Friday, July 16, 2010

Elizabeth Hurley and Barack Obama Share a Cup of Tea...

By Andrew Birnbaum

And now a nice word about Teabaggers. They may have joined the protests out of misdirected anger toward President Obama, but when confronted with Republican missteps, some (not all) expressed openness to learning more about both parties' failings. In other words, they wanted to address the true causes of broken government, but were only getting sufficiently bite-sized information from conservatives, causing them to wholly fault progressives.

This is frustrating because Republicans are largely responsible for numerous national problems. Of course, Democrats are not innocent. But the Teabaggers are already angry with them. The Democrats need to do a better job of explaining why electing Republicans would worsen the problems.

Regarding the relationship between conservative policies and the lack of quality jobs, I previously wrote: "How many chances do they get to drive us off a cliff and still criticize anyone who tries to hit the brakes?"

The Democrats should use similar metaphors to express in simple terms the continuing effects of the "Elephant Plague." Although Democrats must own the last eighteen months, it is appropriate to remind people of what happened previously, when Republicans had control.

Regarding jobs, a Democratic spokesperson might explain:
There's a very funny movie called BEDAZZLED. It's the story of a guy in love with a co-worker, but he just can't get her attention. So he makes a deal with the Devil, played by Elizabeth Hurley, and she gives him a bunch of wishes. With each wish, he tries to create a situation where the woman will fall for him. But each time, something goes wrong, the guy doesn't get the girl, and the Devil claims the wish just wasn't specific enough. Now I ask the American people, when you told the Republicans to create more jobs, did you realize you had to specify that the jobs should be in this country?

The "Bedazzled" metaphor is particularly useful because it presents a framework for understanding a simple truth: each time the Republicans take action they claim will help the average American, they end up benefitting wealthy people (American or otherwise) at our expense.

Regarding Taxes, Democrats might say:
When you asked Republicans to lower taxes, did you realize you had to specify you meant your own taxes?
(Potential follow-up: Republicans lowered taxes substantially for the rich, but only a small amount for the average American. President Obama saw there was room to lower your taxes more, and he did it. The way Democrats see it, workers and families need tax cuts more than big banks and oil companies).

Regarding health insurance, Democrats might say:
When you told Republicans you wanted better health insurance, did you realize you had to specify you meant your own insurance?
(Potential follow-up: The people in Washington have always had terrific insurance. Still do. Republicans and Democrats alike, we are all taken care of. It is the people on Main Street who don't receive sufficient care, even if they work full-time, even if they work two or more jobs. So this year the Democrats took action to improve the situation for the people on Main Street. Every Republican voted against improving your health care. What do they care? They have insurance).

Obviously, Democrats must anticipate the usual Republican comebacks. Republicans will likely appeal to Teabagger's lust for small government by claiming it is not the government's responsibility to create jobs or determine who fills them. But this is a no-brainer. How many people in this country are unemployed, underemployed, or doing worse than they were before President Bush took office? We can make the obvious connection between job outsourcing and American unemployment. This also plays into the issue of cutting taxes for the rich, since the Republicans already did this and we ended up with massive unemployment. And if people decry potential death panels, remind them such panels already exist, only they are run by private insurers and disproportionately impact the people on Main Street.

Remember one simple rule: every time Republicans claim something is a weakness for Democrats, Democrats must turn around and unabashedly claim it as a strength. ("That's right. We saw a problem and we acted to fix it. After eight years of inaction, we moved forward, and we will continue to do so. I won't apologize for using government to better Americans' lives.") Maddening as the answer may be, ask yourself a simple question: Did George Bush, Sarah Palin and Arnold Schwarzenegger get where they are through good judgment, or through confidence and certainty?

Significantly, the most important part of each campaign is the one line slogan (ie. When you told Republicans you wanted…, did you realize you had to specify you meant…?). Some of us may desire further explanation, but by that time most people have lost interest and/or THE HILLS is on. There is no substitute for a single effective sentence.

Admittedly, there is one Republican claim that could prove especially tricky. Democrats enabled some of the Republicans' worst policies, and are open to hypocrisy charges if they try to wholly blame Republicans. The best advice I can give Democrats on this issue is to start fighting for the people, and for the people only. Do it before the next election, and explain in one catchy sentence what you are doing. One clever line that people can enjoy over a cup of tea.

Andrew Birnbaum @

Captain Kirk, Joan Collins, and the Greatest Brand Ever...

By Andrew Birnbaum

A fascinating Star Trek episode features Joan Collins as Edith Keeler, a beautiful peace advocate who runs a 1930s soup kitchen. Captain Kirk knows Edith is destined to die in a car accident, but is tempted to save her life after they fall in love. Ultimately, Kirk must let Edith die because, as Spock explains, her effective activism would delay the United States' entry into World War Two long enough for Hitler to triumph.

However you interpret the episode (Edith was ahead of her time and/or had to die to restore the future), its message still rings true today. Mainstream society sees peace loving humans as idealistic, perhaps admirable, but highly impractical. They fear following our lofty ideals will allow faceless evildoers to destroy "our way of life." And why wouldn't they believe this message? Millions of dollars are spent each year to convince people of exactly this conclusion. Sadly, the cynical war PR-machine is extremely effective. And so, our well-meaning peace movement suffers from a fatal weakness. The mainstream public is afraid to take our message seriously.

The fact we are idealistic does not mean we cannot also be public relations geniuses. History is very much on our side. The story of war is one of misery, sadism, and inexplicable suffering, while the story of active nonviolence is one of inspiration, compassion, and most importantly, success. If people want to win, they should use a strategy that has worked in the past. This is not war. See, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. It is active nonviolence. See, India, Poland, United States Civil Rights movement.

Conflict is inevitable. It can also be beneficial, leading to deeper understanding and intimacy in relationships. Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the absence of violence. And active nonviolence provides a framework for peace-loving people to resolve our most challenging conflicts. Together, peace and active nonviolence provide a mechanism for transforming conflict into opportunity.

I see active nonviolence as a brand. An awesome, desirable brand that merits more goodwill than its competitor products, violence and war. Since the war brand has a seemingly unlimited advertising budget, and miles of misleading display space, we must be very thoughtful in how we attract goodwill to the active nonviolence brand.

A key method is to educate people about historical facts. It is easy to argue with theories or ideologies, but harder to argue with results. We must change the conversation from a theoretical discussion of war and peace to an analysis of the proven practicality of nonviolence as a strategy for addressing conflicts. And I am not talking about debating historical views and interpretations. I am talking about recounting actual facts. And those facts are numerous and in our favor.

We can educate people about the many successes achieved through active nonviolence. These include the liberation of India in the last century, the American civil rights movement, and the Poles' triumph over a communist dictatorship. And these are hardly the only examples. People doubt the efficacy of active nonviolence because they have been miseducated to believe some conflicts can only be resolved through violence. So we must educate ourselves to the point we can educate our friends, neighbors, and other community members. As a matter of proven fact, the experiments with active nonviolence have been tremendously successful and must be replicated.

Skeptics sometimes argue nonviolent theory benefits oppressive governments by dissuading people from armed revolt. I believe the reverse argument makes more sense, that violent acts strengthen oppressive governments by providing cover for harsh crackdowns. When there is an act of great violence, do our freedoms increase or decrease?

When people claim wars are sometimes necessary to resolve conflicts, we might remind them the Iraqi and Afghan wars are ongoing, with no resolution in sight. That millions of people died in the last century's many wars. That no sooner do we "resolve" one war or violent conflict, then another crops up, often involving the same parties. As a matter of cold, hard fact, violence is a losing strategy, and it is the worst way to lose. I say this with great respect to the soldiers who sacrifice for their countries. The problem is with the leaders who fail to properly utilize the soldiers' many gifts and talents to best serve humanity.

If there is a group of people trapped in an ideological morass, it is the proponents of war and violence, forever unable to reconcile disappointing real world results with their inaccurate theories of human behavior. Thus, an updated version of the Star Trek episode might feature Joan Collins as Edith W. Keeler, a thoroughly impractical President intent on leading her country into war at any cost. This revised character might have honorable motives, but her fatal naivete would cause her to favor brute violence over more effective options. Such a President would not be ahead of her time, but behind it.

My fellow peace advocates, we have the more persuasive factual arguments. Peace, and where appropriate, active nonviolence, have worked in the past and can work in the future. As a matter of strategy, we must educate a skeptical public by recounting these past successes in factual detail. Because it is never the wrong time for peace, and no situation is too challenging to be resolved peacefully. We must convey this message, moment by moment, person by person. It is truth and we are its honored and blessed messengers. Its extremely practical and pragmatic, honored and blessed messengers.

Andrew Birnbaum @

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Have Found the Next Gandhi... (via commondreams)

Op-Ed by Andrew Birnbaum

There is an old saying that if your only tool is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail. So in the current military industrial complex, the government's solution to every problem is to use violence against persons it perceives as "enemies."

For those of us who see the world differently, decisions are not so simple. I have been studying active nonviolence for a little over a year now. I am enthralled with it for a simple reason: it is empowering. Rather than complaining to like-minded friends about the world's problems, I realize I have the power to affect change. All power still resides in we the people, just as it always have. We the people just need to reclaim it.

There are many different definitions of nonviolence. To me, active nonviolence is the means through which we reclaim the power and autonomy we previously ceded to other people and institutions. As the name implies, the underlying behaviors are neither violent nor passive. Examples of nonviolent action include street protests, boycotting businesses that behave immorally, and/or openly disobeying unjust laws. There are tons of possibilities. Unfortunately, we mistake this abundance of options for having none at all. We envy the government because it has only a hammer and foolishly wish our choices were as limited. But we must recognize choice is our greatest strength. Our metaphorical toolbox is empty precisely because it contains every possible tool.

So how do we decide which tool to use? First a disclaimer: I am still a relatively new student of active nonviolence, and hardly an expert. But I am totally enthralled, so here goes:

One of the greatest instances of active nonviolence was remarkably simple: when the occupying British prohibited Indians from producing salt for themselves, Mahatma Gandhi led a march to the ocean to openly defy this ban. The action was effective because everyone understood it; humans need salt to survive, so of course Indians would want to produce it for themselves. The action also presented every Indian with a simple activity (boiling ocean water to produce salt) they could undertake to reclaim their autonomy from the British, thereby allowing the entire nation to participate in the independence campaign.

To offer a second example, Gandhi persuaded Indians to spin their own cotton, enabling them to boycott imported British cloth. What might have seemed like a tedious task (spinning cotton) became a way for Indians to increase their self-reliance and withdraw financial support from the oppressive British empire.

So we can ask ourselves: what is the modern day equivalent of Indian salt (something we all need to survive which the current corporate government does not allow us to produce for ourselves)? What is the modern day equivalent of imported cloth (something we purchase from an oppressive foreign power which we could instead produce ourselves?) And we are obviously not limited to these two issues.

Just following Gandhi's lead, we could stop driving gas-powered vehicles and instead ride bicycles or use public transportation. We could only buy organic produce from local farmers who pay their workers a fair wage. Yes, these actions might seem inconvenient and expensive. But are they really more inconvenient or expensive than asking a fellow human being to risk his or her life in the middle east to secure our ability to drive Hummers? Or to ask our children to be guinea pigs in an experiment to see how genetically engineered crops affect human health long term?

I did not say exercising our power would be easy. I did not say we would not have to sacrifice, and we almost certainly will. But please realize you do have massive power, and myriad constructive options for using it. And many of the options are less demanding then the ones I identified above. It is okay to start small. But please do start.

Relatedly, people sometimes say that difficult times produce compelling leadership. For people on the left, I doubt we'll see a time that calls for leadership more than the present. Our nation has deep problems related to ongoing wars, massive unemployment and devastating environmental disasters. If there has ever been a time that called out for real progressive leadership, it is now.

So where is the leader? When does he or she appear? I have the answer.

The leader will appear this very moment, because nothing happens in the past or the future, only the present.

And who is the leader?

You are.

Think about it. You have been waiting for a leader to emerge, and every other person is waiting for "someone else" too. So please, I am begging you, fulfill your destiny and lead. (I honor the efforts of existing progressive activists, but I suspect they would agree there is room for more leadership).

If you think you are too insignificant to make a difference, you are not only disempowered, you are lying to yourself. If you are physically small, so was Gandhi. And if you suffer stage fright, so did he. So if a physically small man with stage fright could lead the Indians to reclaim their country from the British empire, you can achieve anything using the same nonviolent methods. And even if your journey is long and riddled with setbacks, there is nothing more empowering to a frustrated people than seeing someone trying to affect change.

If active nonviolence makes sense to you, and you are ready to be a leader, here is the next step: you must study nonviolent theory and history. I did my best with this article, but it is only the briefest of introductions. Take some time to read a book or take a class (videos of relevant UC-Berkeley courses are available online). Learn about Gandhi's life, and the lives of other practitioners, such as Martin Luther King and Rev. James Lawson. I know, I know. I have given you this huge build-up about active nonviolence and urged you to take action, and now I am telling you a book? But reading a book, taking a class, or otherwise learning about active nonviolence is one of the strongest actions you can take. It is that fabled first step on a very liberating journey of empowerment.

So please take that first step and study active nonviolence. But hurry.

You are the leader you have been waiting for. There is no one else.

And do not worry if you doubt your own abilities. I believe in you.

Andrew Birnbaum @

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


By Andrew Birnbaum

The rain poured down on Ron and me as we lay on the San Francisco sidewalk, trying unsuccessfully to sleep. It was the evening of February 15, 2004, and we had travelled to the City hoping to take advantage of its brave decision to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. To preserve a space in the ridiculously long line, we had elected to spend the night outside City Hall. Because the right of gay couples to marry was (and is) subject to government rationing, there was no way to predict which couples would secure licenses. The uncertainty was greatest for out of towners like ourselves, because we could not simply return another day. So you can understand my elation when Ron and I were indeed pronounced spouses for life.

My joy was dampened when I learned George W. Bush was pushing a Constitutional Amendment banning marriage equality. I remember wondering how Laura Bush would react to the weddings. Although I fervently disagreed with her husband's policies, I always felt there was something likable about Mrs. Bush as a person. I was thus disappointed to hear her say gay marriage was "a very, very shocking issue" and "Let's just leave it at that." If Mrs. Bush personally supported marriage equality, she was not risking any political capital on the issue.

Now, like Cindy McCain before her, Mrs. Bush has stated her support for gay marriage. The timing is interesting. Her husband is out of office, his legacy is unclear, and she is marketing a new book. My first reaction (which is not unique to me) was one of suspicion: she was not there when the gay community needed her support, but now that she has a product to sell… But I realize chastising one's supporters is no way to build a movement. Plus, I never walked in Mrs. Bush's shoes, much as I might have liked to on those nights I had one beer too many.

Much has happened in the six years since Mrs. Bush's 2004 statements: (1) the 2004 weddings were annulled by the California Supreme Court, (2) the Court then ruled in favor of marriage equality, (3) Ron and I married again in 2008, (4) Californians voted against marriage equality, and (5) the Court ruled against marriage equality but upheld the 2008 weddings.

This is a rapidly changing area of law, and one-time opponents of marriage equality reemerge daily as civil rights advocates. Yes, it would have been great if Laura Bush had used her platform as First Lady to support marriage equality. But so what? She is on the side of equality now. If you don't like the timing of Mrs. Bush's announcement, you don't have to buy her book. But I for one feel nothing but gratitude to Mrs. Bush for her courage in speaking out in favor of equality.

My first instincts were right. There is something likable about Mrs. Bush as a person. Thank you Laura Bush. And welcome to the struggle. The setbacks are excruciating but the rewards are unmatched; I invite everyone to work against the former and share in the latter.

Andrew Birnbaum @

Saturday, May 22, 2010

When You Meet the Bogeyman, Offer Him Your Finest Whiskey... (via truthout)

Op-Ed by Andrew Birnbaum

Why are so many people willing, if not eager, to oppose policy changes that would improve their lives? Why do teabaggers protest President Obama when they did not protest George W. Bush, even after President Obama lowered their taxes?

Are these people misinformed? Misled? Racist? The more generous among us theorize such people are simply afraid, and their fear causes them to behave irrationally. I believe there is something to this argument. Cynical politicians have long played on our fears to advance their own agendas, some even going so far as to feature images from 9/11 in their campaign ads. But why should these negative politicians have a monopoly on fear?

It is time to talk about our fears. As individuals, and as a nation.

We are afraid. We must acknowledge that. And we must discuss it, so we can get past it and stop making fear-based decisions.

When facing our fears, we must evaluate whether they are rational. And if they are rational, we must analyze what has caused the fearful situation, and whether there is some action we can take to make our lives more safe. Liberals and moderates must seize on the fear issue the same way some conservatives have. Only we must use people's fears not to manipulate them into adopting our views, but rather to help them identify the failed policies that have caused our present instability. And we must act quickly. The longer we wait to address peoples' fears, the more susceptible they are to irrational propaganda which obscures public debate (ie. "Obama is a socialist and nothing he does can convince me otherwise!")

To offer a key example, people are tremendously insecure about their jobs. The recent recession is the worst in our lifetime. But even before this recession, many of the available jobs were part-time, temporary and/or "independent contractor" positions that did not offer benefits. So, then and now, our job fears are well-founded. To address this situation, we need a national dialogue about whether a change in the quality of jobs available to the American worker has made our lives less secure. Those of us who prioritize the creation of stable full-time jobs with benefits should highlight this issue. And I do realize many conservative "economists" will kick and scream about a market economy and how the government should not be dictating to the private sector what kinds of jobs to offer. Are we really so afraid of these people? How many chances do they get to drive us off a cliff and still criticize anyone who tries to hit the brakes? If the Republicans are the party of "No," it is because they are the party of no good paying jobs, no benefits and no job security.

A second key issue is national security. We were attacked on 9/11, so our security concerns are rational. But how can the Republicans hold themselves out as champions of national security? They were in complete control during and after 9/11; instead of capturing Osama Bin Laden, they sent brave American soldiers, without sufficient body armor, into a country that had not attacked us. I realize most of us already know these facts. But we also know that if President Bush had been a liberal, the Republicans would be complaining daily about these missteps. The point is we must understand the basis of our vulnerability. Liberals and centrists must seize on these instances of incompetence, not to demean the Republicans (or Democrats who supported the same policies), but to prevent them from further weakening our country. We must offer intelligent and creative alternatives to secure our nation, starting with a recognition that violence leads not to peace, but to more violence.

Relatedly, our fear appears as a sort of national angst. We are considered a deeply religious country, yet each day we violate the basic guideline to treat others as we wish to be treated. We bomb and torture people, and spy on our neighbors. Yet Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King achieved seemingly impossible goals by treating their opponents with compassion and respect. We have an inescapable sense Gandhi and King succeeded by doing things the right way, while we continue along a failed path of violence and militarization.

There are numerous other areas, including the drug war and the environment, in which our existing policies are morally bankrupt and practical failures. And so we are understandably afraid for ourselves, our children, our neighbors and our planet. It is time for all of us, as a nation, to talk about these fears, to identify the causes of our national weaknesses, and to explore alternative policies designed to make us more safe and secure. All segments of society must have a voice in this debate, to avoid scapegoating one group or laying blame where it does not belong. And, to be clear, it is not my intention to blame conservatives and Republicans wholesale for the country's problems, or to absolve Democrats of their own culpability. I honor the instances when conservatives and Republicans have taken principled positions in support of commonsense policy changes. But at the moment, the "Party of No" is sadly lacking such persons, at least in leadership positions.

We must honor our fear and acknowledge its hidden gift: it tells us where change is needed. And the best part about a national discussion concerning fear? It will remind us of our common humanity, and our shared destiny as one country indivisible.

Andrew Birnbaum @

I Was Wrong About Corporations...

(click cartoon to enlarge)

By Andrew Birnbaum

I was surprised by the poor response to my internet ad.  I had offered to do pretty much anything for money, provided there was minimal risk of prison or chafing.  Only one of the responses sounded legitimate, and it was from a male model who needed help running errands.  We communicated by e-mail, and I agreed to go to his house first thing Monday morning.
When I got to the house, I learned the male model was actually a sixty year old man.  He was morbidly obese and bloated, his complexion a sad combination of pallor and artificial bronzer.  
He introduced himself as "Bob."  He looked vaguely familiar.
Bob invited me into the den, where he served iced tea.  The task he required of me was straightforward.  I was to go to his pharmacist and pick up prescriptions.  He handed me the first prescription slip.  I immediately knew something was amiss.  It was for Oxycontin, and I was listed as the patient.  Why was Bob laundering prescriptions?
And then it hit me. 
I knew who "Bob" was.
I don't feel comfortable giving his exact legal name, but let's just say Bob is a multinational corporation with an enormous market capitalization, and several multi-billion dollar defense contracts to supply weaponry and mercenary personnel to warring nations across the globe.   And his last name is "Inc."  That's all you're getting.  I've said too much already.
I told Bob I recognized him.  He explained the reason for his various deceptions-he could not risk the scandal which would result if the world learned one of its largest weapons suppliers is an addict.
I was shocked.  How could Bob function if he was perpetually stoned?
Bob downed a whiskey shot and the floodgates opened.  The poor childhood in the South, raised by strict evangelical LLPs who taught him that real men beat each other senseless.  Bob perked up briefly as he recounted his favorite religious story, the one where Abraham's father doubts one idol can destroy another.  But Bob grew somber as he admitted the pictures of children maimed by his bombs were affecting him. Overwhelmed by guilt, he finally turned to Oxycontin.
I asked the obvious questions: Why doesn't he stop selling weapons?  Couldn't he transition to a different industry? 
Bob denied he could change.  He insisted I not judge him, even though he continues to profit from the murder and maiming of innocent civilians.  He claimed I could not possibly understand the pressures he is under.  Sure, I have family and friends to worry about, but he has shareholders watching his every move!  Bob showed me pictures of low-income elderly shareholders dependent on him for their retirement, only they were sipping champagne and playing golf. Bob later admitted the people in the pictures were not shareholders, but board members.
Bob said only one thing gives him comfort: the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. If a war profiteer like himself can stay in the military's good graces while gay Arabic linguists are discharged, Bob knows he is not so bad.  Bob claimed there is no place for gays in the defense industry.
I told Bob I am a gay man and find Don't Ask, Don't Tell offensive.  Bob requested I have sex with him.  Haunted by past efforts to remove artificial bronzer from natural fabrics, I fled.
But I do not regret the encounter. 
Meeting Bob changed how I feel about the business community's efforts, increasingly sanctioned by the Courts, to allow corporations the same rights as people, including free speech rights.  I now know that corporations are not inanimate legal fictions.  They are living breathing human beings, with faces and bodies. A prospective Supreme Court Justice may or may not have empathy for poor people. The more significant question is whether she has empathy for corporations struggling with overwhelming addictions and sexual desires.  If you prick a corporation, does it not bleed?  And if a corporation sees tax money being used to help the needy, does it not run to a tea party rally?  I realize now that it was my own bigotry that blinded me to the fact corporations are exactly the same as people.  Shame on me for ever doubting this.  

Andrew Birnbaum @

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What If Bush Had Given This Speech After 9/11?

By Andrew Birnbaum

My fellow Americans,

We have been attacked in a most destructive and horrific manner. We are crying out in pain and mourning, and as your President, I feel your hurt most deeply. And I want to assure you I recognize the need for swift and decisive action to deter future attacks. So I want to outline, right here and right now, my plan for securing our safety and our childrens' futures.

Our world is too often filled with bitterness and anger. The people who committed the atrocious acts of 9/11 clearly intended to increase hatred and violence in our world. If we do nothing else, we must ensure they fail in this mission. We must deny them our hatred. Indeed, we must forgive them for their trespasses against us.

To be clear, forgiveness does not mean letting the perpetrator's horrific acts go unpunished. We must, MUST, identify any and all persons who committed, planned and financed these grave crimes, and once we have, we must bring them to justice. I fully intend to ensure the guilty parties stand trial, in person, in the United States. That is the most important thing I will say to you tonight, so let me repeat it:

I fully intend to ensure the guilty parties stand trial, in person, in the United States.

Yes, our pain is deep. But as Americans, we must honor our values by proceeding in a smart and deliberate manner.

Without a doubt, we are the greatest military power the planet has ever known, with the bravest, best trained fighting force and the largest nuclear arsenal. But we are also a compassionate nation, and we do not seek to use our military capabilities, except as a last resort. We must remember this attack was committed by individuals, and it is these specific individuals we must bring to justice. We must be very careful not to cause harm or pain to innocent civilians. We know what it is like to lose loved ones, and the most un-American thing we could do is to inflict a similar pain on others. Some of my advisors are urging me to invade multiple countries. This I cannot do. I simply cannot at this time risk prolonged and bloody wars that weaken our military, harm women and children, and outlast my Presidency.

Many patriotic Americans have asked if there is anything they can do to secure our nation. My answer is an emphatic yes. Our intelligence agencies have determined that a majority of the hijackers came from or were trained in the very countries we most depend on for our oil supply. We will be focusing our investigative efforts in these countries. We expect to encounter massive resistance from the local governments, especially if we try to expedite responsible persons to the United States. Our reliance on these nations for our energy needs directly conflicts with our national security interests.

So I am calling on every American to do his or her part to conserve energy, effective immediately. Use public transportation. Carpool. Walk. Buy a bike. Turn off lights when you do not need them. No action is too small to make a difference. From this day forward, refuse to purchase any car that does not get a minimum of 35 miles per gallon. Such cars are available in every price range. I checked this out myself. These changes will not only improve our national security, they will preserve our planet for future generations. And please realize the alternative to saving energy will be to send the brave men and women of our military into harm's way. For their sake, let's try this first.

I am further requesting Congress designate one billion dollars to hire math and science teachers in public schools nationwide. To lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we must develop alternative energy sources. If we expect our nation's youth to tackle these issues, we must provide them the finest math and science educations available.

Citizens from other countries have been generous in their support for America in light of these attacks. I humbly request these people assist the United States by ensuring their governments not take our place as trading partners with any nations that refuse to cooperate with our investigation. The American people are generous, but they will not wait forever to see justice served. It is in our common best interest to achieve a swift and efficient resolution.

One thing we have learned is the people behind the 9/11 attacks were religious fanatics. I am more convinced than ever civilized people must separate religion from government. I will not call any national days of prayer, and I will not use public moneys to fund religious institutions or programs. The God I believe in is so powerful he needs neither corporate welfare nor propaganda to thrive. And I will replace the saying "God Bless America" with concrete actions that prove our continued worthiness of such a high honor.

Using diplomacy, not violence, to achieve justice may seem novel, but it is not unprecedented. I ask that you enlarge your vision of weaponry, and recognize that just as we have a mighty military muscle, we also have a mighty economic muscle. We are the largest economy in the world and that is the leverage we must use first. I intend to use our economic influence to ensure that all countries cooperate with our efforts to identify and extradite the persons responsible for the vicious 9/11 attacks, no matter how much oil they have. I humbly request your support.

May every American love every other American. May every person love every other person.

Thank you and good night.

Andrew Birnbaum @