Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Feb 5-19, 2007

Feb. 15, 2007

I'm In It
To Win It

I have two extremely important and personal announcements to make today.

I am throwing my hat into the ring – well, two rings, actually. I entering the running for both President of the United states and as the “real father” of the late Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter.

Now it might strike some of you as odd for a candidate for such an important post, that of parent, to simultaneously seek the Presidency. I want you to know, I understand your concern. The Presidency exposes children to situations and people that would be blocked by your TV set's V-chip. But you have to go through life with the President you have, not the President you wish you had. And, if granted custody, and if elected, I pledge to monitor this child's exposure to any intern-related activities during my term in office.

More on the Presidency later. But by you are probably wondering how I, a simple blogger living in rural northern California, could be the father of Anna Nichole Smith's baby. My wife was wondering the same thing. So, let me explain. It's simple. That kid is a $500 million lottery ticket, but the odds (of being granted custody as her father) are far better than lotto odds.

(The odds of a "Lotto" style lottery can be found with the formula: n! / (n - r)! r! You multiply 40 ×39 ×38 ×37 ×36 × 35 = 2,763,633,600. That makes the odds of winning the lottery 2 and a half billion to one.)

So you do the math: There are roughly 300 million people in the US. Half of them are male. I figure about half those males are either too old, too young, too sick or too gay to be in the running to be that kid's daddy. That gives me a one in 75 million chance to be chosen. Since you can't win if you don't enter, I'm in it to win it.

Did Anna and I have an affair? As I explained to my wife, that's just ridiculous. I never met the woman and, as far I as I know, never even shared the same dimension, much less the same room, with her. (Besides, silicone makes me break out.)

So why do I think I'm even in the running as a DNA match? Simple. Remember “If the glove don't fit, you gotta acquit?” Yeah, the O.J trial. Prosecutors had buckets full of OJ's DNA and they still lost the case. Because the DA only had DNA. OJ had Johnny Cochran. Get me a lawyer like that and twelve morons on the jury and I don't care what the DNA evidence says, I'll walk out of court with that $500 million bambino under my arm.

I already raised kids, who are now grown and gone. So why would I want to put myself through all that again? Because then I'd have the money I need to become competitive in the Presidential race. This race is going to be the most expensive in history. Some are saying it could be the first billion-dollar contest. Hillary already has nearly $12 million salted away, for example. That's what I will be up against. And the day I get my name of that kid's birth certificate I become numero uno in the money race.

I understand that it might strike some of you as insensitive, opportunistic, even smarmy, to fund my campaign in such a cynical and underhanded manner. I want you to know that I feel your nausea. But look at the alternatives I faced. I could put out a list of things I would do, if elected, for special interest groups in return for contributions. Or I could offer to be against new environmental restrictions if Exxon coughed up a million or two. I could tell the Christian right I could be persuaded to agree we shouldn't give young girls that new vaccine that prevents cervical cancer -- if they passed the donation basket among their God-fearin' brethren. Hell, if they raise a few mil extra I might even be persuaded to make abortion illegal.

I could have, except the large field of candidates, from both parties, who have already announced, have already picked most of that low-hanging fruit.

So, you see, I gotta go with the kid. I see it as a win/win. First, it's a good deal for the kid. We'll take the little bugger with us when we move into the White House. Every Christmas we'll tie a webcam around her neck and you can watch her crawl around the White House.

I will also dedicate a statue in Statuary Hall in the Capitol building, enshrining Smith as the first bimbo in American history to give her life for her country. I will delcare all dumb-blond jokes a form of hate speech. And I will order that Smith's remains be buried next to those of Betsy Ross.

Second it's good for you, the voter. Because you will finally have a President in the White House who can honestly say, he got to the Oval Office without having to screw anyone.

At this point I am holding off formally announcing my candidacy. Today I am just announcing one of those phony-baloney exploratory committees. I will not formally announce my candidacy for President until I'm granted custody of little Miss whats-her-name. (We'll be renaming her, of course –been toying with “Annie Nicole Pizzo.” But then again, I might have to sell the naming rights --- something like “Cingular iPod Pizzo” or “Hallibuton Northrop” Pizzo.” Since I will probably have to burn through most of the kid's trust fund running for office, she's going to need that extra money for college.)

By now you are probably wondering why I think I have the qualities to be President of the United States. It's a fair question that deserves a frank answer. First, clearly I love children, Second, thanks to that little money-honey, I won't have to stoop to pre-selling my loyalty to a handful of special interest groups – (except of course for that little name-selling rights business. But, hey, that's for the kid. There will be no child left
behind in a Pizzo administration!)

Feb. 12, 2007

The Saudi Lesson

Folks on the extreme left and extreme right share at least one trait in common; they can only hold and process a single black and white belief on any given subject. When anyone tries to inject a shade of gray or one of those nasty “nuances” into one of their certainties, they react with suspicion and anger.

Of course we see this most when the issue of Iraq comes up. Those on the far right believe that “if we don't fight them there, we will have to fight them here, in our own streets.” That's complete and utter nonsense, of course, but believe me, they believe it.

I got a taste of lefty anger last week when I had the audacity to suggest that Iran may be doing to the US in Iraq exactly what the US did to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Specifically by making sure Iraqi insurgents have the gear they need to blow up our armor vehicles and shoot down our helicopters.

Yep. I said that, and oh my! The emails poured in. How dare I!.

How dare I what?

Well, how dare I provide aid and comfort to the war-mongering Bushies! “That's just what they want us to believe,” the lefties whined. They want us to believe the Iranians are supplying Iraqi insurgents, to justify attacking Iran. And I fell right into that right-wing trap.


Ah, no, not right -- and not left either. Both sides are missing the point. One side sees black, the other sees white. I see gray.

Let's dissect the matter:

Question: Does the Bush administration want to attack Iran?

Answer: Does a bear crap in the woods? Sure they do. Fueled by Neocons and Israeli interests in Congress (can you spell Lieberman?) they'd love to bomb the crap out of Iran. Just as they believed attacking Iraq would yield longterm benefits for the region, they now believe that knee-capping Iran now would end Iran's regional ambitions.

Question: Well, are they right?

Answer: No. Attacking Iran would not only not yield any benefits but would simply kick open another Pandora's box of very ugly realities. And then we'll be talking about how to “get out of Iran,” too. Because, you see, the Iranians live there. And they will still live there long after the dust kicked up by westerners settles. Iran's place in the Middle East of the future can only be decided by themselves and their neighbors. Anyone who believes the West can force such an outcome clearly has no grasp whatsoever of the history of that region, the religion & culture that underpins everything, or the people that live there.

Question: Are the Iranians supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents?

Answer: Duh! Lefties need to understand that, just because Bush says it, does not automatically mean it's not true. Even a broken clock is right twice each day.

Imagine it this way. What if you woke up one morning and discovered that Iran had bombed, invaded and occupied Mexico. Iranian troops were stationed along the US Mexican border and the President of Iran was making threats against the US. Do you think, just maybe, the CIA would be slipping guns-n-stuff to anti-Iranian Mexican insurgents? Of course they would. So, of course the Iranians are. The sooner the US can be convinced to leave Iraq the better for Iran. And the fastest way to do that is for Iran to play the same role in Iraq that the US played in forcing the Soviets to quit their occupation of Afghanistan. And that's precisely what the Iranians are doing.

Question: So, does that mean the US should attack Iran?

Answer: Of course not. Attacking Iran would be no more justified than if the Soviets had attacked the US for providing helicopter killing Stinger missiles to Afghan insurgents.

Question: So what is the right response to Iran's behavior?

Answer: That question brings me back to the first question and answer – that only Iran's neighbors can affect Iran's behavior. We saw the first indications of just how that would work last week. It may have appeared to those wearing political blinders to have been an unrelated matter. But in fact it was arguably the most important thing that happened in the region this month – or, for that matter, any month lately.

It happened, not in poor beleaguered Iraq, or Mulah-run Iran, but in filthy-rich Saudi Arabia.

Last week the Saudis, not exactly known for making bold diplomatic moves, suddenly reached down into Palestine, grabbed waring Fatah and Hamas leaders by the scurfs of their necks and dragged them to Mecca for a sit-down.


The Saudis have had a good thing going for nearly century, selling their oil to the West. But they realized that the growing tide of instability around them – some of which they had financed -- is getting out of hand. Sunni and Shia are increasingly facing off in what many believe may be the beginning of a regional civil war,. And kind of regional instability would directly threaten the Saudis sweet (crude) deal.

CAIRO -- Egypt is the Arab world's largest Sunni Muslim country, but as a writer once quipped, it has a Shiite heart and a Sunni mind. In its eclectic popular culture, Sunnis enjoy a sweet dish with raisins and nuts to mark Ashura, the most sacred Shiite Muslim holiday. Raucous festivals bring Cairenes into the street to celebrate the birthdays of Shiite saints, a practice disparaged by austere Sunnis. The city's Islamic quarter tangles like a vine around a shrine to Imam Hussein, Shiite Islam's most revered figure. The growing Sunni-Shiite divide is roiling an Arab world as unsettled as at any time in a generation. (More)

So, after years of looking the other way and paying protection money to radical, anti-Israel groups, the Saudis decided it was time had come to send the dogs of war to obedience school.

First of all, the Saudis have far more reasons to fear Iran than the US does. And it would not be the first time in recent history that Iran and Syria made trouble in Palestine that resulted in regional misery. Finally, Hamas gets its money and arms from Iran, and it has been Hamas fanning the flames of a Palestinian civil war.

I have no idea what the Saudis actually told the two waring factions, but I bet it went something like this:

The Saudis to Hamas leaders: “You guys have had it pretty easy. Iran sends you what you need when you need it. Meanwhile the West has embargoed the Palestinian government since Hamas won elections. That cut off western aid to Fatah, making them easy pickings for your Iranian-armed Hamas fighters. We Saudis can, if we must, provide Fatah with all the money and arms it needs. Is that what you want? A full out civil war with a well-equipped and financed Fatah? Because that's what you're going to get unless you knock it off.”

The Saudis to Fatah leaders: “How was that?”

Fatah to the Saudis: “Perfect.”

Hamas to the Saudis: “You Saudi Sunni swine! Allah will eat your children, kill your crops, dry up your oil and render your wives and camels barren."

Saudis to Hamas: Whatever. Take it or leave it.”

The photo-op that followed the Saudis sit-down showed Fatah and Hamas leaders kissing. The next move will be Iran's. Do they keep egging Hamas on to undermine any form of secular, moderate Palestinian government? Or do the Iranians back off? That ball is not in Iran's court. The Saudis have more oil and more money than Iran. And the Saudis have warehouses full of modern US-military gear. Should the Saudis decide to back Fatah they could turn it into a formidable force. (And this time the Israelis would approve – maybe even help.)

JERUSALEM -- Leaders of the rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement to form a coalition government Thursday in an effort to end months of factional fighting and lift international sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led administration....The agreement, which followed talks hosted by Saudi Arabia in the holy city of Mecca, was signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, and Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of Hamas. (More)

What's really important to learn from that event is this: It was the Saudis, not the American fleet, that changed the equation for Iran -- and in ways the Bush administration could only dream of.

It's a valuable lesson, for everyone involved. The west's only strategic interest in the region is oil. But those who actually live in the Middle East have much broader and far more personal interests at stake. For the peoples of the Middle East it boils down to a stark choice: peaceful co-existence, growing trade and growing economies, or life on-end in a Mad Max world.

Only once the West, particularly the US, butts out will that choice come into high relief. The Saudis clearly get it – at least those Saudis who benefit most from regional stability. (Eventually ordinary Saudis will get it too, and that won't be good news for the corrupt phony “princes,” now running that sandpit of a country. Of course, when that day arrives, the US will not like that particular display of “democracy ” in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, it will be a matter for locals to decide, not Exxon.)

So, let's review.
  • Is Iran sending military assistance and anti-aircraft missiles to Iraqi insurgents? Almost certainly.
  • Is the Bush administration lying to us again? Almost certainly.
  • Does that mean Iran is not sending military assistance to Iraqi Insurgents? No.
  • Does that mean we should attack Iran? No.
What it does mean is that the sooner we get our troops out of Iraq, the sooner Middle Easterners will have to stop blaming others for their dysfunctional societies and get down to addressing the religious/cultural anachronisms that underlay almost all of it.

No longer able to blame the Great Satan they will have to “get” what the Saudis got. The choice facing Muslims in the Middle East is between life in dark ages, or peace, cooperation and progress.

Take it or leave it.

Swift-Flyers For Truth

Earlier this week we learned that this administration shipped 363 TONS of cash money, $4 billion in US $100 bills on pallets to Iraq.

GIANT pallets loaded with cash amounting to more than $4 billion and weighing a total of 363 tons were sent to Baghdad aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, it has been revealed to Congress. (More)

Then they hurriedly handed all that cash over to a handful of Iraqi Charlie Keatings. And guess what? Most of it disappeared into the worm-woodwork. (The total cash shipments to Iraq came to $12B and "they can’t find" $8.8B.)

That would be the same week we are learning, thanks to the Scooter Libby trial, just how much VP Cheney and others in the administration were lying and covering up the lying about the real state of Saddam's non-existent nuclear program.

And it's the same week that the Pentagon's own inspector general released his findings that Rumsfeld's own No. 2, Douglas Feith, had spent his pre-war days making up stuff about Saddam's non-existent links to al Qaida.

WASHINGTON Feb 9, 2007 (AP)— Pentagon officials undercut the intelligence community in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq by insisting in briefings to the White House that there was a clear relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, the Defense Department's inspector general said Friday....Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the office headed by former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith took "inappropriate" actions in advancing conclusions on al-Qaida connections not backed up by the nation's intelligence agencies. (More

Yep. All that in just one week. One would think that at least those “fiscally conservative” Republicans in Congress would able to talk about almost nothing but 363-tons of cash the US government “lost track of” in Iraq.

But no, they had bigger fish to fry:

Nancy Pelosi Wants Bedroom on Jet
Critics charge that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is abusing the perks of power by asking for a jumbo military jet with sleeping accommodations for her flights across the country. (More)

Of course, the story was completely false. It turned out that the House Sergeant-at-Arms, Bill Livingood – who was appointed by former GOP House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, actually was the person that requested the military provide a plane large enough so Pelosi could fly nonstop to the West Coast.

Was Livingood just looking out for his new bosses security, or was he setting her up? I can't say. But it was his request, not Pelosi's that set the new Dem Speaker up for a thorough Swift-boating by GOP brown shirts.

But, unlike John Kerry, Pelosi didn't let the story churn long unchallenged. The role played by GOP-holdover, Livingood was put right out there. Now she needs to go a step further. She needs to find out who at the Pentagon took Livingood's lob over the plate and slammed it into far right field.

As Democrats learned from Kerry's swift-boating, the only way to deal with a lie is to promptly and unceremoniously cram it straight down the throats of the liars. Now that the swift-planers have been exposed, Dems need to teach them a lesson. They need to go to the floor of the House and read back the words of every one of those GOP representative who took the floor this week to repeat the lie. Then Democrats need to demand each of them retract their remarks and apologize.

Then make it clear to the GOP bully boys that Democrats are going to do just that every time they try to pull one of these swift-boat stunts in the future. The message needs to be clear and convincing: You get no more free swings at Democrats. And before you swing next time, you damn well better have your facts in line, because we are going to demand to see them.

Former US Marine, Rep. John Murtha understands the value of firing back. The ink wasn't dry on the Washington Times swift-plane story before Murtha announced he was going to hold hearings on just that subject – how members of Congress and the administration have been using – and misusing – the fleet of Pentagon jetliners. The next sound you heard after Murtha's threat was the sound of 200 GOP assholes slamming shut.

Oh, and then there's this. Since GOP members of the Senate seem determined to block any vote or debate on Bush's so-called “surge” of new troops into Iraq, they might want to use that time instead to hold hearings on this instead:

Bush's uncle benefited from illegal stock sale, records show
February 8, 2007

: President Bush's uncle William H.T. Bush was among a group of directors of a defense contractor who reaped $6 million from what federal regulators say was an illegal five-year scheme by two company executives to manipulate the timing of stock option grants, documents show.

Bush, known as "Bucky," becomes the second member of the president's family to become enmeshed in the stock options scandal this month.

Bucky Bush is the youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush. He was an outside, non-executive director of Engineered Support Systems Inc., a defense contractor whose profits were bolstered because of the Iraq war.

The St. Louis-based company, a supplier of equipment and electronics to the military that was acquired last year by another defense contractor, has been under investigation by federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning the alleged options backdating scheme. (More)

Hey, no “cut and runners” among the Bush clan! They're in Iraq for the duration. A surge in troops means a surge in defense spending as well. Let the good times roll. A rising tide of blood raises all yachts.

This time around GOP brown shirts are going to have much tougher muck to hoe. As I noted at the top, the list of GOP/administration failures, lies, deficits, deceits and corruption is so long, so documented and so handy, that Democrats have plenty of ammo.

So, at the bottom it's really just about glass and rocks. On the right we have the GOP, holed up in the biggest glass-house since Teapot Dome, throwing rocks at anyone that crosses them. On the left we have Democrats, well armed but legendary for their glass jaw. Unless Democrats quickly and robustly return fire on these GOP's bully boys, it's their glass jaw that'll end up busted – again.

So, on guard. The attempted swift-plane-ing of Pelosi is just the beginning.

It's Bird, No. It's a Plane
Oh no.
It's a F.....g ...

"Come in Ranger One. Ranger One do you Copy?

I'm one of those odd people who believes that sometimes that deja vu feeling is real – that we really have “been here, done this,” before. Well I got that deja vu feeling this morning when I read this:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An umbrella insurgent group claimed responsibility for downing a U.S. helicopter and "burning it down completely" near Baghdad on Wednesday, according to a claim listed on various Islamist Web sites....CNN was unable to confirm the authenticity of the statement from the group, which includes al Qaeda in Iraq....It was the fifth U.S. helicopter to go down in Iraq in almost three weeks.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, after all the bad news out of Iraq in recent months, this felt different... yet the same. It felt important too, more important than the usual news about roadside bombs and Iraqis using electric drills to make holes in their neighbors before beheading them. This bit of news caught my attention in a different, yet familiar way.

But why? Why did it feel different, yet somehow the same? And why did I feel this bit of news marked a new, and final, turning point?

So I did a bit of research, and lo and behold look what I found. Deja vu-city! We really have been here and done this before. Well not “us” literally, but someone that acted like we are acting now. Here, read this and I'll rejoin you at the other end:

“...... Following the deployment, the Soviet troops were unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside still escaped effective government control. The initial mission, to guard cities and installations, was expanded to combat the anti-communist Mujahideen forces, primarily using Soviet reservists.

The Soviet Army was unfamiliar with such fighting, had no counter-insurgency training, and their weaponry and military equipment, particularly armored cars and tanks, were sometimes ineffective or vulnerable in the mountainous environment.

The Soviets used helicopters as their primary air attack force, supported with fighter-bombers and bombers, ground troops and special forces. Of particular significance was the donation of American-made FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems, which increased aircraft losses of the Soviet Air Force.

The inability of the Soviet Union to break the military stalemate, gain a significant number of Afghan supporters and affiliates, or to rebuild the Afghan Army, required the increasing direct use of its own forces to fight the rebels. Soviet soldiers often found themselves fighting against civilians due to the elusive tactics of the rebels. They did repeat many of the American Vietnam mistakes, winning almost all of the conventional battles, but failing to control the countryside. (More)

Yep. And instructive as hell, since we know how that superpowers attempt to straighten out a Muslim nation by force ended.

But it's not just that, it's not that it ended in failure, but precisely what it was that ended it. What ended it were Stinger shoulder mounted anti-aircraft missiles, (“Manpads”) secretly supplied to the Mujahideen by the US.

“Its long range and sophisticated guidance made the Stinger highly effective against Soviet airplanes and helicopters, and Stingers were credited with turning the tide of the war in the Mujahideen's favor, according to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. (More)

In all the Soviets lost over 130 helicopters and other aircraft to these deadly accurate little missiles.
(See list here)

While George W. Bush may not be a fan of history, some folks are. Apparently among those history buffs are the Iranians. They took note of what it was that caused the once powerful Soviets to cut and run out of Afghanistan.

Which brings me back to why I think that bit of news this morning marks the beginning of the end for the US occupation of Iraq – and why we've suddenly lost five helicopters in less than three weeks. Because, you see, the Iranians have their own versions of the Stinger, and they are providing them to anti-US insurgents in Iraq.
(See also Anza are a series of Chinese developed, IR-guided shoulder-fired surface to air missiles, under licensed production in Pakistan.

That's why this is feels different, yet the same – different superpower, same solution.

It's not --- no pun intended -- rocket science. All you have to do is ask yourself this: What was the only tactical advantage the Soviets had over the Mujahideen?

Answer: Air power.

Except for the lack of air power, the Mujahideen held every other tactical advantage. First, they lived there, while the Russians were just heavily armed visitors. Also, they knew the terrain like the backs of their little brown hands, while Soviet troops were, quite literally, lost much of the time.

Back then the US clearly understood that air-power was the Soviet Achilles heel in Afghanistan. Which is precisely why we slipped the Mujahideen a couple a hundred Stinger missiles. Once the Soviets lost their air power advantage, they lost the war.

Today US forces in Iraq are in the same sinking boat the Soviets found themselves in 25 years ago. We can't move our forces safely or quickly on the ground, so we move them by helicopter. And, when Iraqi troops get their asses in a sling – (which appears to be whenever anyone shoots back at them.) – they call in US air support to do the heavy killing for them. No US air support would mean Iraqi troops refusing to venture far from base.

Then there's the Baghdad airport – the main lifeline into and out of that hell hole of country. Lumbering transports and troop-ladened passenger planes already have to perform corkscrew-dive bomber style landings to avoid getting hit by conventional ordinance. Such aerial dodge-ball antics don't confuse the new Iranian-supplied Manpad missiles.

So now what? Well, for starters don't expect many of those photo-op visits to Baghdad by US officials after the first commercial or military transport gets hit. After that the once routine task of flying in fresh US troops and flying out the exhausted and wounded troops will become a life and death crap shoot.

All of which raises the obvious question; does the Bush administration realize they are repeating the Soviet's mistakes?

Apparently not. Iran provides deadly ground-to-air missiles to the insurgents and the Bush administration does what? It moves two aircraft carriers brimming with planes and helicopters into the Gulf -- a move that can only be read as another swaggering “bring-it on” from you-know-who.

I've given up hoping anyone in the Bush administration is going to “get it,” when it comes to the futility of this kind of anachronistic superpower behavior in the Middle East.

That leaves Congress. Though hope is slim, and seems to be getting slimmer by the day, Congress is our last hope that adults will step in and put an end to this abortion of war.

And end it Congress could, if only they would. Congress is the paymaster for this war. So, the next time you talk to your elected members of Congress, ask them; are they going to just keep writing checks for replacement sitting duck helicopters for Iraq? The Soviets did, until they ran out of money -- and those willing to fly them.

Is Congress going to allow Bush to pack 25,000 additional US troops into planes and fly them into Iraq now? What's it going to take, a 737 or C130 being blown out of the sky over Baghdad rainging the bodies of a couple of hundred troops onto the airport tarmack? Is that what it'll take -- and aerial Beirut barracks -- before you stop paying for this madness?

If so then Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- are no better, smarter or more worthy of our votes than those in the administration who started all this.

So Congress, cut the funding and cut the losses. Because, not only has the war itself changed, but the reason we are being told for being there. Bush may have started this war to protect our access to oil, but now he's just trying to protect his own legacy. And he's paying for that protection with the lives of other Americans children, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers.

Make no mistake about it -- Congress is the enabler in this dysfunctional relationship. The enabling agent is funding. Like the alcoholic he is -- one war-funding resolution is too much for George W. Bush and a thousand fundings not enough. The time for a Congressional intervention is long overdue.

Give the administration six more months of funding and tell them to use it to begin an orderly withdrawal for Iraq. Or else be ready to explain to the American people why you need to appropriate more of our tax money for helicopters, a lot more helicopters, and the people willing to pilot those flying coffins.

I don't care how it's described, or how other's may describe it. Call it whatever you like; a “redeployment,” a “strategic withdrawal,” or “cutting and running.” (Wanna bet Gen. Custer wishes he had?)

Anyway, Congress -- HELLO -- please “get it” -- it's over. So, senators, representatives, get our troops – and pilots -- the hell out of there – and sooner rather than later.

Otherwise just shut the hell up and ask Bush if there's room in his bunker for his enablers.

Research Reveals Fool's Paradise

"As fool's paradise is a wise man's hell."
Thomas Fuller

You've heard the term, "fool's paradise," but have you ever wondered what one looks like? The trouble is real fool's paradises are a bit like sub-atomic particles, they have such short half-lives that it's hard to observe in real time. But, like Quarks, they do reveal themselves, if not in the flesh, at least in the data. The careful observer can see them coming, if they bother to look. Later. once they pass, you can observe the effect they had on their surroundings.

So it's not surprising that so many Americans are living and planning as though nothing were amiss. The stock market -- the worst of all possible fool's paradise indicators -- is perking right along as though these were boom times. Housing values are down a bit, but have yet to collapse. Consumers continue spending, now dipping into savings to do so. And when savings run out and lower wages can't keep up, they borrow.

The federal government apparently thinks there's not a thing wrong in continuing to borrow over $8 billion a month -- month in and month out -- to finance a war of choice.

Meanwhile our whole damn country runs on oil, the stuff is not only running out, but comes mostly from parts of the world busily tearing themselves apart.

The above behavior has turned our atmosphere into a trash pile which has finally caught fire -- feel the heat? Ice caps are melting so fast you can watch them shrink in real time. Prime beach-front real estate is on the way to being submerged beneath up to five feet of water over the next few decades. The days left for thousands of low lying islands -- and the people that live on them -- are numbered.

Yet, by observing the behavior of government, businesses or the general population, you wouldn't think any of that was going on, or that if it is, that it mattered little. That's where the careful observer can detect a fool's paradise in the making.

Maybe you're one of those who has not noticed. If you don't look, you can't see it, or even feel it. But trust me, all the data says it's so. Even as you read these words it's ripping at the fabric of the comfortable and familiar life most of us still enjoy, and veneer that surrounds daily life. By the time you can see through it, it'll be too late.

I could try to describe this fool's paradise in words, but that would require too many words, and too many folks would still not get the picture -- or refuse to. So at the end of this short post I have some pictures -- data pictures -- snap shots in time, pulses taken, demographic and economic EKGs. They show what's happening behind the facade of normal life Americans cling to. And it's that data which suggests there's really very little normal about it at all. In fact, when you look at the data, almost all it is about the abnormal. If a patient came into an emergency room with vital signs like these he would be sent straight to intensive care.

Where's it all headed? Well, that's for each of us to decide on our own. Look at the data, use your common sense and extrapolate. If you do you will likely reach the same conclusion I have; that we are living in the final days of the good times that began in the 1950's. Quite simply, we got greedy. We raped the golden goose, killed it, plucked it and are now feasting on the final scraps.

Of course most Americans will cling to the hope that it's all just another cyclical economic blip and, like the many others over the last seventy years, it'll all sort itself out and before you know it we'll be back to driving, shopping and living as usual. After all, remember what they taught us in school -- that the changes made to our national economy after the 1930s Great Depression guarantee nothing like that can ever happen again.

That's where the "fools" come in. The fool is the indispensable ingredient in a fool's paradise. It's not a paradise for the fool, but because of the fool. And there has to be a lot of them. They all have to share an almost bulletproof sense of optimism, be rock-solid stubborn and immune from facts. (That's key.) A fool's paradise that is not allowed to achieve critcal mass is a near-miss, not a fool's paradise. The more obvious a fool's paradise is about to blow, the more important it is that the fools remain steadfast in their belief all is well and that the real fools are the onces running around sounding alarms.

There's nothing we can do about a fool's paradise once one reaches the point this one has -- except to prepare as best we can for the inevitable. Oh, and those preparations should probably include installing good locks and mabye a large club. Because when the inevitable happens fools almost always blame those who tried to warn them first. As their world collapses around them they react badly, and stike out at those who predicted it. They claim it's all our fault -- you know... our negative thinking... self-fulfilling prophesies .... those tax and spend liberals... etc. etc. They'll blame everything and everyone, but themselves.

That's why they're called "fools."

Friday, February 02, 2007

January 16-30 2007

Is It World War III Yet?

Remember when World War III was envisioned as a nuclear Armageddon? That threat hung over the heads of my generation through our entire childhoods and into our adult lives. Then it vanished along with the Soviet Union. We may face it again someday, but for right now it's gone.

What isn't gone is the threat of another World War. And, thanks to George W. Bush and his Neoncon advisers we are on the brink of just that... a major war with international implications. And like almost every other world war, it has snuck up on us. To understand how that could be so you all you need to do is look back 93 years, to June 28, 1914.

At approximately 11:00 am on June 28, 1914, Prince Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The assassin was Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Bosnian separatist group. The event was the trigger of World War I, which began less than two months after Franz Ferdinand's death, with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia. (More)

World War I, was a global military conflict that took place mostly in Europe between 1914 and 1918. It left millions dead and re-shaped the modern world. The Allied Powers, led by France, Russia, the British Empire, and later, Italy, defeated the Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, the German Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. (More)

Ferdinand wasn't the reason all Europe and the near east were thrust into years of bloody conflict. His assassination was simply the spark that ignited a long simmering toxic stew of petty gripes, border disputes, rivalries, personal hatreds and ethnic tensions. The lid had been on for a long time, the pressure had built and all it took was one moron to come along and set the whole thing off.

Exactly those conditions existed in Middle East on March 19, 2003 when George W. Bush decided it was good time to take out Saddam Hussein.

Just look at the geopolitical conditions that were boiling at the time. To the west Sunni nations, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, had each forged strong political and economic ties with the Christian/Judeao west. These nations were modernizing along western lines and falling increasingly in line with western diplomatic wishes, including tolerating and even recognizing Israel.

To the east was the 900 pound gorilla, Shiite Iran. Iran was heading in the polar-opposite direction. Iran was determined to reclaim it;s Shia's mission as keeper of the pure Islamic flame and to reinstate Islamic religious rule throughout the region.

Stuck smack in the middle were Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Iraq, dominated by it's minority Sunnis. had fought Iran to a standstill 1980's, brutal war that killed millions on both sides. After failing to defeat Iran, Iraq attacked neighboring Kuwait, only to be thrown out by western forces a few months later.

Afghanistan, to Iran's immediate east, had been in the hands of a crackpot cult of militant Muslims, the Taliban, which the Iranian hated and feared.

Then there was Syria, a majority Sunni nation, caught between Iraq and a hard place. It had mutual enemy Israel on it's southern border and a democratic Lebanon on its western. Syria had supported Saddam's dictatorship through ties with their common Baath parties. But, having been defeated decades earlier by Israel, which still occupied captured Syrian territory, Syria had turned to Iran for help, which Iran happily provided through its proxy army, Hezbollah.

And that's where things stood on March 19, 2003 when George W. Bush assassinated his version of Archduck Ferdinand by launching a full-scale invasion of Iraq. He lit a match that ignited the highly flammable tensions that filled the region – Israel v. Palestinians, Palestinians v. Palestinians, Shia v. Sunnis, Shia v.Shia, Sunni v. Sunni, Christians v. Muslims, Muslims v. Modernity, Modernity v. Muslims, Oil consuming nations v. anyone who gets in the way of their oil supplies. If there was ever a region ready to blow, it was the Middle East on March 19, 2003.

Only a fool would strike a match anywhere near such a fuse.

Bush's reckless war tore the lid off a boiling cauldron that is now boiling over and threatens to engulf the entire region in what history will likely record as a full fledged war with worldwide implications.

The decisions Congress must make in the months ahead about what to do with our troops in that region will be shaped by how they see what's actually going on and where it's headed. Which is why they need to start framing it in terms much larger than “civil war.” Because it's no longer about just Iraq today, anymore than it was about Bosnia in 1914. It beyond that now. Way beyond that.

When this kind of war breaks out certain patterns are immediately recognizable. During World War I the world witnessed the same kind of things we are now seeing in Iraq, among which is ethnic cleansing. During WWI the Armenians were massacred by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. We can parse terms, was it a massacre or was it genocide, but whatever it was it looks a lot like what gearing up in Iraq right now. So far at least 180,000 Sunnis have be ethnically forced to out -- cleansed -- from Baghdad alone...right under the noses of US forces. Those who refuse to leave are killed.

The Saudis have taken notice and warned that if this continues they will have no choice but to begin arming and supporting Iraq's beleaguered Sunnis. Iran has countered that it would respond to that by making “trouble” for the Saudis – a thinly veiled threat to disrupt Saudi oil facilities and stir up opposition to the already fragile Saudi royal family.

Meanwhile Pakistan has been secretly rearming Afghan's defeated Taliban. Why? Because they simply do not want a US-dominated government on their border because they see the US as closer to Pakistan's mortal foe, India – a suspicion the US reinforced by singing a controversial nuclear deal with India earlier this year.

It's no coincidence that the Iran/Hezbollah./Syria axis decided now was the right moment to openly challenge the western-leaning democratic government in Lebanon. While Syria sees the destabilization of Lebanon as a bargaining chit in it's bid to reclaim the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and Hezbollah. sees it as the front line in its war against Israel, Iran sees Lebanon as the keystone in it's dream of establishing a Shia crescent running form Iran to the Mediterranean.

So what's everyone's next move? Iran knows the US can't sustain it's occupation of Iraq and is already taking an increasingly aggressive hand in shaping the new Iraq. That will mean growing Shiite control, and that will manifest itself in growing pressure on Iraq's Sunnis. The Saudis won't stand for it and will jump into the fray by backing Sunni insurgents with money and US weapons. If that doesn't turn the tide, the Saudis could provide Sunnis close air support with its formidable. modern US-supplied air force.

The Iranians don't have an air force to speak of, but they do have sophisticated long range missiles that can reach Saudi oil fields and refining facilities. One tit will be followed by one tat, then two, then three... then all hell breaks loose.

All this will force Syria to finally chose a side. Are they going to go with Iran, or throw their lot in with fellow Sunni nations. If Syria goes with Iran then Lebanon is toast and Israel will look to Jordon and Egypt to join with them in a joint defense of Lebanon against Syria and, if necessary Iran as well. Because for Israel, a Syria and Lebanon controlled by Iran would be unacceptable.

The Iranians clearly see that scenario as a real possibility, which why they are racing to get a working nuclear weapon – to make Israel think twice before taking a swing at them.

More clues emerged last week when King Hussein of Jordon announced that he'd like his country to begin its own “civilian” nuclear program – like Iran's. Why? Because he too sees something awful his way comes.

And let us not forget those Ottoman Turks of WW I. They are still around in todays Turkey. During WW I they tried to exterminate the Armenians. This time they will try to itch another scratch that's been bugging them for decades, the Kurds. Turkey would love to get rid of separatist Kurds once and for all.

The Turks caught the Armenians by surprise and with the upper hand in WW I. The Kurds will not go quietly or as easily. That fight will be particularly bloody. Turkey is a member of NATO, meaning some generals in Belgium are going to face some hard decisions. Internally Turkey itself will be torn to pieces by those who, on one side want to become part of Western Europe and those on the other side whose hearts are with their ancient Muslim roots. Turkey will not likely emerge from such a war as we know it today.

I have no idea how this would affect the Israeli/Palestinian mess, except to say that it would be supremely foolish of the Palestinians to see all the trouble around them as an opportunity to make trouble for Israel. There is no nation on earth with less of a sense of humor when cornered than Israel.

It all seems so obvious, certainly to leaders in the region who are clearly already moving on their own and in their own national interests. Only the US seems unable or unwilling to see what we've ignited over there. We got it wrong from day one, and we're still getting it wrong. First we were told the problem was the tyrant, Saddam. Then, when it got worse the problem was “dead enders,” and Saddam loyalists. When it got worse again, it was blamed on “insurgents and al Qaida.” Now that the whole country is coming apart, it's a “civil war.”

Yes. George, it's a civil war... and so much more. It's the beginning of a major regional war... call it what you want, World War III, or the Middle East War or Smack Down in the Desert. But its a more than just a civil war – a lot more. The events now unfolding may have been our doing, but their course from here on is out of our control.

Just as the first two world wars reshaped all of Europe and the near east, this war will reshape the Middle East. It will reshape the region in ways we cannot now predict or prevent. All we can do now is prepare. Act like it's an emergency, because it is:
  • We should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately.
  • We should redirect the $8 billion a month we are wasting there by allocating half to rebuilding and repairing our own now exhausted military and national defenses
  • We should direct the other $4 billion a month into a crash “Manhattan Project” to develop and deploy alternative energy as quickly as possible.
There was a shred of evidence that even George W. Bush may have an inkling he's created a mess that could envelope the whole world. Last week he authorized doubling the size of our strategic oil reserves.

Good idea George, but not nearly enough. We need to go the rest of the way. A fierce storm is brewing. Now is the time to secure all loose gear and batten down our own hatches. Raise taxes, enact standby procedures for mandatory energy conservation. And no "duck and cover" BS. We need to start doing real things to prepare the kind of real shortages that will occur when oil supplies are disrupted.

It took two catastrophic world wars before Europeans got it all out of their system. Hopefully middle easterners can settle it with one. In any event, we can no longer pretend nothing has really changed. We can no longer tether our national security to the fragile threat of middle east oil. We should begin the disengagement now, in a rapid but orderly manner and prepare for the troubled days ahead.

Otherwise we risk being swept up in the maelstrom, unprepared and at the mercy of events now far beyond our control.

January 25, 2007

Texas Hold-em

It's funny how something completely unrelated can inform us on the thought process driving Bush's decision to double down on his Iraq gamble. Twenty or so years ago I co-authored a book on the S&L crisis. It was back then, and in Texas, I learned something that explains everything about Bush's “New Way Forward” in Iraq.

Back in the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan deregulated the savings and loan industry, Texas became the nation's biggest cesspool of S&L crookery.

At the core of their thieving strategy was a little trick they described thusly:

“A rolling loan gathers no loss.”

These wily Texas coyotes had figured out a win/win situation. S&L operators could help their buddies “borrow” money from their S&Ls, not pay it back, and still allow the S&L to book loan fees and other profits, upon which the S&L executives based their salaries and bonuses.

Ah, you say, but wouldn't bank regulators notice that the loans were in default? No. Because each time a loan came due the S&L would “roll it over” -- renew it -- adding all interest due into the new loan and booking it as income. The loans got bigger and bigger, and never got paid off. The bankers got rich, the borrowers got rich, American taxpayers got the bill. A classic Texas “win/win” business deal.

The other rule of Texas high-rollers back then was to never place your own money into risky deals. Instead use what they called “OPM,” Other People's Money. In the case of the S&L debacle, the money stolen and squandered was taxpayer insured savings. .

That's precisely the kind of deal Bush has had going in Iraq, and wants to extend. He's not putting his own children's lives at risk, but OPK – Other People's Kids. And his rolling deployments gathers no loss. As long as he can keep feeding fresh troops into Iraq his project cannot be proven a failure. If Bush can just keep borrowing other people's kids to place at risk, and rolling over – renewing -- his Iraq policy for just two more years, he's home free. It's another Texas “win/win” in which the perp gets away and the American people pay the price.

There are other analogies with the Texas S&L debacle – because this really is almost uniquely a Texas mindset. For example, every single Texas S&L crook I interviewed after the feds closed their bankrupt thrift and/or foreclosed on their projects, made the same claim – almost word for word. It went like this:

“My S&L (or project) would not have failed if the feds had just let me complete my plan. If they had just funded it to completion it would not have failed. They caused the loss by stopping us from seeing the project through.”

And that's precisely what Bush will claim if can just roll over his Iraq loans for two more years. He will leave office and go back to Crawford. The new administration will be forced to declare his Iraq project in default, bite the bullet and withdraw US troops. The lid will come off the already simmering Sunni/Shia civil war and that's when we'll hear from George again. He's sidle out from this ranch house, cozy up to Fox News microphone and declare:

“See, I warned that's would happen. I didn't lose Iraq, the new administration and congress lost Iraq. Had they stuck with my plan and let it run to completion, my Iraq project would not have failed.”

I used to try and figure out if the S&L sociopaths that made that claim actually believed it, or were just trying to escape blame and/or stay out of jail. I never could figure it out, but did finally realized it didn't matter. Either they were delusion thieves or liars and thieves. Either way I didn't want them anywhere near a bank.

The same goes with our current crop of Texas (and Texas-like) Neo-cons running US foreign policy. I don't care if they actually believe their own nonsense or are up to no-good on purpose. Either way they are writing checks in blood on our accounts for a cause not worthy of us and for behavior we used to denounce in others.

I also recall reading the text of lecture given at the height of the S&L crisis by a Texas developer. This guy had borrowed, and defaulted on tens of millions in real estate loans from thrifts that later failed. In his seminar he shared his secret of “success.”

“If you borrow a few thousand dollars from a bank, the bank controls you. But if you borrow a few million dollars from a bank, you control the bank.”

He went on to explain that a small borrower is at the mercy of the lender since the lender can foreclose if the loan is not repaid. But, he explained, if you borrow millions of dollars from a bank, the situation reverses. Because, the last thing a banker wants on his institution's books is a multi-million dollar “REO” (Real Estate Owned.) Bank regulators often force banks to write all or part of the defaulted loans off as a loss. Have too much REO on your books and regulators will the bank.

So, the Texas developer explained, he would borrow as much as could from a bank, then stop making payments. When the banker threatened to foreclose he would sit the banker down for a little, “go-ahead-make-my-day, ” reality chat. It would go something like this:

“Do you really want to have a $40 million, uncompleted condo development on the bank's books? If you foreclose, it's no skin off my ass, because I don't have a cent of my own money in it. So go ahead, foreclose and then you can finish it and try to sell the condos yourself. Or, you could roll the loan over for, say two additional years, build in a nice interest reserve so I don't have to make payments for two years so we don't have to have another situation like this. Oh, and one more thing. I've been crunching the numbers and I don't think I can make of go of this project with a $40 million loan hanging over my head. So let's say you write off $10 million.”

He said it worked every time. And, from the evidence I saw, he wasn't lying... at least that time.

I only mention this because, once again, it provides window into the workings of Bush's Texas brain. When he tells us “we cannot afford to lose in Iraq,” he is saying the same thing as the Texas real estate crook. He's sitting us down for the same kind of little chat in which, what he's really saying is:

“Look, you've made a huge investment in this deal already. You've authorized me to borrow over $400 billion and I've already cashed in over 3000 US lives as well. Do you really want to have that kind of a loss on your books (consciences?)”

That's what's at the bottom of Bush's argument for his “New Way Forward” in Iraq. He's demanding we roll over his already defaulted loans -- demanding we make him additional loans in US lives, treasure and reputation and, though he has established a nearly unbroken record of a deadbeat borrower, he wants us to accept that his new plan is a good one. We must, Texas George says, provide what he says he needs to complete his plan. And, if we refuse, he warns ominously, the resulting failure will be entirely our fault.

It's another Texas “heads I win, tails we someone else loses,” deal. I know one when I see one, because I saw so many before. But at least when the S&L industry reached a point of collapse, Congress stepped up and took action. They passed new laws, staunched the hemorrhage and turned the feds loose on the perps. Back then as well it took Congress too way long to act, because many of those S&L perps were valued campaign contributors. But act they eventually did – and not with some meaningless, non-binding BS resolution calling on the crooks to stop looting taxpayer-insured thrifts.

Bush is way over-extended and in default on every one of his previous Iraq loans. Now he's back at the lending window with a mouth-full of “give-me” and hands full of nothing.

What Congress needs to do this time is to slam that window shut – right on his knuckles.

January 24, 2007

My Fractured SOTU Tale

Remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show? One of my favorite features was “Fractured Fairy Tales.” Which I guess is why as I listened to President Bush's State of the Union speech last night, my brain registered something completely different. I know what he actually said, but here's what I heard last night:

Thank you, Madam Speaker. (Looking around the room...) And may I just say, I love what you've done with the place! Did you bring a covey of interior decorators in from your home town, San Francisco? Heh, heh, heh.... (Snarky smile, head bobbing.)

And thank you, members of the House and Senate, for that warm welcome. You know, I don't hear a lot of applause or cheering these days. The thing I like best about these annual addresses is that it forces Democrats to applaud me on camera – heh, heh, heh. (Pointing to Ted Kennedy gives him a thumbs up...snarky smirk.)

I am happy to report tonight that the state of our union is strong. (Long pause...looking around room waiting for applause but no one claps.)

Hey, tough crowd.. heh, heh, heh. Didn't you guys get advance copies of this speech with the applause lines in yellow marker? You better have or there'll be no fruit cup for Karl tonight... heh, heh, heh.

I know many of you want me talk about Iraq. Well, what do you expect me say? The damn place is mess -- as though that's my fault or something. No, it's not. It's their fault, the Iraqis – the little ingrates. God – the real one – told me to free the Iraqis from that tyrant, Saddam. And I did.

Then what did they do with their new freedom but to stir up a religious war – and not the good kind, either.

This is an Islamic war -- Sunni v. Shia. I read up on whole con---trooo--ver-- seeee. Read about it last weekend at Camp David. See when the false prophet, Mohammad, died, the cult he began split between those who wanted one of his decendants to replace him and those who wanted some unrelated guy.

So right there anyone can see that both sides in that fight were dead wrong. I mean when the real prophet, Jesus Christ, died did anyone to replace him? No way. Jesus was the real deal, the son of God ... a hard act to follow -- unlike that poser, Mohammad.

It all started in 692 AD, and the Sunni and Shia have been at one another's throats ever since. So, how can the mess in Iraq be my fault? I tried to help them and they turned on me like a pagan horde.

That's why I decided to give the Iraqis one more chance by sending 22,000 more other American's sons and daughters over there. And, if they kill too many of them, well, I just might not send any more.

But those who say we failed in Iraq are wrong. We succeeded. We gave the Iraqis democracy. Remember those purple fingers? Tried to fix them up with Diebold machines, but the programmers refused to go to Iraq. So we went with the purple-finger thing instead. Turned out it was better photo-op anyway. That was a good decision. Because, you see, people un.....deeeeer...stand when I remind them about those pictures of ordinary Iraqis holding up their purple fingers after voting. Sure many of them are dead now. But they died free, and we should be proud of that.

Now I want to talk about domestic policy, because I have a couple of ideas that will, hopefully, get your minds off Iraq.

I keep hearing about the 47 million Americans that can't afford health insurance. Well, I have a plan for that too.We could just give them health insurance, but that would be wrong. Like the old saying goes; you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or you can teach him how to shop. I prefer to teach them the uninsured how to shop. Under my plan, if a working person or family is too poor to afford health insurance I'm going to give them a tax break for buying health insurance anyway.

I know a lot of you out there – (shooting a glance at Democrats) believe what the uninsured really need is affordable health insurance. But, I have to think of everyone, not just the uninsured. There's an entire financial food-chain out there that depends on the ability to milk Americans dry on all things medical. Those people have rights too, you know. Their entire business model is built on their ability to tell Americans in need of medical care, “your money or your life.” There's the health insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, HMO's and their executives to consider as well. They have mansion payments too, after all.

All I am proposing is to give the working poor the same thing I gave the wealthy earlier in my administration – tax cuts. Under my plan a working individual would get a tax credit up to $7500 for buying their own health insurance. A person earning $32,500 a year could save as much as $1150 in taxes each year under my plan.

Of course the naysayers – and they are always with us – (glaring down at the Democrats) – will belittle my plan. They will point out that it's unlikely a person earning so little could shell out nearly a third of their gross income to some health insurance company in return for a paltry $1150 tax cut.

I say that it's precisely such negative thinking – coupled with the growing demand for a universal health care system -- that makes health care companies and their shareholders nervous. It injects uncertainty into health care markets. And that's bad for our health care industries, bad for Wall Street and bad for America. (Republicans -- all covered by federally provided health care -- jump to their feet and applaud.)

My plan is also a way to inject balance in my tax policies. Earlier I gave the wealthiest Americans nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks, which has greatly enhanced their financial health. Now I want to give America's working poor their own tax break. This tax break, unlike those I granted the wealthy which required they do nothing, will required the working poor to pay hefty health care premiums – ironically to the same companies and CEO's who already enjoying tax relief. They will then enjoy even more tax relief, while the working poor get to enjoy the feeling of ahving a medical insurance card in their wallets. So, you see, my health reform plan is a win/win. Because, if this administration stands for anything it's for winners and against losers. (Glaring at Democrats)

Okay, so that's that on the insurance thing. Now I have another important idea to announce, this one on domestic energy policy.

Earlier in my administration we passed an energy policy that rewarded oil companies for doing what they would have done anyway -- drill, pump, refine and gouge. That policy has succeed. America's energy companies are stronger today and their profits are at record levels. Of course energy prices have gone up as well, but whose fault is that? Oil companies? No, no it's not. Oil companies have done their part. But we have not done our part. (Glaring down at Democrats again.) We refused to let them pump that lake of oil just sitting there under frozen wasteland up in Alaska. And why? Because sooommme of you (looking down at Democrats) believe polar bears and caribou have more rights than SUV-moms.

But okay, that's oil under the bridge. Tonight I am prepared to reach across the aisle in a bipartisan way. As you all know, I have my doubts about all this Al Gore-stirred up "global warming,” stuff. But, now that grandstanding Al's movie has gotten so many American voters all misty-eyed over drowning polar bears and fretting over rising oceans, I'm ready to give a little, though I still have my doubts. After all, where in the Bible can you find any reference to global warming? Nowhere, that's where. (His head bobs up and down as he looks around the room.) If global warming is such a threat to God's creation, don't you think He would have had something to say about it?

Nevertheless, I'm President of all the people, even the stupid ones. So I have to respond, not so much to save polar bears, but to save Republicans up for re-election in two years. Because, you see, America is a de---mock--ra-seeeeee. And in a de—mock-ra-seeee.... (pause).. people have the right to be wrong.

So I am proposing we say we are going to try to cut our use of gasoline by 20% over the next ten years.

I know that some among you – (looking towards Democrats) – will say that we could have done that, and a lot more, years ago had I just supported higher milage standards on cars and trucks and SUVs. And they will complain that we would be far further along the road to energy independence had I not cut $100 million from alternative energy research and development, after saying I supported the program. Well I was for it .. until I was against it.

But I understand. In this town everyone's a critic, heh, heh, heh. Still, I'm the President. In other words I'm the deeee---ciiii-- der. And I've decided now is the right time to say I'm for cutting gasoline consumption by 20% over ten years.

The way we're going to do that is not to impose much higher mileage standards because tauto companies don't like it when we do that. No, instead of burning Middle East oil we will burn more American grown fiber, particularly corn, by turning the stuff into ethanol. America's energy companies are already teaming up with America's agri-business to figure out how to create another win/win situation.

I was going to call this my “Food for Fuel” program, but Karl reminded me that sounded too much like that UN's crooked “Food for Oil” program. He also said it would give Democrats an opening to complain that burning food in our cars and trucks would only hurt the poor by raising the price of food, like corn tortillas, milk, cheese and meat. More neg---aaaah--tivity.

I come here tonight brimming over with bipartisan spirit. I am reaching across the aisle. But it's just that kind of negative thinking by the opposition party that has made it so difficult for me to solve America's growing energy crisis.

What those critics don't seem to understand is there is a method here... a long range plan that requires we stay the course. Here's how it will play out, if they give it the time it needs to succeed. When food is plentiful people, particularly poor people, have more children. Those children grow up to drive cars that burn fuel. By taking some of America's food out of circulation by burning it our cars and trucks, we slow population growth and in turn lower future energy demand. Another win/win for America.

I would like close tonight by introducing three genuine American heroes. While their acts of heroism had nothing whatsoever to do with my policies, I would like to shine by association. So, whata we have tonight?

First we have a grossly over-paid basketball player, who used some of his money to build a hospital in his home village in Africa. Stand up there my man and take a bow. Whoa! Look at the size of that guy.! Someone's getting more than his share of corn. Heh, heh, heh.

And we have a woman who got rich selling her start-up to a bigger company for millions. Just ask that little lady how she feels about my tax cut policies! Heh, heh, heh.

Finally we have the guy who threw himself under a train to save a guy he didn't even know. Boy, could I use a guy like you on my staff right now!.Heh, heh, heh.

That's it. I've only got two more years and one more of these damn speeches to give before I can go back to not giving a shit.

Until then, thank you and God help America.