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Bush and His Surge

Surge. Bush's spinners hope this marketing device for the Iraq war will rank right up there with Desert Storm, Shock and Awe, and Iron Hammer. What better way to transmit a sense of power and invincibility, evoking a pounding surf, a jolting power spike, a menacing tsunami.

Me, I was sort of confused when I heard "surge" applied to war. In fact, it sounded almost blasphemous, because "surge" resonates differently in my admittedly addled brain than it does in Karl Rove's clean skull. You see, being a proud native of the dairy state of Wisconsin, I know "Surge" as the leading brand of milking machine. And a damn good, reliable machine it was, saving the dairy farmer a lot of labor, and making dairy products cheaper for the consumer. You just hooked up your Surge to the cow's teats, and it pulsated the milk through hoses into the shiny stainless steel Surge bucket, which was shaped more like a fat flying saucer than a bucket. Part of the genius of the Surge was that a strap slung over the cow's back held the bucket so that it hung up near her teats. "Only 4 inches from the teat to the pail," was one of Surge's advertising slogans. Since the bucket swayed naturally from the milk pouring in and the pulsations, it gave the teats a nice tug that duplicated a calf's pulling.

Surge hung there under the cow's belly with a pulsating declaration, "I suck therefore I am." Nobody in the Bush administration has yet made such a claim, though they have clearly earned the right.

Surge is a classic product of what I like best about our country: that we are a land of great genius-tinkerers and gadgeteers, from the famous inventions of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin to the innovators who created computers and the Internet.

Franklin was our arch-tinkerer, with his stoves and lightening rods and bifocals and other gadgets, and you can be sure that he would have greatly admired the practicality of the milking machine, saluting it as a wonderful hallmark of our famous Yankee ingenuity. He did, as you may or may not recall, famously prefer the turkey to the eagle as the national bird. "For my own part," he wrote to his daughter, "I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. . . . the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

Note also that while turkey doesn't look as ferocious as the eagle and doesn't do spectacular aerial stunts, he'll give you a fight you tread on his turf.

Fortunately, we're still a land of brilliant gadgeteers, turkey folks, but for too long we've misplaced that ingenuity, channeling it to the rapacious eagles instead of the productive, dependable turkeys. The Iraq war is such a staggering example of this that it's amazing there hasn't been more of an outcry about this glaring aspect of its madness.

We've already spent more than $200 billion on the war in Iraq, and another $110 billion is projected for this year. (The ACTUAL cost will come in closer to $2 TRILLION, according to estimates by Nobel prize-winning economist and former World Bank vice president Joseph Stiglitz. This because we will be paying lifetime disability and medical care for at least 16,000 wounded soldiers, not to mention costs for reconstruction, rebuilding the depleted military, higher oil prices, and other losses to the economy.)

The ironies make your head spin. Remember how Donald Rumsfeld argued that with our unmatched military technology—our brilliant gadgeteering and Yankee ingenuity--we could win the Iraq war without relying on nearly the concentration of conventional troops as in past conflicts? His was more an efficient, technological war, won in Silicon Valley rather than the Valley of Armageddon, foreshadowed by the "smart bombs" of the first Iraq war. Yet this refreshingly less labor-intensive war will now cost us billions to repair the suffering laborers.

The most staggering irony of all is environmental. Starting in the 1970s, environmentalists begged and pleaded for the development of clean, sustainable alternative energy to replace fossil fuels. Yet here we are, 30 years later mired in a war whose principle motive is--oil.

Imagine for a moment what could be done with that $300 billion wasted in Iraq by the end of this year. Imagine the research and development of energy sources, the construction of alternatives from windmills to solar panels to mass transit systems to hyper-efficient cars to humbler but very effective energy-saving efforts like insulating houses and installing fluorescent light bulbs.

Did I say $300 billion? Well, that just happens to be the amount proposed by the Apollo Alliance to develop and build new energy sources over the next 10 years. Most people haven't even heard of the Apollo Alliance (named after Project Apollo, the immense technological effort that enabled us to land on the moon), partly because we've been so preoccupied with war and war on terror and, of course, celebrities and gay marriage and sports hormones and whatever it was that Britney Spears recently didn't say.

The Apollo Alliance is a coalition of environmentalists and labor leaders, like the Sierra Club's gutsy leader, Carl Pope, and Leo Gerard, the head of the United Steelworkers of America who has fought hard to stop decline of our manufacturing sector.

It's a "blue-green" group (blue collar-greenies), one that disproves all the anti-enviro propaganda about how environmentalism takes away people's jobs. The Apollo Alliance has a clear (almost no-brainer) program showing how development of new energy sources can create millions of jobs. It would unleash our innovative powers and our work ethic on a project that would help everybody prosper. All Democrats, whose most stalwart backers are environmentalists and unions, ought to be rallying around the Apollo Alliance, legislating its proposals into action, and weaning us from oil.

Wean? Well, Bush's insane Surge won't get us off the oil teat, but a new Apollo project would be the moral equivalent of the good old Surge milking machine, creating instead of destroying, and giving us some good old-fashioned Ben Franklin kicks.

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