -- to "lose the Vietnam War." So the Quakers had to be collected.

That meant someone had to report on the Quaker group's meetings. Who? Someone the group considered "one of them" -- betrayal, Stasi style.

That's where unhindered domestic spying always leads. Always. Friends report on friends, neighbor on neighbor, teachers on students, students on teachers, even children on their own parents. It's a chain reaction of paranoia, a self-generating, self-perpetuating daisy-chain of deception, deceit and betrayal. And once that chain reaction begins, it's very hard to stop.

(Excerpt from The Dublin Sunday Press, 25-Aug-1991)
Apropos recent events, in case you're wondering what will become of all the unemployed KGB men in the event of a change of regime in the USSR, I was talking to a German friend recently and asked him what had become of all the former Stasi secret police of the former East Germany.

"Oh they're all taxi drivers now," he said, "it was the obvious solution."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Simple," he said, "you just give them your name--and they know where you live."

It's not long after learning somethng like that that those taking taxis begin to lie. They no longer give cab drivers their real address, but are dropped off a few blocks from home, even though they have nothing to hide. Why? Because, they know that once the collectors get them in their sights their entire circle of friends and family will soon have files opened on them as well. Of course by then the collectors have learned they lied to the cab driver and then -- well you know.

The collectors can never be satisfied a person is not up to something until they check out who they hang with, and who those people hang with, and on and on and on. An ever widening circle that eventually includes everyone Like that that uncle of yours, the one who makes calls to family members in France the first Tuesday of every month. What's that all about? Who's he talking to over there and about what? And does his wife know? Is she "in on it?" And just what is "it" anyway?

Domestic spying becomes a constant search for "it,"and who might be in in "it." And just what is "it?" The collectors have no idea. "It" could be anything, a bomb, a hijacking, a container, a suitcase. And just who's in on "it" can be anyone, a Arab American, an American/American, even a small clutch of anti-war Quakers. Gotta find out. Gotta know. And there's only one way to find out, only way to be sure, to be safe, only one way to really protect Americans, and that's to keep a close eye on them -- all of them.

George needs to remember the hard lesson he learned about booze – that one is never enough. Just don't go there. Ditto on torture and domestic spying. Just don't go there.

But is it already too late? Has America fallen off the 4th Amendment wagon? Has binge spying already begun?

President Bush says, no, that his administration has not gone on a binge, that they are just engaging in a bit of social spying. And he assures that we should not worry about it because they can stop anytime they want. He wants us to let them torture a few more prisioners and spy on a few more Americans. Then they'll go cold turkey on the stuff. Promise.

But it may be already too late, the damage done, and spreading. People -- ordinary folk -- are already starting to wonder; "Is someone listening to my phone calls, reading my email? Some have begun self-censoring, watching what they say or write, even in jest.

And today more Americans secretly wonder, "Have I been collected -- yet?"

4th Amendment
to the US Constitution
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

(The last time I checked the 4th Amendment had not been repealed or amended. So, is Bush in violation? Depends on what the meaning of "is" is he says.)

Site of the Day

Monday, December 19, 2005

December 16, 2005

GOP Discovering Real Governing



Governing seemed so simple once Republicans had control of both the executive and legislative branches. What's the mystery?

First, reward those who got you there, beginning with the wealthy and their companies. Slash the share of their wealth they contribute to the upkeep of the nation that made them rich.

Next reduce government oversight and regulation of their industries. That reduces their costs of operation, boosting their bottom line. Now they can not only make more in profits, but thanks to tax cuts, keep more of that dough too. A two-fer! Cutting regulations is a breeze when you're in charge. (Albeit an increasingly gritty breeze. But dirtier air is a small price to pay. As they say, "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

Once Republicans had the fat and happy fatter and happier than ever, they threw a few fish to their Red-State sucker-base. These are the white middle- and lower-middle class voters who vote Republican largely because GOP candidates are, for the most part, white too.

GOP sucker-base voters worry a lot. They wake up each morning certain that lower class folk – particularly those of a dusky persuasion -- are scheming to take their stuff; their jobs, their cars, their neighborhoods, their daughters. Republicans can't do anything about those worries, particularly the lost jobs, so instead they tightened the lid on the federal cookie jar for the poor. And they assure their sucker-base that they'd work to extend the death penalty for all unruly behavior just short of jaywalking. The sucker-base loves it when Republicans talk tough like that.

Then it was time to reward America's Taliban -- fundamentalist Christian voters. That was really easy. No they don't get generous tax breaks, they get something more celestial. GOP lawmakers agreed to agree that it should be federal policy that Genesis and Darwin were factually co-equals. Adam and Eve lived side by side with Tyrannosaurus Rex. The earth is only 6000 years old. And carbon dating is highly suspect. No harm, no foul – so long as fancy and fact are given equal weight in science classes.

Governing, a real no-brainer.

That was so easy and made the Christian Taliban so happy, why stop there?

* You say you wanna put the Ten Commandments in public buildings? Sure! We don't follow most of them ourselves but we can pretend we do. (Hell, Rep. Duke Cunningham stole millions, lied and coveted up the butt. We're gonna miss that ol'boy.) But sure, put the damn things where ever you want.

* Want prayers in public schools? You betchya. America's kids are not learning anything in schools anyway. And now that we are teaching metaphysics as science, they might as well start talking to spirits too.

* Want to take away a woman's right to choose? Well of course! After all, isn't abortion's just murder disguised as a medical procedure? And no exceptions.. not even for rape or incest. Tough luck, right? (Anyway, just between us compassionate conservatives, they were asking for it. You know it and we know it and we want you to know we know it.)

* Want the death penalty imposed more often? Sure nuf. Besides, it's so much cleaner and safer these days with lethal medical injection. Heck, it's kind of a very late-term abortion. (Wait. We want to take that last line back.)

Governing - empowering and institutionalizing ignorance and superstition -- it's just that easy.

Finally that left only the GOP's Neocon wing to reward. And these guys were really hungry. They'd spent decades in the political wilderness howling at all things foreign. Now they demanded to be fed. And on 9/11 their dinner bell rang. Afghanistan -- umm, umm good. Tasty, but a mere appetizer. "Waiter! Where's our main course?" the Neocons demanded. And Iraq was delivered to their table on a sizzling platter.

Just that easy.

Ah, those were the days -- those first four years of GOP dominance -- when governing was a breeze. Just hand stuff out to friends; the money, the favors, the medals, the no-bid contracts, the empowerment of religious snake oil peddlers. And then shine everyone else on.

Governing was so easy.

Then the bills arrived, bills that can't be paid because the checking account is empty. So they borrowed -- and borrowed, and borrowed. Now there's some Chinese guy calling every night around dinner time demanding we pay more interest on our debt.

"Hey, what's this crap," Republicans grumbled at first. "We're the United States of America. No one pushes us around." To which the Chinese credit manager on the other end of the line snaps, "Ah, so sorry please. Do not mean to offend American friends. But pay up or we stop covering your deadbeat butts. Oh, and while were at it, one more thing. We don't want to hear anymore crap from you about Taiwan. Okay Joe?"

Damn. That's a buzz kill if ever there was one!

But that's not the only governing wrinkle plaguing Republicans. All kinds of chickens are coming home to roost - big chickens - ugly-ass, pit-chickens. Their happy daze buzz has been replaced by a rising groan of pain.

WASHINGTON -- After starting the year full of grand promise, the expanded Republican majority in Congress is stumbling to the finish, with party leaders facing unexpected difficulty this week winning support for a raft of unfinished priorities, and major bills involving taxes, health care, and the war on terrorism appearing likely to get bumped into 2006. (Full Story)

Yes, the GOP's governing party is over. Hang over has settled in. The need to really govern has arrived. And, to quote President Bush, real governing has turned out to be "haaarrrrd."

It's especially hard to run a nation when you've gutted the checking account and burned through all credit lines during the party days. When the GOP took over the nation they were handed $5.6 trillion in projected budget surpluses. Four and half years later we are $8 trillion in the hole.

What to do? What to do?

Well, they could raise taxes on the top 1% of US earners. But that would really piss them off. So instead the GOP decided to turn to children, the elderly and the working poor to see if they can squeeze savings out of them.

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly passed a $602 billion bill to cut funds for health, education and labor programs ... it would cut $249 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $780 million from President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education program and would add no money to help low-income people pay winter heating bills despite skyrocketing fuel costs. (Full Story)

The only trouble with cutting social programs is it forces the GOP to de-cloak. Where'd those "compassionate" conservatives go? No place. They were never there to begin with. It was just a marketing gimmick used to mock and defeat genuinely compassionate liberals. But it was a gimmick that worked, so Republicans up for reelection next year are reluctant to have their names attached to budget cuts for the poor, yet unwilling to raise taxes on the rich.

Real governing is haaaarrrrd.

Then there's the Neocon's war in Iraq. Jesus, that thing sure got out of hand. That was supposed to be easy. Instead it got real haaaarrrd. It also got expensive as hell -- $6 billion a month expensive! Six billion bucks a month... that's $72 billion this year. The Pentagon wants $100 billion next year. That would be $66 billion more than the GOP cut yesterday from social programs for next year domestic budget.

But now that Republicans have the Iraq tiger by the tail they dare not let it go. The animal that was supposed to be a loving pet turned out a rabid beast. Neocons continue to promise it can be domesticated, even though it's already killed nearly 2200 trainers they sent there to house break the beast.

So the GOP can't cut money for that mission. Because that would be "letting the Iraqi people down."

That just leaves the GOP with just one choice – to let the American people down instead.

Damn! Real governing is real haaaarrrrd!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

December 14, 2005

Harry Putter,
Milquetoast Prince

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..... huh?

Oh, sorry. I had just begun writing when Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, began presenting his formal remarks on Iraq and tomorrow's elections there. Whoa. Had someone just dragged this guy out of bed or something? Is he on some kind of stress relievers? Did he O.D. on them. Did he run out of Geritol?

Jeeeze Louise, what's wrong with those people? The nation is up to its hips in the blood of war and what do the Democrats do? They send a semi-conscious Harry Reid out to "give em hell, Harry!" Hell it was too -- the morning of the walking dead. I've heard more lively speeches at funerals – pet funerals.

So as Harry Putter droned on I stayed awake reading the morning headlines. As I did I had to wondered if Reid had today's papers. If he had he sure gave us no hint. This morning's papers are chuck full of anti-administration ammo. If he'd simply read the front pages of the NY Times and Washington Post out loud, the administration would be scrambling for cover right now.

Here, look at these three stories, beginning with the blind leading the blinder story:

To Halt Abuses, U.S. Will Inspect Jails Run by Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 13 - American military officers will inspect hundreds of detention centers and embed with Iraqi police commando units and other Interior Ministry forces to try to halt widespread abuses uncovered by raids on two Iraqi-run detention centers in Baghdad in the last month, the American ambassador pledged Tuesday.

Followed by this story:

Secret Army Torture Rules Issued
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 - The Army has approved a new, classified set of interrogation methods that may complicate negotiations over legislation proposed by Senator John McCain to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees in American custody, military officials said Tuesday. The techniques are included in a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army field manual that was forwarded this week to Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence policy, for final approval, they said. This is a stick in McCain's eye," one official said. "It goes right up to the edge. He's not going to be comfortable with this."

Which was followed by this story:

Investigator Sees Signs of CIA Role in Abductions
PARIS, Dec. 13 -- A European investigator said Tuesday that information he has gathered suggests U.S. intelligence operatives have abducted and transferred terrorism suspects in Europe "without respect for any legal standards" and that he has formally asked Poland and Romania whether the CIA operated secret prisons on their soil. he said he believed that the CIA has since closed its jails in Eastern Europe and transferred its prisoners to North Africa. That statement echoed a report last week by ABC News.

Holy moly, I could have made all kind of hay out of the contradictions, absurdities and outrageous administration behavior detailed in just those three stories. But No. One Dem, Harry, didn't mention even one of them. (Though he did "congratulate American troops." Dems are told to do that whenever they mention Iraq so they don't look like anti-military wimps. He read that part the same way auto companies read the fine print at the end of their TV ads.)

But wait, there's more – more missed story opportunities. But before I list them, let's review; The nation is broke. No, wait, that's wrong. We should be so lucky to be just broke. The nation is hemorrhaging red ink. We''re treading, just barely keeping our aching head above a rising tied of government debt. So, why didn't Harry mention these stories?

Administration to Request up to $100B For War
The Pentagon is in the early stages of drafting a wartime request for up to $100 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, lawmakers say, a figure that would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars.Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress has approved more than $300 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, including military operations, reconstruction, embassy security and foreign aid, as well as other costs related to the war on terrorism, according to the Congressional Research Service, which writes reports for Congress.

Or this one:

U.S. Trade Deficit Hits All-Time High
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly rose to an all-time high in October as oil shipments soared and the United States set deficit records with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico. The Commerce Department reported that the gap between what America sells overseas and what it imports rose by 4.4 percent in October to $68.9 billion, surpassing the old record of $66 billion set in September. So far this year, the trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $718 billion, far surpassing last year's $617.6 billion imbalance. Critics say the soaring deficit is evidence that President Bush's policy of pursuing free trade deals around the world is not working.

Or this one?

U.S. Budget Deficit Up in Nov. to $83.1 Billion
The federal government's budget deficit rose sharply in November as spending raced ahead of tax receipts. The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit totaled $83.1 billion, the highest imbalance ever recorded in November. For the first two months of the 2006 budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $130.3 billion, 13.1 percent higher than the $115.2 billion in red ink run up during the same period last year.

Nope. Ole Harry could have given them hell with the day's news, but he didn't mention any of those enormously relevant items.

But, for a second I though he might be going to do just that. It was when he slowly.. oh so slowly, reached into his coat pocket and, slowly, oh so slowly, unfolded a piece of paper. Then he began to read, softly, slowly, like a third-grader forced to read aloud to the class.

But it wasn't any of the timely news items above. Instead Harry decided to use his time on the national stage to read excerpts from a 62-year old speech by President Franklin Roosevelt. But Harry was himself so obviously uninterested in the matter his eyelids kept closing. Still, he soldiered on, stumbling his way through the five or six lines as though he'd never seen them until that very moment. It was a disjointed presentation I'm still not quite sure why he decided we needed to hear from Franklin at this point in time. It apparently had something to do with Roosevelt asking Americans listening on the radio to roll out a map of the world and follow along. I suppose he was suggesting President Bush do the same.

Strange. No one (in their right mind) questions the premises on which WWII was waged. Was Harry suggesting that President Bush's use of maps might clear up the host of moral, ethical and legal ambiguities that dog his war in Iraq?

Anyway, Harry, old bean, let me tell ya, we all know where Iraq is now. And, unlike during Roosevelt's days, we have this newfangled thing called "T.V." with which, not just maps, but actual live pictures can be sent through the air to the folks at home. We've all seen more of Iraq than we care to already. As for maps, most Americans are now more familiar with the geography of that sandbox of a country than they are of our own states.

Yikes! Maps? Holy clueless senator, Bat Man! This week Newsweek Magazine's cover shows George W. in a bubble. After Reid's speech this morning it clear that Bush is not the only high US official living in a bubble. (The only difference is Medicare pays for the oxygen pumped into Reid's bubble. Up the dose!!)

It's not as though Democrats don't have firebrands who could have given a shit-kicking speech. They do. They just won't let them do it. Howard Dean is one. But every time he lets loose members of his own party tackle him, throw a blanket over him and drag him back to DNC headquarters to be tranquilized.

It won't come as news to regular readers when I say I'm disgusted with both parties. Disgusted is actually too mild a word. I am working on inventing a new word able to capture just how discombobulated I am. But so far, no luck. Just when I think I have the right word, one or both parties says or does something that moves the goal posts further into "no-mindsland."

So what's a progressive minded voter to do? There's the old "throw the bums out" strategy, you know, vote against all incumbents. The trouble with that one is we end up throwing out the few good members of congress we have. Then again, if those few are too few to affect change anyway, what's the loss? The handful of certifiably sane members in both parties are rendered ineffective by their own party's which operate on the old Japanese warning that: "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down."

Worse yet, bad members of Congress have ways of always getting reelected. They reapportion, lie, smear, outspend, what ever it takes. And they win. Almost always, they win to live on for another term. They're just like cockroaches. No matter how bad conditions get, they survive. Sometimes the only way to get rid of an established nest cockroaches is to fumigate the whole damn house.

I don't know. Just don't know. I continue to hope I'll awake one morning to discover the Democrats were, over night, born again – so to speak. But every time there's the slightest glimmer of such hope it whithers, as it did during this morning's embarrassing dog and pony show by Reid et al.

Of course we could hope Reid is replaced as the party's leader in the senate. Not likely, unless he dies in office. Even then it might be months before anyone notices.

Oh, here's two more headlines. Both tell a chilling story about the condition of our own democracy"

U.S. Sixth Among Countries Jailing Journalists
The United States has tied with Myanmar, the former Burma, for sixth place among countries that are holding the most journalists behind bars, according to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And, what have you been up to? Have you been naughty, or nice? Rummy wants to know.

Secret Pentagon Tracks U.S. Anti-War Groups
WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. Military. A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

Monday, December 12, 2005

December 10, 2005

For Dummies

Are you beginning to get the picture? Are you starting to understand better just why 15th century Europeans chased fundamentalist Christians off their continent centuries ago? Because they can they are never satisfied, never know when enough is enough, because it's NEVER enough. They have taken the art of being annoying to levels that make it impossible to just ignore them. They simply will NOT practice their faith quietly. They will NOT be ignored. Instead they keep getting up everyone else's nose until everyone else says, "enough!" Leave. Just leave!

Yeah, I know, that's not how today's Christians tell the story. They say they had to flee to the New World because they were being "oppressed." They always say that when people refuse to buy into what ever nonsense they happen to be peddling at the time. I'm sure 16th century Europeans had plenty of more interesting and profitable things to do back then than waste their time harassing a few thousand nut-fringe Christians.

Whether fundamentalist ("Puritan") Christians were indeed oppressed or tossed out of Europe for cause, I suspect they brought it upon themselves. And, the minute they landed in the New World, they've been working overtime to wear their welcome out here as well. h

(Moments in History: Did you know that the Puritans actually outlawed the celebration of Christmas for the first quarter century they spent in the New World? Yep. People started having too much fun, enjoying food, drink and engaging in general merriment. They put a stop to it. Meanwhile, back in Europe folks were finally amble to enjoy Christmas without having a people with big hats and small minds grousing about it.)

I only mention this because of the flap our modern Puritan-numbskull-nags are making over the word "Christmas" this year. They are not satisfied that we now have include their pretend friend, Jesus Christ, shoved down kid's brains in public schools, and his stony image planted in front of public buildings, but now they insist we put his name on all things Holiday Season.

I have nothing against Christmas, not the day or the word. The word is everywhere. "Christmas Sale!" and "Christmas present," and "Christmas Eve." I even like Christmas carols – at least until I burn out on them -- which is usually around noon Christmas day.

But fundamentalist Christians believe this season – all of it -- is the exclusive property of Christians – even though that belief is demonstrably untrue.

The last time I checked the IRS taxes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, other non-Christians and atheists all at the same rate. That means all those non-Christians pay a portion of the First Family's overhead too. But the fundamentalists are now ragging on the Bush's for doing the right thing, using the generic, "Happy Holidays," on cards sent out to thousands of Americans, only some of whom are Christian.

"Outrageous!" they scream. Christmas begins with "Christ" and now the White House has banished Christ! They insist the White House use "Merry Christmas" in their annual cards. Makes one wonder though how Rev. Jerry Faldwell would react if his White House card next year was inscribed, "Happy Hanukkah!" George & Laura Bush." I don't think we have to wonder long.

Bush “claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn’t act like one,” said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site “I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it.” (Full Story)

You see fundamentalist Christians believe they own this holiday, and not just some of it, but all of it. Never mind that Hanukkah is also celebrated at this time by Jews, or that New Years is included as part of the "holiday season." Fundamentalist Christians insist Christ holds the exclusive copyright on the whole thing and, therefore, all of it – the sales, the tress and the cards – be Christly branded.

Let me stop here and say not all Christians are either obnoxious or uncaring. Millions are more than happy to share the season with other faiths and secularists. But fundamentalist Christians want it all. Puritans always do. They argue that this holiday is all Christian because it celebrates the birth of their savior. (How about Merry Birthday?" Just a thought.)

As a person who long ago ceased believing in fables, I don't buy the virgin birth business to begin with. The whole Christmas fable is suspect. I do believe Jesus was real and born roughly around what we now call the First Century AD. And that his mother was Mary. But that's where the facts stop and the fancy begins. From there I have to extrapolate. Mary must have gotten pregnant by someone other than husband Joe. What makes me suspect this? Because she concocted the most unbelievable "how I got pregnant" tale since the "I must have sat on a dirty toilet seat," excuse, that's why.

Okay, that was bit harsh. We must remember that poor young Mary lived in a culture where women had no rights whatsoever. And women caught (or even suspected) of doing anything remotely normal, were likely to get stoned to death. Who knows how Mary got pregnant. Local girls were routinely raped by occupying Roman soldiers, and rape was treated the same as adultery in those days. (And it remains that way to this day in large parts of the Middle East, India and Pakistan, which is why rape, while prevalent, is rarely reported.)

So Mary had a problem – a life and death problem. Since apparitions couldn't be tortured into spilling the beans, an amorous apparition was Mary's best chance of avoiding becoming the former Mrs. Joseph. So, she went for it, and the rest is history. I don't blame Mary. How was she to know her fib would get so out hand?

(Which is likely why Mary continues haunting pieces of toast and freeway underpasses. The poor girl is trying to apologize. Imagine her chagrin when the only people who show up are fundamentalist zombies. Poor thing.)

I hear it every time I write a rant like this: "Pizzo, leave the Christians alone." To which I reply -- happy too... just as soon as they just leave me, and non-Christians like me, alone.

They say, "If you don't believe in Jesus, you can go to hell," and continue insisting we all agree to things that affirm their beliefs, no matter how nonsensical those beliefs might be. Fundamentalist Christians say they just want to "return religion to the public square." Fine. Bring it on. But the public square isn't a lecture hall, it's a debating society. Back at ya. You say it's so, I say it ain't so. (And vocal disagreement isn't "oppression." no matter how many times you say it is.)

Until then the more annoying they get the more I will go out of my way to annoy them. Which is why I let loose on them today. Because once again they are, in our faces, this time about the word "Christmas." If you don't wish everyone a Merry Christmas on your Holiday cards you're a heathen, secular un-American who is "oppressing" Christians again.

To which I reply, bite me!

I'm used to having fundamentalist Christians rag on me, but I bet this is a whole new experience for George and Laura. Hopefully an instructive one too. Because there an important there. a lesson those Puritans of old learned too late. They pushed one time too many and the next thing the knew they were shivering around campfires in the American wilderness.

Unfortunately we are plum out of New World's where we can send our pack of annoying, demanding fundamentlaist dimwits. But hope may be just over the horizon. I read this morning that Virgin Air CEO, Richard Branson, will begin providing space flights for civilians in 2008 from a base in New Mexico. I immediately had a vision of a spaceship filled with born-again Christians singing, "Nearer my Lord to thee," as it blasted off on journey to their new planet.

Now, that would be a Merry Christmas.

Hypocrites for Christ
Many of the most annoying cells of born-again Christians belong to those new "mega churches," run by Elmer Gantry-like slicksters. These organizations have always struck me as being more businesses than churches – wholesale fleecing operations with their own 1-800 numbers where operators await 24/7 and accept all credit cards.

These mega-churches insist they are churches, and the IRS pretends to believe them. But, more and more, they look like and act like just any other business:

When Christmas Falls on Sunday, Megachurches Take the Day Off

Some of the nation's most prominent megachurches have decided not to hold worship services on the Sunday that coincides with Christmas Day, a move that is generating controversy among evangelical Christians at a time when many conservative groups are battling to "put the Christ back in Christmas." (Full Story)

See. Real Christian churches treat Christmas as the holiest day of the year. Mega churches treat it as a holiday, just like most other businesses. (Except of course for their 1-800 numbers. Christmas day or not, operators are waiting by phones to fleece their flock. It is, after all, the season for giving, and what business wants to miss profit center like that!)

Oh, almost forgot...

Happy Holidays

Friday, December 09, 2005

December 8, 2005

Squeezing The Grapes of Wrath

Just last month GOP compassionate conservatives, who have given nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts largely benefiting the rich, cut $50 billion from programs for the poor. This wasn't a "let them eat cake" move by the GOP, because they took the cake too and dutifully parsed it out to their friends.

Washington Post -- The House passed three separate tax cuts yesterday and plans to approve a fourth today, trimming the federal revenue by $94.5 billion over five years -- nearly double the budget savings that Republicans muscled through the House last month....GOP leaders portray the tax bills -- for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, affluent investors, U.S. troops serving in Iraq and taxpayers who otherwise would be hit by the alternative minimum tax -- as vital to keeping the economy rolling. (Full Story)

But wait, the math doesn't add up. They squeezed the poor as hard as they dared but could only get $50 billion out of them. Where'd the other $44.5 billion come from?

Well, they borrowed it from your kids, of course. (Screw the little bastards! They can't vote yet.) So Republicans borrowed again. They just shoved the national platinum card into the ATM (China) and took a $44.5 billion cash advance, then gave it to their already comfortable constituents. It's a win/win for the GOP. The poor, if they vote at all, vote Democrat. And the kids don't vote at all. But corporations vote with their checkbooks and the wealthy vote twice -- once with their checkbooks then their ballots. A win/win.

But I predict this will be the final squeezing of the grapes of wrath. At a certain point there's just no juice left, and we've reached that point.

(I know all this stuff is mind-numbingly boring, and I apologize for throwing it in your path during the Holidays like this. But this is going to have more impact on your everyday life for the next five years or so than anything else going on right now. But, if you stop reading, I understand.)

Economies and the natural ecology have a lot in common. They both rely on interlocking systems to run properly. And they both have at least some natural abilities to repair themselves when damaged. But, if abused too much, too many sub-systems can't hold up their ends of the bargain and go into some level of collapse. If we're lucky it's just a localized collapse. But if the damage is deep and widespread it can trigger a cascade of sub-system failures leading to a total systemic collapse. In the natural environment it's called "mass extinction." In the economy it's called a depression.

The GOP has abused our economic ecology in dramatic and, I fear, catastrophic ways. At the very least we will see localized collapse, but I fear worse.

But wait, you say, didn't we just hear that the economy is healthy and moving along at a brisk pace? How's that jive with predictions of doom and gloom?

Have you ever seen someone drive a work horse into the ground? It looks a lot the same. The driver whips and whips the poor beast, which in turn keeps pulling the wagon. If the horse slows, the driver whips him more, and the poor old horse again struggles on. Some bystanders warn the driver, "Hey, if you keep driving that horse so hard you're gonna kill him," The driver scoffs. "You keep saying that but, look, he keeps pulling the wagon." And the horse will keep bravely pulling that wagon, right up until the moment his legs go out from under him, and he crashes to ground, stone dead. You can never predict exactly when that moment will come, only that it will.

GOP conservatives have driven our economy in just that way, whipping up economic activity by giving away trillions of dollars in tax cut. Like spraying gasoline on smoldering embers these tax cuts have created flare ups of economic activity. But, in the process, they gutted the national treasury, weakening the horse that pulls our economic wagon, the US dollar. , which is now, though still bravely pulling the wagon, is nearing collapse.

Want proof. Just watch the gold bugs. Gold is to investors what fox holes are to soldiers. When you see investors closing out their stock and bond positions and moving to historically high positions in precious metals, particularly gold and silver, it's time to start digging your own fox hole.

New York – Gold has marched to its highest level in 24 years in response to a new wave of buying triggered by a growing acceptance of the metal's strong supply-demand fundamentals. The price surge also comes at a time when gold's traditional hedge status is increasingly being called on because of global currency and inflation risks. (Full Story)

Yep. When you gut the US Treasury by giving too much money back in tax cuts, you gut the value of the US dollar. Suddenly it takes more the green little buggers to convince foreigners to trade them for the stuff they have we want, like oil and cheap crap from China.

The price of gold is a mirror image of the value of the dollar. It's a leading indicator warning that the buck has sprung a serious leak. When that happens savvy investors start dragging their assets into gold-lined foxholes so they don't get washed away by the approaching tsunami.

Now it is true that the gold bugs are not always right. Sometimes they dive into their foxholes only to miss another sunny day at the beach. But when gold makes the kind of dramatic moves it's making now, they're usually right. The last time I saw a move like this it was back in 1979-80 when the deficits we ran up paying for the war in Vietnam came home to roost. Inflation soared as did interest rate. That in turn popped what had been a very hot housing bubble. And gold took off, eventually reaching $850 an ounce in April 1980.

Today we have much the same going on. The only difference is that the deficits this time are so enormous they are trigging trouble a lot sooner than the Vietnam era "guns and butter" policies. But like now, in late 70's we are also coming to the end of a six year housing price boom. Unlike 1979 this time the war that broke us is still on. And, despite all the recent blather about withdrawing, we will continue spending billions of dollars a month in Iraq for years to come. (We broke it, now we have to pay up to fix it.)

So, remember that "cascading collapse" I mentioned above? Well here's how one begins:

"According to World Gold Council figures, India — which accounts for 20 per cent of world demand — had the highest-ever quarterly demand in the second quarter of 2005, 42 per cent up from the year before in tonnage terms. China accounts for only 3 per cent of global demand, although jewelry demand there grew by 11 per cent in the second quarter of 2005. (Full Story)

These are the early signs of trouble. First, the demand for gold bullion is demonstrably up, way up. And that much gold is not going into bling, but vaults..

But it's the mention of China's growing interest in the metal that should send chills up the spine. Because for the last decade China has been salting all the money it's making selling us stuff into US Treasury bonds. In other words, China is America's lender. And since the US now lives almost entirely on credit, if China begins dumping those bonds to buy gold, we're in deep do-do.

There's also trouble looming right on US soil as well. The University of California just released a study warning that the housing bubble has begun deflating at a faster rate than earlier admitted. The study predicts that cooling will result in the loss of around 860,000 jobs, half a million of which will be lost in one of last well-paying blue collar profession in the US, construction.

Wait, there's more. The American consumer has come to think of their home equity as a piggy bank they dip into to maintain a middle class standard of living their new jobs can no longer support. That's about to change too, a change that could well spark a collapse in retail sector. With consumers buying less stuff, companies will cut back. We could see job losses in what few manufacturing jobs still remain in the US as well as major layoffs in the now critical service sector.

That's the scenario gold bugs are preparing for now. That's why gold has soared to it's highest value in a quarter century.

So, what can you do about it? If you are a working stiff, damn little I'm afraid. It's too late. We let supply-side sociopaths run barefoot through our treasury for too long. The damage they've inflicted on our fiscal ecology is too deep, too widespread. We can now only hope that whatever punishment the economy imposes on us will be restricted to certain sectors and will not trigger a systemic-wide collapse.

How long do we have? It's already begun. Once the obligatory holiday spending season ends you'll begin seeing the first bodies washing ashore.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

December 6, 2005

Beware: The Cult of Hillary

No Republican bashing today. Why? Because it's not required. The Republican revolution is finally petering out, dying a death of a thousand self-inflicted cuts. I said several years ago that the best way to get rid of neo-conservatives is to give them everything they said they wanted. They got pretty much all of what they said they wanted – tax cuts for the rich, welfare cuts for the poor, less environmental restrictions on businesses, free trade, conservative courts, faith-based politics, faith-based education. It began in 1994 with Newt and will come to a grinding stop in November 2006.

That's the good news.

The bad news comes two years later, in November 2008. While Democrats will regain some of their lost power in '06, (with the growing possibility they will even regain at least one house of Congress,) the party is risking the big prize, the White House in '08.

That risk can be summed up in two words: Hillary Clinton. If Democrats give Hillary the nod in '08 they will lose the White House again -- and this time not by the narrowest of margins, but in a landslide. Why?

Because Hillary is "one of them." There come along from time to time unique personalities that, flawed as they are, attract followers like flies to dung. The likes of Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Rev. Moon, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush. People like them, follow them down the strangest of paths and trust them with their most precious possessions.

This leaves the rest of us watching in disbelief, scratching our heads wondering if maybe we're missing something. How can otherwise functioning, rational, law-abiding folk be attracted to such obvious liars, phonies and connivers? Because they are. It's always have been and it will always be so. It's truly one of life's great mysteries.

Hillary Clinton is precisely such a person. There's something about the woman that dazzles some people.

I first saw it three years ago while attending meetings with Democrat strategists in Washington. A cell phone would ring. "Mumble, mumble... okay." Click. "I have to go," the recipient would say, adding importantly, "I have to meet with Hillary." A knowing hush would fall over the room. Glances exchanged. Heads nodded. A call had come from on high. Power had touched all in the room. It was as if the image of the Virgin Mary had appeared on that fellow's toasted cheese sandwich.

I called it The Cult of Hillary. And I want to tell you, it's strong, organized and growing. They are hungry. Hungry for power. Hungry to put their leader in charge. They revere her, hang on her every thought, follow her every command. They are an army of Hillary Moonies and they have their eyes firmly planted on the prize.

Then there are those die-hard pro-Hillary voters. Somehow Hillary has convinced them she actually cares about the same things they care about. This is no small feat since all available documentary evidence points to a woman who cares only about what is selling at any point in time. When the sales climate changes, she changes right along with it.

And she lies. She lies just like the very politicians those same voters claim they despise.

"I am happy being a senator from New York and have no plans to run for President," she has told every reporter who asked. "I'm not running," she said at a breakfast with political reporters. When asked whether anything could convince her to change her mind, she shook her head and said firmly: "No."

(I can always tell when Hillary is fixin' to lie because she always precedes the untruth with a disarming, dismissive, phony laugh. Remember that.)

Despite all those video taped denials, Hillary really is running for President. (Did you ever doubt it?) The Hillary for President campaign kicked into higher gear in recent days. The little triangulator got about the business of putting a new coat of paint on, reinventing herself to reflect the very latest poll findings.

On the War in Iraq: Hillary voted for the damn thing, along with other weak-kneed Dems scared they'd look like sissies if they didn't. Then she spent the next three years trying to look at least as macho as George W. on the war. But now that polls show voters are fed up with the war, so she is too -- now.

But when you just spent three years defending your vote to go to war you have back out of that position carefully, slowly, an inch at time. No quick moves, she's too smart for that. Just a long, slow turn -- a giant leftward arch she hopes voters will not notice ends 180 degrees from where she began.

Did she begin this turn dramatically, bravely, like John Murtha? No way, Jose. Reporters would grill her, confront her with her earlier pro-war statements. That would screw up her stealth metamorphosis. So, Hillary began her transformation by sitting right down and writing herself a letter last week:

"I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war," the New York senator said in a 1600-word letter to thousands of people who have written her about the war. (Full Story)

Hillary was brainwashed by the Bush administration? Was that it? Yep. And, damn it, she expects an apology! I guess I'd buy that had she written the same letter two years ago, when nearly everyone else accepted we'd been sold a bill of goods. But no, Hillary continued supporting the war until just recently. Why? Because Hillary wasn't finished establishing her tough-girl bones. More US troops had to die so Hillary could prove she's no limp-wrist liberal.

But, now the polls show that even pro-military Red State voters are beginning to lean away from the war. Hillary had to reposition, let the growing number of anti-war voters know she was with them. She needed to give them a big Hillary, "Me too!"

On Meaningless Patriotic Gestures: Triangulating ain't easy. A person can get herself all tangled up if not careful. A valueless trangulator must be fast on her feet. Backing away from supporting the war would get her some votes from the left, but could lose her an equal number of votes from moderate conservatives. Because it would associate her with the liberal anti-war Democrats. Hillary has done the electoral collage math and knows she needs moderate voters from Red States to win the White House. So she had to come up with a gimmick to lead moderates into believing she's no America-hating liberal. No siree Bob! So we got this:

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is supporting new legislation to criminalize desecration of the United States flag ...Clinton, D-N.Y., has agreed to co-sponsor a measure by Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, which has been written in hopes of surviving any constitutional challenge following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the subject....Her support of Bennett's bill follows her position in Congress last summer, when a constitutional ban on flag-burning was debated. Clinton said then she didn't support a constitutional ban, but did support federal legislation making it a crime to desecrate the flag. (Full Story)

Presto chango on flag burning. "You against burning the American flag." Hillary says, "Well, me too. Honest."

Hillary's explanation for this switcheroo is classic Clinton. Is she or isn't she for a law against burning US flags? Well, depends on what the meaning of "is" is. She has been against a constitutional amendment and still is. But now she is for a federal statute against flag burning. What's that all about? Triangulation, baby. Triangulation.

Let me help you solve this Hillary puzzle. It's really quite simple and obvious. (Too obvious.) A constitutional amendment can't be overturned by the Supreme Court. A statute passed by Congress can be. Hillary figures she can have it both ways. By backing a statute against flag burning she can convince moderate voters that she's a true blue flag waving jingo American. But she knows such a law to be so obviously unconstitutional even a conservative Supreme Court would overturn it.

Is this governing? Hardly. It's just more of the same cynical, strategic fakery and demagoguery that's gotten us into the various messes we're mired in now.

The above should be reasons enough for Democrats to say no to Hillary in '08. But add to all that the truckloads of negative PR baggage Hillary drags with her and you have the perfect formula for failure. (More than failure, a historic political drubbing.) As I said in an earlier column, if you thought the sleazy Swift Boaters disemboweled John Kerry just wait until their like-minded brethren get rolling on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton!

If, after thinking about all that, you're still dazzled by Hillary, try this on for size. Republicans may be corrupt but they are not stupid. They understand they let their far right wing push the envelope too far. They read polls too. They know voters are fed up with false trickled down economic promises, tax cuts for the already wealthy, mounting deficits, job losses and war. And be assured their candidates for president in 08 will reflect that. Hillary will not have the luxury of running against the likes of George W. Bush in '08.

So, you want Hillary? But Hillary vs. who?

How about this GOP ticket: McCain/Guliani.

Hillary would be finished the day that ticket were announced. Finished. First McCain's position on the war is, unlike Hillary's, at least believable -- If the nation is really at war, as the President claims, then act like it -- either double the number of US troops in Iraq or get out. And on the subject of torture he speaks with personal authority and is unconditionally against it.

Guliani's position on abortion and gay rights is as liberal as Hillary's but more reliable. Think about it. It's easy for Hillary to espouse choice and gay rights because those positions represent her party's positions. But Rudy risks losing Republican votes by holding firm on a woman's right to choose and gay rights.

So ask yourself, if the day comes when the chips are really down on a woman's right to choose, which of the two, Rudy or Hillary, do you think would stand firmly with women? I suspect it would be Rudy. Hillary would check the polls first and, if she found the winds blowing even slightly left to right that day, she'd sell women down the river in a New York minute. Believe it. Her finger is already testing the breezes on abortion rights:

Hillary is already "talking about finding “common ground” with abortion foes. Like Moses leading her party to the Promised Land, Hillary is treading a path to Red State America. She may be the darling of the liberal left, but she won in New York by appealing to upstate voters who are traditionally Republican." (Full Story)

I hope that between now and next year Democrats figure this out and start looking for two candidates progressives can enthusiastically embrace in 08. If such candidates don't exist within the confines of the old Democrat Party, then it's time for progressives to start looking for a new home.

And the best way for the party to signal that moment is to nominate Hillary for President.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

December 5, 2005

Where's a Psychiatrist
When We Really Need One?

It's the proverbial 900 pound guerilla in the room. It's become so obvious. Yet no one dares say it.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is mad. No, I mean seriously ill. Mentally ill. Demonstrably so.

I can't say whether or not he was mad from the start, but I can tell you with some degree of certainty that he is now. And he's getting worse. Each succeeding news conference he looks, sounds and act more and more like the Harvey Korman character, Dr. Charles Montague, head of "The Place for the Very, Very Nervous," in the 1977 Mel Brooks flick, "High Anxiety."

Don's not yet quite at the Rainman stage -- yet, but if his slide towards madness continues at its current pace, he will arrive there, (shorts from K-mart and all,) before this administration's term in office ends.

Don got so nutty during his weekly news conference last week that Joint Chiefs head, General Pace, had to reel him in, not once, but twice. The first time was when Pace used the accepted term, "insurgents," to describe the indigenous fighters in Iraq.

Don interrupted, waving both hands over his head in an "abracadabra" fashion, to announce that over the weekend he had had an epiphany. We've been using the wrong term entirely to describe Iraqis killing our troops over there, he pronounced from on high. They are not "insurgents," they are "Enemies of the Legally Elected Iraqi Government," or EOLEIG's. (Guess we know now why Donald never made it as a corporate jingle writer.)

Now ask yourself, what kind of person, but a nut, would make such a pronouncement at a time when US kids are being blown up by the dozen each week. And to do so with such pompous grandiosity, on TV, and to cynical, hard-boiled reporters! Only a madman, a person so deeply "confused" in his own mind, he thinks his absurd ruling actually is contributing to a solution.

What on earth was he thinking? Actually, nothing new. Renaming fighters in Iraq has become a veritable nervous tick for Don. He's been re-branding the Iraqi fighters since the day we arrived there. Before the war even started he didn't even have term for them because, he assured us, there would be no opposition to a US attack on their country. But after Saddam was gone and US troops started dying at someone's hands, Don told the same TV cameras to pay them no attention because, he said then, they were just a handful of "Dead-Enders," (DE's.)

As conditions in Don's newly liberated Iraq deteriorated further he renamed them again. No longer Dead Enders, they were now "Foreign Terrorist Fighters." And better yet, he assured, they had been reduced to a rag-tag bunch that were "in their last throes."

So now that things are really bad, (in Iraq and in Don's head,) he decided it was time for another re-branding. How does Don plan on defeating the insurgency? By calling it something else, of course. There, the little bastards are gone now. Never mention their name again. Now, let's get about mopping up those EOLEIG's.

Once Rumsfeld was done revealing his renaming epiphany he gave the microphone back to a clearly embarrassed General Pace. The General was faced with the choice of joining his boss in looneyland, or using the now banned term, insurgents. Instead he said, "yeah, what he just said."

Mad as a hatter. Crazy is as crazy does. Does Don "do" as crazy as he speaks? One must assume so since he is in charge of the Department of Defense. As boss I figure he does pretty much what as he pleases. Worse, if he says such nutty things right on TV, can you even imagine the thoughts he shares with subordinates back in the privacy of his office at the Pentagon? Where "yeah, what he just said," becomes the day's marching orders.

The second time General Pace had to reel in his boss was when Pace was asked by reporters if US troops in Iraq were supposed to step in and stop Iraqi troops from abusing fellow Iraqis. Pace was in the process of saying the right thing, ("yes,") when Don-in-the-Box popped up again. "But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it." he corrected the general.

Pace had no choice. "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."

The look on Rumsfeld's face was the same look parents get from their teenagers when they tell them, "If your friends start drinking or using drugs you leave that party and come straight home!" You know the look -- the eyeballs roll up as their head jerks dismissively to the one side. At that point you know you just wasted a breath.

From that look it was clear that Rumsfeld believes that, while US troops had the right to invade Iraq, topple it's government, occupy it but has not business telling Iraqis not to beat, torture or kill their own folk. No our job... he says. (Administration vice-enabler, Dick Cheney, appears to agree.)

Don is, or has become, mad as a hatter. Worried? We have a certifiable loon in charge of the most powerful military on the face of the earth. Shouldn't someone do something about that? I mean if Bush insists on having a nut in this post, at least hire a harmless nut. The world is full of harmless nuts. He could find less nutty nuts downtown in any major city. Pick one with less dangerous notions than Don has. Like a nut who believes the answer is to pass a law requiring all Iraqi politicians carry a bunny rabbit in their pocket at all times. Or how about a nut who is certain that Britney Spears is the Virgin Mary reincarnate? That way the weekly Pentagon news conference would continue being ever so entertaining, but fewer people would get killed. (Oh, and by the way, even the most delusional street nuts don't believe simply renaming someone out to kill you makes them disappear. Now that's nuts – dangerous nuts. )

It's time for someone to tell Don Rumsfeld, "No more fruit cup for you!"

Still More Crazy Stuff
Did you catch the latest wrinkle in our Iraq strategy that materialized over the weekend? It seems the the Sunni's in Iraq wanna talk, and Pentagon planners see that as a big opportunity. I see it differently.

The Sunni insurgents (Dead Ender IOLEIG's) have indicated they are unhappy with all the al-Queda types fighting beside them and want the US to help them kill them off. And the Pentagon is seriously considering the offer. In fact, they are downright giddy at the opportunity.

Talk about a flat learning curve! Jesus H. Christ, don't these people ever learn?

You'd would think by now the Pentagon would have figured out that there's only one universally accepted law in the Middle East: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." All other laws are just window dressing.

We missed that important little fact back in the 80s when we supported Iraq during the Iraq/Iran war. Then we helped Iran finally win that war by spending US lives and money to topple Saddam. "Thank you ever so much," said the Shiite religious nuts in Iran, "we'll take over now." And so they are.

Now the Sunni's, (who watch CNN when not planting IEDs,) have gotten the message that US voters are tired of all this and want US troops home next year. Until now the Sunnis have been perfectly happy to have the homicidal al Zaquari and his pals killing US troops for them. But if the US is going to leave that means the Sunnis will have two problems on their hands, the Shiites and religious nut al Queda militias.

If the al Queda fighter could be wiped out by US troops with Sunni help, then the Sunnis would be able to turn their full attention to killing Shiites. But, if US troops leave and all hell breaks loose – as it will – the Sunnis worry their Shiite enemies will align themselves with the radical Islamic foreign fighters. The Sunnis, you see, are a fiercely secular lot, while the Shiites are Iranian-like Islamists. The last thing al Queda fighters would want to see come to pass is a secular Iraq.

Which is why they dialed the Pentagon and said, "Come on down! Let's make a deal. What say we help you catch and kill off these pesky foreign fighters?"

The idea of getting inside intel on al Queda operatives in Iraq from their former Sunnis allies has Pentagon brass salivating – again. Of course if the US takes the deal and succeeds helping the Sunnis kill off foreign fighters, that means their joint enemy will be no more. And guess what – mission accomplished -- for the Sunis - who will go right back to killing the very US soldiers who helped them kill off those foreign fighters. And, since Sunni fighters would have spent six months fighting alongside US troops, they will know how to kill our troops in even larger numbers. It's nothing personal. Just business as usual in that part of the world.

Just when you think US war planners can't possibly make more of hash of things in Iraq they discover new ways to do just that.

Which is another reason to end this deadly farce sooner rather than later.

Monday, December 05, 2005

December 4, 2005

America's Beer Hall Putsch

Rigging electronic voting machines isn't the only way to steal an election. There are far less risky ways of doing so. Just ask Tom DeLay and his GOP brethren in the Texas legislature.

Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal
Voting Rights Finding On Map Pushed by DeLay Was Overruled

Washington, December 2, 2005 -- Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan. (Full Story)

This revelation may be the most solid proof yet that the GOP under Bush/Cheney is the most corrupt and anti-democratic administration and party in American history. That story alone would not lead one to such conclusion. But it fits all too neatly into what has become a pattern of hard-knuckle, thugish, take-no-prisoners tactics by right wing Republicans.

But this one, the Texas redistricting, will go down as America's legislative version of the 1924 Bürgerbräukeller, Beer House Putsch. While no blood was shed in this one, the results were too similar to simply brush them off as the crazy rant of a Bush hater.

Let's talk thugs.. in this case the political variety..

Wait.. stop. Is the term "thug" too strong for these guys? Let's stop right here and make sure we're on the right track. Here's an excerpt from a memo between two DeLay staffers bristling at the notion they were playing too rough:

"This whole thing about not kicking someone when he is down is BS -- Not only do you kick him -- you kick him until he passes out -- then beat him over the head with a baseball bat -- then roll him up in an old rug -- and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!!!"

Adolf– and John Gotti -- would approved. Yeah, I know it was just talk. But do you talk that way?

Okay, glad we got that settled. So we are talking about thugs. Because you see, thugs like to play rough with their enemies, break a few legs, crack a few skulls. Anything less would be a sign of weakness inviting others to move in on their turf.

And, when things get really serious, thugs take their enemies "for a ride." Our thugs take them for rides on private jets to private dungeons in private places, where "batta-bing, batta-bang" can be carried out with the kind of privacy and deniability such behavior demands.

From time to time thugs need to coordinate with other thugs. Such get togethers represent thuggery's most dangerous and vulnerable moments. Who attended and what they discussed and decided must remain secret at all cost. Which is precisely why we still don't know who attended Dick Cheney's energy task force sit downs – and we likely never will.

Thugs are not all bad. They share. They take care of their friends. Sharing booty is central tenet of successful thuggery, because, after all, what goes around comes around. And oh how these thugs share! It's been bling, bling, bling for this administration's thugish friends; Halliburton, big pharma, big tobacco, big polluters, big energy. Five years of bling, bling, bling... The Mother of all blings.

Thugs are also liars – and not sometimes, but always. They really have no choice in the matter. If they start telling the truth they'll lose power – and might even end up behind bars. "Sure we stole that election, what's it to ya?" Nope. No can do. So they lie, lie and lie and, if caught, they lie about lying. The White House even has a full-time designated liar, Scott McClellan. (If Scotty is Catholic I suggest his parish priest start now building him his own confessional, with plumbing. He'll be in there for a while.)

When their lies result in material proof of wrong-doing, thugs simply create alternative realities. Losing becomes winning. Oppression protects freedom. Propaganda becomes news. Protest becomes irresponsible or unpatriotic. Killing people becomes saving them. Military occupation becomes peacekeeping. Fixed elections becomes a "mandate to govern."

Orwell would shake his head in disbelief. He underestimated thugs. Of course Orwell never met thugs like Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney or Karl Rove.

So yes, the evidence is clear now -- these thugs really did steal the 2004 election. And now we know one of the ways they pulled that off -- Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting putsch.

But DeLay's audacious election putsch would not have succeeded without help from high in the thug foodchain. Where? From the highest reaches of the nation's law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice. Which should not surprise us. Successful thugs always need a few key cops on their payroll. In this case it was thug-cop Attorney General John "Jesus Boy" Aschroft. He was the nation's top cop – and he was a crooked cop. Once the 2004 election fix bore fruit, Jesus Boy skipped town.

Ashcroft was replaced by reliable thug yes-man, Alberto Gonzalez. Before his promotion, our new top cop had been the boss' lawyer where he gave the nod to roughing up prisoners and mocked international laws against torture as "quaint anachronisms." His new job is covering up the corruption of his predecessor while obediently ignoring the misconduct of his still-active thug superiors. So, don't bother dialing 911 to report thuggery is afoot, because all you're gonna get is a "what's it to ya?"

Am I being too harsh? You think? Do I marginalize myself when I resort to this kind of over-heated hyperbole and tortured (no pun intended) analogies? Maybe. But some days the accumulated weight of evidence becomes just too much for to dispassionately intellectualize, mull, balance, soft-peddle or just ignore it all. I get angry. Then worried. Then depressed. Scared.

Disagree? Then you tell me, how else should I describe the actions and behavior of these guys other than as pure thuggery? Maybe you have a better description. I don't. Not that I haven't tried coming up with one for an administration that:

* Pay off their friends with billions of dollars from the public chest, while 46 million ordinary Americans can't even afford to go to a doctor,
* Hand out billions in fat no-bid contracts to friends, while cutting basic services to poor families,
* Who cook the nation's books to justify tax giveaways to friends, while refusing to enact a livable wage for working families,
* Who have violently killed untold thousands of people over the past four years, and just arrogantly warned they ain't anywhere near done.

So, if you think I've gone over the edge, so be it. I don't think so. I'm not only Sicilian, I also spent much of my reporting career chasing, interviewing and writing about mobsters and other assorted thugs. So, I do know a thug when I see one. How much more evidence, debt, death, corruption do you need to conclude that a pack of unmitigated, unabashed, unembarrassed and, at least so far unabated, gang of thugs have grabbed control of the American government? I don't need any more evidence.

And thugs don't belong in public office. They belong in jail.

You got a problem with that?

Friday, December 02, 2005

December 1, 2005

Victory Says He?

After President Bush outlined his plan yesterday, "Victory in Iraq," my erudite friend, Tony Seton, sent me an email containing this simple observation: "Dig more graves."

Here we go again. This guy has a flat learning curve. Just six months ago Bush was promising we were about to "turn the corner" because of upcoming interim elections to install an interim Iraqi government. That was his "plan for victory in Iraq," back then. I wrote at the time that that was exactly wrong. I warned that all an election would do is put the Shiites in charge and move the nation closer to civil war.

And so it came to pass.

I also wrote at the time that, regardless how long US troops stay, the day, no the hour, no the minute, the last US soldiers leaves, Iraqi will erupt into tribal war, fracturing into it's three historic and natural ethnic regions. That prediction remains to be tested. But already we see the sides gearing up for that day.

Americans forget that Iraq is not a nation that was created by folks who wanted to be together. The folks we lump together as "Iraqis" are in fact three different tribes. They were minding their own damn business in what we now call Iraq, until the British unilaterally decided to tidy up their region by drawing boundaries. That was nearly a century ago when it was the Brits who were at the height of their own imperial hubris. The three tribes were just another indigenous nuisance the Brits had long since learned to ignore. They had no say in the matter. When the Brits were done drawing borders, the Shiites, Sunni and Kurdish tribes discovered they had become one big unhappy family. Very unhappy.

What I'm about to say next is ever-so politically incorrect. But people are dying. This is no time to mealy-mouth the situation Bush has gotten us into. So, here goes.

The Iraqis... all three flavors of them ... are not nice people. They are products of a backward, religiously poisoned, misogynistic, brutal tribal culture.

Sorry, but someone had to just come right out and say it. They are a society with more "issues" to work between themselves than America has the time or money to solve. And if the real estate they occupy didn't have lakes of oil under it we'd have not shown a whit of interest in them. (Proof? North Korea.. all WMD'd up but no oil. So, who cares? )

Quite simply, we could not have picked a less likable or deserving group of folks to "save" from themselves than the Iraqis.

Oh, and by the way, they don't like us either.

Sure it can be argued that the way they are is not their fault, that they were abused by former leaders. Or that their minds have been poisoned by Mullahs who are themselves ignoramuses. True, all true. But none of that changes what we face over there now. And, in case you missed the point, what our troops face are three blood-thirsty warring tribes itching to kill anyone, man, woman or child, they catch wearing one of the other tribe's colors or anyone who tries to rob them of the pleasure of doing so.

Imagine if the Crips, Bloods and M13 controlled most of Los Angeles. Say hello to Baghdad today. And, it will still be that way when US troops leave, whenever that might be. Think they can change? Fine, you go ahead and try telling the Crips and Bloods they should learn to get along. Sell them on the benefits of democracy and the rule of law. (Sadie Safety says, "be sure to wear your bulletproof vest!") And if you should succeed, please let George know how you did it, will ya?

Frankly, I don't give damn what happens to the Iraqis. That's up to them. And it do mean it's up to them, not us. We can drag that jackass to the well from now until the sun burns out, but we can't force them to drink the waters of enlightenment, democracy or so-called Western values.

Go ahead, call me an ethnocentric, unfeeling, racist pig. But I'm am simply describing what's real as opposed to the politically correct mantras, like Bush's "Soft bigotry of low expectations." Hogwash. Democracy is not rocket science. It comes in all kinds of flavors the Iraqis could choose from, if they wanted it. They don't. What the three flavors of Iraqi want is power for their own tribe. And they are not interested in sharing.

Denying that may make you feel better about yourself as a person, but it won't change the reality our troops face over there. Sometimes you really do just have to call judge a group harshly. And, anyone who looks objectively at Iraqis will walk away shaking his/her head -- that is if they still have one.

Any cop will tell you that the most dangerous calls are to break up family fights. Well Iraq is three huge, armed to the teeth, dysfunctional families. They hate each other and they hate anyone who tries to break up their endless bloody squabbles. Which is precisely why nearly 2200 of our "cops" have died over there.

Sorry to be such a downer this morning. But George W. left me no choice with his speech yesterday. We are not going see "victory" in Iraq, as George defines it, because there is absolutely no set of circumstances in the real Iraq that would allow for such a victory. Period. All Bush did yesterday was to guarantee yet more US kids will be landing at Andrews AFB in the fully reclined, rather than upright, position – and not a single one of them will be even remotely related to the Bush clan. Of that you can be quite sure.

If you want to see what actual "victory" will actually look like once we leave Iraq, it's easy to do. Just get a 1970-era map of Europe. Put it alongside a recent map of the same region. Now find Yugoslavia on the old map. Next try to find it on the new map.

There you have, a window into the future. You now know what Iraq will look like after we leave. And yes, it will include mass graves as well. You betchya. The Sunnis and Shiites are itching to get on with that part and the Kurds will do their part by ethnically cleansing their fully independent Kurdistan of both Sunnis and Shiites.

Once the ethnic cleansing in post-US occupied Iraqi becomes horrific enough, the UN and/or NATO will step in.. The warring parties will be separated and new boundaries will be drawn. These pompous Europeans will claim, as they did when they carved up Yugoslavia, that the new boundaries separating the three tribes are not an endorsement of ethnic cleansing. But of course that's precisely what they will be. Reality -- what a bitch!

There is some good news though. This time the boundaries of the former Iraq will be set with the grudging approval of the three tribes. The nation's oil revenues will go into an escrow fund and dolled out in a per capita manner to the three tribal entities now pretending to be real countries -- like Kosovo and Bosnia.

After that a kind of peace will settle over the former Iraq. It will be shaky, iffy, and a day-by-day proposition for decades. Still it will be better than anything the three tribes have had since the British threw them together nearly a century ago.

There you are. That's what final "victory" in Iraq will look like when it finally arrives. The plan George W. Bush outlined yesterday will not change that, it will only delay it a few months or years.

But there was one item missing from Bush's 35-page plan yesterday. A strange omission since it was the only to-do item certain to be needed: "Dig more graves."