How to Boil a Frog


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How to Boil A Frog The Movie

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Monday, August 27, 2007

This Old Lily Pad

This is my Uncle Frank.

Pretty nice place he's got there, but he's always complaining when anyone comes to visit. "Close the door!", he'll yell. "You're letting in a draft!" That's when you know Uncle Frank isn't taking his meds.

But there's another draft I wanted to talk about, and it's the one that this guy is opening the door for.

Tragically, born without lips.

This is Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, President Bush's "Iraq war czar" (third cousin of the Romanovs and possible heir to the Russian throne), who has apparently been assigned the task of getting people used to the idea of reinstituting a military draft in the US, saying it "has always been an option on the table", though he wouldn't specify where the table was, or why no-one has been allowed to see it for the past 34 years.

Now, given that the US armed forces have been mostly able to meet their monthly volunteer quotas by, say, lowering the requirements to include coma victims, or promising new recruits "Lindsay Lohan naked in a bathtub full of warm vanilla, y'know, she's loaded" (actual quote), why take the politically risky step of talking about a new draft? One word: Iran.

Popular Persian postcard

We've been hearing a lot lately about Iran's little foibles, like supplying weapons to Shiite soldiers in Iraq, trying to guess the super-secret password to the Nuclear Clubhouse, and using Sharia as an excuse to see how many blasphemers they can hang from the same tree (8 is their top so far, and they still can't get in the Book of World Records!). So a swat on the nose and a stern: "Bad Islamic Republic! Bad!" certainly seems in order. But could there be more going on here?

Dick Cheney's Undisclosed Location

Yes, once again, oil seems to be rearing its gooey head. See, Iran presents the same kind of conundrum that Iraq and Libya did back at the turn of the millenium. They were very, very naughty, so the other, good countries punished them with sanctions. One problem, though: that meant that the big oil companies, and their buddies like Bechtel and Halliburton, couldn't get a share of the oil in the sanctioned countries. That changed PDQ with the invasion of Iraq, which quickly led to the reversal of Public Law 80, and a few months later Moammar Gadhafi saw the writing on the noose, renounced terrorism, and opened his oil fields to development by foreign companies. The US quickly lifted its sanctions, and within minutes Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson was hoisting a cold one in Moammar's jacuzzi.

Forget Lockerbie. Deepak Chopra told me to focus on the present!

So imagine the dismay of Exxon & friends when they found out that China is buying up Iran's oil fields. China, of course, has its own needs: it had no private cars at all in 1983, now has over 30 million, and will have 100 million in another 8 years. Clearly, when you have to fuel 1.3 billion trips to the store every day, you need plenty of gas. But given that there won't be enough oil for everybody starting in about 4 years, it may be time to cancel China's take-out order.

But how to do it? Persia's Pesky President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, can't seem to stop writing long letters to George Bush long enough to hug a kitten or do much of anything that would justify lifting the sanctions, and even if they were lifted, it doesn't seem very likely that he'd be willing to give up all that Quranic nonsense about usury and so on and join the Multinational Conglomerate Crisco Party. So what to do? An invasion would solve everything, but the US has all its current soldiers, National Guard members, and Blackwater subcontractors tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan. George Bush himself would volunteer, but he's busy searching for bin Laden at his ranch in Crawford.

He's in there somewhere, dammit!

Well, the US is just gonna need some new recruits. Luckily, all American males between the ages of 18 and 25 are already registered with the Selective Service System, so all they'd have to do is flip the switch to turn on the lights. And heck, it's not like the GOP is going to win in 2008 anyway, so what's the harm?

Brrr. I think we'd better listen to Uncle Frank. Close the door before that draft comes in...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oil History Moment

The star of this installment in the How to Boil a Frog Oil Trilogy is that swinging ladies man with the low sexy voice...Barry White!

I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby

Just kidding. It's Henry Kissinger. But he was hot. He dated Marlo Thomas, Jill St. John, Barbara mean that lady from The View? OK, we're talking ancient history here, far beyond the lifespan of any living frog, but just for a moment, cast your mind back to 1973. Saudi Arabia was so miffed over the Yom Kippur War (which had followed closely on the heels of the Kwanzaa Police Action and the Arbor Day Guerilla Spitwad Entanglement) that it decided to punish the United States and its allies by sending them to bed without supper, and also cutting off their oil supply.

This act, motivated purely by dedication to the moral ideals of the prophet Muhammad, had the pleasant side effect of driving up oil prices 400% in a single year, creating a new sort of profit. President Richard "Checkers" Nixon had a dilemma on his hands: he couldn't afford to fork over the entire contents of Fort Knox to the Saudis to keeps America's highways humming, but on the other hand all those voters waiting in line for gas were listening to the Watergate hearings on their car radios, and that didn't seem too good either. So he sent in Henry. And also Jill St. John.

Amazingly, the Saudi royal family spent their time talking to Henry, because he had come with a proposal. The Saudis would agree not to be naughty anymore, and keep oil supplies and prices at levels that wouldn't get Nixon impeached (small flaw in that plan), and in fact if other OPEC members tried to pull a fast one, the Saudis would ramp up production to keep the goo flowing. In exchange, the US would provide permanent support to the House of Saud, even in the event that they required cyborg bodies, allowed their citizens to blow up the World Trade Center, or other unlikely occurences.

But there was one other teensy weensy condition: from then on the Saudis would only take US dollars for their oil, and would then have to invest those dollars back into US government securities! That was, of course, a terrific time-saver -- this was before ATM's, so waiting for a bank teller to count out billions of dollars to buy oil had always been a problem -- now America could basically just pay the money to itself, and get the oil practically for free! Of course, it did generate a little debt...

US National Debt (not actual size)

...but what were the chances of that getting out of control? Pretty soon all the other OPEC countries piled on, and the petrodollar was born. Now every country in the world had to buy US dollars before it could buy oil, and while they were holding those dollars, naturally they wanted to earn some interest...which meant they had to buy US government securities too. It was like owning the chip concession at a Texas Hold'em tournament! But there's always somebody who wants to poop in the punchbowl, and it turned out to be this guy:

Cameron Diaz also looks better with makeup.

In November of 2000, he had the bad manners to start selling oil for euros, a new fancy currency made entirely of French brie. At this point, the US was about 735 bazillion dollars in the hole, and if all the countries of the world had started dumping their US dollars, well, let's just say it was time for a little tough love. 3 years later, Saddam was out and the US dollar was back in, with a very visible warning to other OPEC members not to try that sort of nonsense. And goodness knows, countries like Iran always respond well to a smack on the nose. So I think we're all safe again.

But just in case, I'm keeping my money under the lily pad.

Friday, August 10, 2007

For a Fistful of Petrodollars

Three steely-eyed gunmen eye each other from the corners of a triangle, standing in the hot sun...the good, the bad, and the it Clint, Lee & Eli? (Spaghetti westerns are the reason I got a satellite dish on my lily pad, but I never did know who was the bad and who was the ugly.) Anyway, the correct answer is: neither! In today's case, they are (in no particular order) Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iraq.

The United States government, in a fine example of its continuing sensitivity to the delicate religious differences in the Middle East, is looking into sending Iraq's oil to Israel. This would require reviving the old Haifa-Kirkuk pipeline, which inexplicably fell into disuse in 1948 (must have been some bad weather that year or something). In return for the new business, Israel would only have to give total support to America's presence in Iraq, and maybe pony up some of the $400,000 per kilometer (that's $640,000 per mile) to rebuild the pipeline.

The Iraqis are a little strapped for cash at the moment, but maybe the US taxpayers can divvy up the rest. It's only 570 miles from Haifa to Kirkuk, so that works out to $365 million - a bargain when you're trying to get a grip on the world's fourth largest oil reserves! But surely there are other reasons -- it can't just be about oil. For instance, there could be small children in Israel who have squeaky toys that need oiling.

But I think we can be sure it's at least a little about oil. After all, before the Bush Administration took office, they did quite a bit of chatting with this fellow:

His name is Matt Simmons. He's an investment banker who regularly speaks out about how global oil production is about to peak, or maybe already has. Could that be why the Bush Administration started talking about regime change in Iraq starting at their very first NSC meeting, several months before 9/11? Hmm, well, it could be a coincidence. After all, King Umberto of Italy met a man who looked just like him, who also married a woman named Margherita and had a son named Vittorio. So anything is possible.

But back to the shoot-out at the Linguine Corral. Where does Saudi Arabia fit into all this? Turns out that lonely little frontier of beach-front property is about to be the proud owner of $20 billion worth of new arms from the United States. The deal will include advanced weaponry, missile guidance systems, upgraded fighter jets, naval ships and seven million unopened DVD's of "Snakes on a Plane". (Just to be fair and balanced, the US will also give $30 billion worth of arms to Israel. What could go wrong?)

Now what, exactly, do the Saudis plan to do with all those missiles, ships and arguably-lethal DVD's? Let's see. The Saudis are Wahhabi Muslims -- Wahhabi being a stricter sub-sect of the Sunni side of Islam (not to be confused with the Sunny side of the Street, written by Louis Armstrong). Their main rival over there is Iran, which is Shiite. Meanwhile, Saddam, who was Sunni (whenever it suited him) is toast, leaving the majority Shiites in control of Iraq, except for the Kurdish portion which wants to be independent, which makes Turkey nervous, and the Turks (who are mostly Sunni, but are trying to be secular) are already upset about the prospect of no longer getting paid to move Iraq's oil if it starts going through the Haifa-Kirkuk pipeline.

The bottom line, of course, is that the US is going to need somebody to look after Iraq when the troops eventually go home. And who better than the leaders of the House of Saud (average age: 493), who will be looking for new sources of oil to sell to the world once their own production starts to peak next Thursday? So by cleverly handing guns to everyone in the Corral (the US is arming the Iraqis too, of course) America might just make off with that saddlebag full of black gold yet! Yeehaa!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Talking to tadpoles

To mark the occasion of our website going live, today’s FrogBlog entry will be about something very close to our hearts: how to break the news to a tadpole that the pond is in trouble. Al Gore, the first amphibian vice-president, had his movie translated into Frog right away, knowing that we frogs (the first species to start going extinct because of global warming) were his core audience. And it’s a powerful movie, even though his lips don’t sync with the ribbits.

Now also available in polar bear and opossum.

But I’m not sure we’ve really thought through what would happen a couple years down the line. DVD copies of the movie are now lying around on most lily pads, and the tads are starting to watch them. On the one hand, our kids do need to know the truth, but you only have to watch David Dodge in the video section on our site to realize that this kind of truth can be overwhelming for kids. So what’s the solution?

For Eric Jackson — the former PayPal exec who opened World Ahead Publishing in 2005 — the answer is to simply to tell our kids it ain’t so. His first book, Help Mom! There’s Liberals Under My Bed, sold 30,000 copies. Jackson plans to release The Sky’s Not Falling! Why It’s OK to Chill About Global Warming! in September (countering the release of The Down To Earth Guide To Global Warming by Scholastic, that hotbed of Liberal brainwashing).

Eric Jackson

Jackson feels our children are being bombarded with tree-hugger propaganda: SUVs are bad. ExxonMobil is worse. Polar bears are drowning. The planet needs saving, and fast. Clearly all those climate scientists are part of some conspiracy to market Xanax to kids. Good thing we have PayPal executives to set the record straight. The author of the book is Holly Fretwell, a Montana economist and senior research fellow at a think tank that advocates capitalism as the solution to environmental problems, so when you think of Holly, naturally you think: children’s books. She and Eric are both trying to think of a way to counter all those manipulative images of polar bears looking sad while they drown. “I’m thinking we put the polar bear in a business suit,” Jackson said. “Maybe he’s taking a limo to work on Wall Street.” I’m sure we’re all looking forward to movie version — perhaps it’ll meet the high quality standard as their hit “The First Toenail”:

Sample lyrics:
The first toenail, we liberals do say,
Is the harder people work the more taxes they pay.
The more taxes they pay, the more we can spend
It’s a porkfest in DC and one with no end.

But if good old bitter partisanship and denial aren’t the answers to helping our kids face the future we’ve created for them, what is? We at How to Boil a Frog feel that conversation can start on your lily pad over a cup of warm smushed flies, but we hope it’ll grow into a global conversation where we can all say what we really think the answer starts with a conversation about how all this think and feel about global warming, and hear the truth from each other, unfiltered by politicians, news media and PayPal executives.

If you’d like to be part of that global conversation, see the link on our site to the People’s Video Project. Whether you’re a tadpole, frog, or even some other species, we want to hear your voice!