Reentry of Shuttle Diplomacy Burns NASA

Washington, D.C., October 2, 2006 -- The escalating feud between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) over the proposed use of Space Shuttle Atlantis for diplomatic purposes has tempers in both camps on the verge of explosion, NASA sources said today.

With Congress currently in a "launch hold position" awaiting the Election Day countdown, Washington insiders say there is little to no chance lawmakers will be available to mandate a timely resolution to the dispute. The unforeseen impasse may jeopardize Rice's and the Bush Administration's stated goal of mediating the potentially explosive Israel-Lebanon conflict from a sufficiently remote proxy location.

"Secretary of State Rice, in consultation with State Department attorneys, has determined that there is no question she is entitled to use Space Shuttle Atlantis for the purpose of participating in the observation of the consideration of ideas for possible resolutions to the middle eastern conflict," State Department spokesman Elmo Risotto said during this morning's press briefing.

"Condoleezza Rice is the right hand man of President George W. Bush, who as we know is duly authorized by Congress to use any means at his disposal, including the commandeering of necessary equipment and the summary execution of garden gnomes, surly service station attendants and people asking for spare change, to facilitate the prosecution of the Long War, formerly known as the War on Terror, historically characterized as the Cold War," he continued.

"Shuttle diplomacy", a technique traditionally eschewed by Bush due to its association with the Clinton-era practices of "solving problems", "finding solutions" and "getting things done", represents a dramatic escalation from the "shuffleboard diplomacy" heretofore practiced by the Bush administration.

"With shuffleboard diplomacy, we generally felt comfortable dealing with dangerous international developments by sitting around and thinking for a long time, possibly taking a nap or two, then occasionally tottering up and shoofing, if you will, hockey-puck shaped canisters of weapons or money at them with a long, t-shaped stick featuring a sort of perpendicular attachment thingy at the end," Joshua B. Bolten, White House Chief of Staff, said.

Bush, who has repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon "if certain conditions can be met first, including human invisibility and 8:00 P.M. bedtimes for all Americans" reportedly empowered Condoleezza Rice two weeks ago to commandeer the Space Shuttle Atlantis for the purpose of "heightening the level of engagement" in pursuit of that goal.

The NASA-Rice tensions originated when NASA administrator Retro Sprott was subsequently contacted by Biryani Paella, assistant to Secretary Rice, informing him that all planned missions for Space Shuttle Atlantis would have to be postponed as the multiple reentry vehicle would be required by the Secretary of State for an indefinite ad hoc diplomatic mission three hundred miles over the troubled Middle East.

"Using the Space Shuttle," Mr. Risotto said, "we can intervene diplomatically via radio or video link while orbiting in an air-tight little box several hundred miles above the situation in question. It's a logarithmically enhanced influence position."

NASA initially denied the request, asserting that the Secretary of State's equipment prerogatives did not include the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The NASA refusal was brusquely overridden by President George W. Bush, citing Congressional Blank Check Act 1185:44 which, according to White House attorneys, grants the president the right to secretly and indefinitely incarcerate or terminate anyone he wants whenever he wants and additionally entitles him to a 5% discount on sandwiches at participating Subway franchises nationwide.

"Of course I can commandeer the Shuttle," President Bush reportedly said. "I'm the commandeerin' Chief."

Despite nearly worldwide, with the exception of the United States, calls for a cease-fire between Israel and the Iran- and Syria-funded Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, fighting and civilian casualties along the Lebanon-Israeli border have continued to escalate at an alarming rate for the past three months.

With U.S. involvement currently stymied over the Rice-NASA space turf war, international observers fear Israel will continue its violent effort to create a "foam insulation buffer" along the border zone, while Hezbollah will continue its efforts to create cracks in that insulation.

"In the continued absence of effective shuttle diplomacy by the United States," Ezekiel Joppert, an expert on international relations at the Brookings Institution, said, "we can confidently expect to see the whole region go down in flames."

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

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