Thursday, April 26, 2007

April 17-25, 2007

April 23, 2007

Plan X,Y& Z
For Victory in Iraq & Iran

The surge – now being billed as “Plan A,” really isn't. It's more like Plan U or V or W, depending on when you began keeping count.

The original Plan A was actually:
Attack Iraq, topple Saddam, bask in the adulation of the free Iraqi people, bring troops home a few weeks later, hold a parade, hand out medals, strut around.

When that didn't work out the administration rolled out plan after plan ... each described as “the centerpiece of our strategy in Iraq.”

But each new centerpiece has been blown up by a growingly effective insurgency:

U.S. troops note insurgents' growing sophistication

By Joshua Partlow, The Washington Post

I've been all over this country," Sgt Hanner said. "This is by far the worst place I've ever been in my life. This is what you think war is going to be.These guys are smart. The Iraqi insurgent as a whole has really adapted well to our tactics and have learned a lot," said 1st Lt. Anthony Von Plinsky, 28. "They know how to bury things without us seeing them, they know how to trigger it without us knowing.Every time we react to a contact, they take that and learn from it. I hate to give credit to somebody who has no rules, but they're pretty good." (Full Story)

And so the administraton continues to roll out new plans, new centerpieces. Last week we got to see their latest -- and shortest lived -- Plan.. a wall. No longer is national reconciliation a goal. Shiites and Sunnis continue being more interested in killing one another. The new administration centerpiece is a wall to keep them apart.

U.S. Builds Wall to Separate Factions in Baghdad

“FOX News – BAGHDAD: U.S. soldiers are building a three-mile wall to protect a Sunni Arab enclave surrounded by Shiite neighborhoods in a Baghdad area "trapped in a spiral of sectarian violence and retaliation," the military said. ... When the wall is finished, the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah, located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, will be completely gated, and traffic control points manned by Iraqi soldiers will provide the only means to enter it, the military said” (Full Story)

The only trouble with thier new centerpiece/plan is that neither side wants a wall. The Shiites don't want Sunnis walled off so they can't get at them. And the Sunnis strongly suspect that the Americans are designing their walled off portion of Baghdad after the fully-fenced hunting ranch Cheney goes to to slaughter clipped-winged quail with a blunderbust.

So construction of the wall has been halted – another off-center, centerpiece. Another failed plan.

It seems nothing the US comes up with can satisfy any of the inmates of the, Iraqi-Asylum-For-The-Craziest-Muthafruckers-we've ever-gotten-involved-with.

So, what's the next plan to be, the lastest centerpiece of strategy that will finally produce victory in Iraq? Since the administration's own plans seem to be getting sillier and sillier, I am emboldened to suggest my own.

Since the Iraqis are clearly determined never to become a harmonious can of mixed nuts, we need to think outside that box.

Pizzo's Plan X: Freeze-dried Sunnis.

Wait, think about it. We freeze dry the entire Sunni population. There'd be no need for a wall, no reason for Shiites to blow up cars in Sunni neighborhoods or gas Sunnis with chlorine, or drill holes in them with electric hand tools. Because the Sunnis - in all their freeze-dried lifelikenesses -- would be rendered harmless peaceful, serene, "reconciled" at last.

Then John McCain could really stroll Sunni streets withoutunce of protection. Bush and Cheney could finally claim – this time honestly -- that violence between Shiites and Sunni had dropped to zero. Mission Accomplished!

There would be some minor ongoing maintenance required, of course. In the now peaceful Sunni neighborhoods municiple crews would have to bring freeze-dried Sunnis indoors when it rained and return them to their shops and sidewalks when the sun came back out. And due to that desert sun, they would likely have to replace their clothing a couple of times a year.

Of course there would have to be some preconditions imposed on the Iraqi government. The US would insist that at least 20% of the seats in the Iraqi Congress be occupied by freeze-dried Sunnis, of which at least some must be freeze-dried female Sunnis. Because there's no way America could claim victory in Iraq unless Iraqi women enjoyed full political representation.

With the Sunni population “reconciled,” that leaves just the Kurds and Shiites to settle their differences. Since the very notion of freeze-dried curds is gastronomically revolting, another plan is required:

Pizzo's Plan Y: Hire the Kurds.

Put the Kurds on the US government payroll. Let the Shiites have all the oil and simply pay the Kurds a few bucks more each year than they would have made off Iraqi oil.

Pay them to do what? Well, Iraq is a big and dusty country. For starters the Kurds could be paid to take care of all those freeze-dried Sunnis. Because -- Allah knows -- if that job were left to the Shiites it would be only a few days before freeze-dried Sunnis would be sporting funny hats, their pants on backwards, placed in compromising positions or standing around gnawing on pork chops. (Those Shiites!) The Kurds don't have those kind of “issues” with Sunnis and could therefore be trusted to keep the freeze-dried Sunni population nicely dressed and regularly dusted.

Kurds could also be paid to make nice with their neighbors in Turkey so we don't end up with another war on our hands between those two goombas.

That leaves Iran. We really can't leave that region until we have a solution to the Iranian problem. The Iranians are kinda like Oscar the Grouch. If their noses are not out of joint about one thing, it's another. But above all else Iranians bristle at being called Arabs – (they're Persian, you know!) While they are not Arabs, Iranians nevertheless believe they should call the shoots for the Arab nations in the region – kinda like they are the Persians retarded cousins or something.

And of course the Iranians hate the US, (AKA, “The Great Satan.” ) We've taken that kind of name-calling abuse for too long. Time to teach those "Persians" how wrong they are to believe their Mullahs have the market cornered on crazy.

But what'st he best way to do that? Bomb them? Nah. That would be about as effective as throwing a firecracker into a hornet's hive. I have a better idea.

Pizzo's Plan Z: Convince the Iranian people that they are covered by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

This propaganda campaign would be run by an organization that has, time after time, proven it can succeed even under the most blood-drenched circumstances – the National Rifle Association. The goal would be to convince every Iranian man, woman, child -- even the mentally ill – that they too possess the inalienable right .. no.. the DUTY ... to own at least one semi-automatic weapon. The CIA could air-drop bumper stickers with the picture of Wayne LaPierre dressed as a Mullah on them:

“They'll have to wrench my AK47 from my cold dead fingers,” (in Farsi, of course,)

Okay, these may not be the best of ideas ... But really, are they any less silly or less likely to succeed than the series of plans the Bush administration has rolled out over the last four years?

The only plan that could have worked from the start was to haul the guys who came up with Plan A off to the nearest mental facility and put them on Thorazine I.V drips.

Sen. Harry Reid was a right as rain last week when he declared Bush's war in Iraq lost. Because Iraq was never ours to win in the first place.

And he was right about something else too; that Bush and those around him know it's lost. The real centerpiece to their Iraq strategy now is to stall until they get out of town a year a half from now. Then they can claim they victory in sight, before “the Democrats pulled the rug out from under our troops.”

Reid should have said one more thing, that would have also been right. That every American soldier's death from this day forward is a politically motivated murder.

Weekend Edition

When Reason Goes a-Whoring

Pity poor Reason. She's been kidnapped by pimps and is being forced to work the street for her pimps and their friends. I've lived long enough to have seen reason jerked around before, but never to this extent. Reasoning on so many critical issues has become so pimped out that we may have forgotten the un-pimped versions. So I reached back into my memory to recall a few.

The “War on Terror”
Pimped Reasoning: America is at war with terrorism. The enemy, terrorism, is the hate of America and the desire to do us harm. In order to safeguard America from the enemy (terrorism) we must eschew diplomacy and instead employ preemptive military action against terrorism, wherever it exists. We must fight terrorism “there” so we don't have to fight it on here..

(Meet the Pimps: Neo-con “scholars,” (few of whom have had even a passing relation with the military or war itself.) And pimp-connected businesses like Halliburton, SAIC, Blackwater and others.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: “Terrorism” is a tactic, not an entity. Military action cannot defeat an idea. All military action can do when deployed against and idea is to elevate the idea to a cause and those turn those killed espousing that idea into “martyrs.” Bad ideas, like terrorism (and Neocon-ism,) can only be defeated with better ideas expressed in diplomatic, political, judicial and financial terms.

Medicare Drug Prices
Pimped Reasoning: Requiring Medicare to negotiate volume discounts from drug companies would not reduce costs for Medicare or make the pharmaceutical industry more cost-efficient. Allowing Medicare to force drug producers to offer Medicare volume discounts would be bad for Medicare, bad for the elderly and reduce the incentive for drug companies to produce new drugs.

(Meet the Pimps: Members of Congress supported by the pharmaceutical industry. And, of course, the pharmaceutical industry.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: In a real free-market economy negotiating volume discounts on products and services is considered a best business practice. Any business manager who failed to do so would be considered a bad business manager. Negotiating volume discounts works to the longterm benefit of both consumer and supplier by reducing overhead and maximize profits of the consuming entities while forcing producers and suppliers to maximize efficiencies in order to maintain their profits and remaining competitive. As to the threat by drug producers that they would stop new product development if Medicare were allowed to negotiate volume discounts, I refer you to the sheriff in Blazing Saddles.

Deficit Spending
Pimped Reasoning: Deficits don't matter. Instead of taxing Americans to pay for national operations overhead and spending on discretionary operations, just borrow the money by issuing government bonds.

(Meet the Pimps: Politicians providing tax relief to wealthy contributors and corporations in return for campaign contributions. Politicians that want to provide pain-free pork to home state voters by borrowing rather than taxing to pay for bridges to nowhere, etc.)

Unpimped Reasoning: Deficits do matter – eventually. Sooner or later those bonds have to be repaid. In the meantime the nation has to pay interest on a growing national debt. Both interest on the debt and the eventual repayment of principle will have to come from someplace. Either future taxes will have to be raised -- far more than they would have if the spending had been paid for with taxes at the time the obligations were created. Or the government will increase the money supply by simply printing more money. That will sparking hyper-inflation but allows the government to replay those bond obligations with devalued dollars. The last time we did that – to repay the debt we built up during the Lyndon Johnson “guns and butter,” Vietnam War years – it sparked the hyper inflation that racked the economy during the Carter administration. The result then was stagflation – the worse of all possible worlds.

Fetal Stem Cell Research
Pimped Reasoning: Allowing scientists to harvest fetal stem cells from days-old fertilized human eggs is tantamount to taking a human life.

(Meet the Pimps: The religious right and the politicians that pander to them for votes.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: The idea that days-old fertilized human eggs are a person, or that it such a cluster of cells possesses the same rights, privileges and constitutional protections of fully-formed, post-post-partum humans is a religious/philosophical belief, neither a medical nor scientific fact. Even those who claim a heart-felt belief in this view fail the test of consistency. Were those who oppose fetal stem cell research consistent in that belief, the would also support a law banning fertility clinics, (IVF) which dispose of tens of thousands of unused fertilized human eggs each year. The fact that they do not oppose the disposal of those stem-cell rich fertilized eggs exposes a selectivity that, on its very face, defeats their claimed reason for opposing the harvesting of fetal stem cells for research and medical use.

How IVF labs handle embryos or zygotes that are not implanted in a woman's womb:

With donor consent Without donor consent
Handling procedure Numbers of labs % of labs Numbers of labs % of labs
Immediately discarded 115 49.6% 15 6.5%
Cultured to demise (allowed to die) & discarded 107 46.1 28 12.1
Donated - research 55 23.7 0 0
Donated - diagnostic purposes 27 11.6 0 0
Donated - training 52 22.4 9 3.9
Donated - another patient 43 18.5 0 0

(Some percentages total more than 100% because some labs employ multiple disposal methods.)

Tax cuts
Pimped Reasoning: Slashing taxes on wealthy Americans spurs business investment. That in turn will create American jobs and put more workers on the payroll, which in turn will spur consumer spending fueling additional economic growth.

(Meet the Pimps: The top 1% of American earners and the politicians that pander to them for contributions.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: Economies are fueled from the bottom up, not the top down. By cutting payroll taxes workers, most of whom live paycheck to paycheck, will immediately begin pumping more money into the economy with additional spending – (no “trickle down” waiting period required.) That additional spending will almost immediately create demand for additional goods and services forcing producers to meet that increased demand by hiring more workers. When taxes are slashed on the wealthy some of that money will be indeed end up reinvested in the economy. But the lion's share of it gravitates towards non-job producing investments, such as stocks, bonds and other passive investments. And, since workers do not share in tax cuts weighted towards the rich, they don't have that extra money to spend and drive demand for goods and services. Nor are they likely to benefit from the promised “trickle down” effect. Because the rich did not get rich by allowing their money to trickle far from home.

Free Trade
Pimped Reasoning: Open markets benefit everyone. When the US puts conditions on trading partners that subverts the whole process. While some pain and worker dislocation is inevitable as the world moves towards free and open trade, the process ultimately benefits all everyone. Free trade raises the standard of living in poorer nations while forcing producers in richer nations to become more efficient and competitive. Free trade is a win/win.

(Meet the Pimps: Multi-national businesses in search of cheap labor and lax environmental laws, lower taxes and less financial oversight and controls. And – of course - the politicians that make all that possible for them in return for piece of the action.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: Free trade is fine, as long as it is also fair trade. Free and fair trade requires that all competitors, foreign and domestic, play by a common set of rules. In other words, if an American Widget maker is required to dispose of industrial waste in an more expensive but ecologically sound manner, then any Chinese Widget maker that wants access to American consumers must be bond by the same requirement. If the Chinese Widget fails to do so then a duty must be added to his Widgets that eliminates the unfair portion of his pricing reflecting the savings from not disposing of waste in an ecologically sound manner. The other essential elements of fair trade include common rules for safe working conditions, livable wages and the right of workers to organize. Anything less is free and unfair trade – which is what we have now.

Gun Control
Pimped Reasoning: Guns don't people, people kill people. When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. The Second Amendment of the Constitution dictates the unfettered right of individuals to own guns.

(Meet the Pimps: The intellectual Neanderthals of the NRA, gun makers, gun importers and the politicians that pander to them for votes and contributions.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: Guns don't kill people -- people with guns kill people. To argue that controls on gun ownership are somehow nonsensical is itself nonsensical. Would those who argue against licensing gun owners also argue against licensing drivers? In ever state in the union we require drivers to take an eye test, a written test and a driving test before allowing them to drive a car or motorcycle. Because we know that cars don't kill people, it's the people driving cars (poorly) that kill people. When it comes to gun control of any sort, reasoning seems to go straight out the window. We just had a gun massacre in Virginia, but are being told not to blame it on the easy availability of guns. What would the no-rules gun folks advise Asians the next time bird flu kills a couple of hundred folks, “Chickens and ducks don't kill people?” Would they advise them to resist health officials efforts to round up and destroy the birds that might spread the disease? (When chickens are outlawed only outlaws will have chickens!” or “They'll have to pry my chicken from my cold dead fingers!”) America does not have to outlaw guns in order to join the rest of the civilized world in reducing gun-related fatalities. We just need to treat guns with the same care and diligence as we treat the right of driving an automobile or motorcycle. (After all, wouldn't you at least feel better if someone checked to be sure a would-be gun owner could actually see what he thinks he's aiming at?)

Sex-Ed and Family Planning
Pimped Reasoning: The best way to cut teen promiscuity and reduce unwanted pregnancies, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases is to cut funding for family planning devices and instruction and replace them with lectures on chastity and abstention. Once deprived of easy access to information about and access to birth control devices, most hormone-crazed adolescents will embrace abstinence.

(Meet the Pimps: The religious right and the politicians that pander to them for votes.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: Some adolescents will embrace abstinence, as some always have. Like drinking or taking drugs or drag racing, some will, and some won't, no matter what the adults around them teach. But when it comes to teen sexuality the majority will, to one degree or another, become sexually active. Blame it on evolution. Those species that mated early and often won the survival race. And humans (and rabbits) appear to top of that list. (Or, if you are of the biblical-persuasion, blame it on God, Who apparently believe it's a good idea to supercharge teens with mega doses of sex hormones.) In any case, new research has shown that abstinence-only programs do not change adolescent sexual behavior in any significant way at all.

Climate Change
Pimped Reasoning: While global warming may be real, any actions designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be balanced against their impact on the economy. While so-called “green” sources of energy – wind, biofuel, solar etc – maybe be ecologically sound, they are not economically sound. Forcing US industry and automakers to embrace cleaner, but more expensive technologies, will make them uncompetitive in world markets.

(Meet the Pimps: Big oil, big coal, big industry, Rep. Ted Stevens, and the other politicians who pander to to old-energy for contributions.)

Un-pimped Reasoning: Effects of global warming, like crop failures, water shortages, coastal flooding, decimated fisheries and mass extinctions are even worse for business.

Weekend Lecture Series

Gag Me?

Where are we going with all this?

Folks on the political right claim we Americans must give up some of our most cherished freedoms in order to protect our freedom from terrorists. They say we have to give up a our absolute right to privacy, water down the separation of powers, deny the right of an accused to face his/her accusers, challenge the evidence against them, or to even have a public trial.

Folks on the left have their own list of cherish freedoms they say we must protect, and that the only way to do that is to trim back other freedoms -- like freedom of speech when it comes to the utterance of touchy, controversial, unpleasant, potentially offensive subjects and terms. They change the meaning of words, like "illegal immgrants," which becomes "undocumented immigrants." Laws were broken, but should no one is guilty.

Then there's the rest of us in caught in dead center of this growingly furious societal crossfire.

I worry where it's all heading. Ben Johnson once wrote, “Speak that I may see thee.”

His meaning was clear. And over the years I have learned there is no better way to judge a person's intellectual depth, education and character than by simply listening to what they have to say and how they say it. As a journalist it was imperative that I was able to quickly and accurately take the measure of a source. So I let them talk. I listened. And it never failed me.

Now what? Increasingly the morality police on the right and the political correctness police on the left are successfully shutting down speech they don't like. They are bullying those they disagree with to either shut up or self-censor. Those who refuse are forced, like Don Imus, into exile. The mainstream media is now so intimidated by this trend that they have willing adopted a form of media shunning of it's own.

Will any of this make America more moral, inclusive or tolerant? Or will it simply drive the uncomfortable, inconvenient truths, dark thoughts and desires into the shadows? How will I take measure of talk show host's true character if he/she cannot, or dares, not speak freely? He may say all the the “right” things, while not believing them. That's easy. Politicians do that already, and look where its gotten us.

If the thought and morality police ever get the power they clearly want to control the national discourse, racists, porn and women haters won't go away, they will simply go into the closet. They will stop speaking, which means we will no longer be able to “see” them. They will no longer expose themselves to us.

Is that a good thing? Possibly. But I doubt it. After all, members of the KKK hid the faces behind hoods for a reason. They didn't expose themselves, but they were still there. They did their dirty work from the shadows.

Speak that I may see thee, please. Because if the right's morality police and the left's politically correctness hall monitors a allowed to succeed in purging controversial speech, America will not only become a really boring place, but a nation unable to honestly confront its real problems. Because sometimes the real reasons for real problems are real touchy subjects.

For example, read what British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said out loud yesterday, and then try to imagine who on the radio, much less in Congress, would dare utter such a thing today:

April 12, 2007 -- The Guardian: Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.

"When are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it?" Mr Blair said there needed to be an "intense police focus" on the minority of young black Britons behind the gun and knife attacks. The laws on knife and gun gangs needed to be toughened and the ringleaders "taken out of circulation." (More)

Here in the US there's plenty that can and should be said about the real problems that continue plaguing our own black communities. Some of those problems are everyone's fault, and those problems have the stamp of approval from the thought police – we have permission to talk about our common guilt. What we dare not talk about are the self-destructive ideas, music and behavior that exacerbates those problems, the fault for which lays entirely within the black community itself.

But how to get at those problems and the contributing factors. Here is where I find myself in a schizophrenic quandary. While I hate gangsta rap, and I believe it contributes mightily to the problems that plague urban black communities in the US and Europe, I resist the temptation to demand it be banned. Because if we did, gangsta rappers wouldn't go away, because you can't make stupid go away. If banned they will simply go underground where they will be even harder to monitor and where their banned status will likely make them even more popular.

No, the only way to fight stupid -- white stupid, brown stupid or black stupid -- is with heaping doses of smart. So we need to talk more, not less. We need to speak and feel we can do so freely.

Because when we speak to one another we teach, we learn, but most importantly, we expose to one another who we really are.