Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards observed the other day that the price of gasoline has gone so high in Texas that women who want to run over their husbands have to carpool.

Thought we needed a laugh before plunging back into the war. Here's a lovely item. Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports U.S. soldiers in Iraq are being asked to pray for President George W. Bush. Thousands of Marines have been given a pamphlet, put out by In Touch Ministries, called "A Christian's Duty." It is a mini prayer book that includes a tear-out card to be mailed to the White House pledging that the soldier who sends it has been praying for Bush.

"I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult," says the card. "May God's peace be your guide."

That's special.

In case you hadn't noticed the next-to-the-last paragraph in all the stories about Richard Perle being forced to resign from the chairmanship of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board, here's the catch. He resigned from the chairmanship but not from the board, whence he will continue to dispense his invaluable advice despite the glaring conflict of interest. He has been retained by Global Crossing to help get approval from the Pentagon for sale of the company to a Hong Kong billionaire. The Pentagon and FBI initially objected on national security grounds, and Perle has been retained to help get approval for the sale, national security problem or not. Global Crossing will pay Perle $600,000 on top of his $125,000 retainer fee if the Pentagon approves the deal.

Perle has been pushing for "regime change" in Iraq for more than a decade. In May 2002, Perle said that Iraq could be taken with a force of 40,000 American troops. He also predicted "Support for Saddam, including his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder."

A guy that smart, we can't afford to do without him.

Imagine how charmed I was to find that Rush Limbaugh and other distinguished media critics from the right feel the "liberal media" are insufficiently enthusiastic about Gulf War II. As Will Rogers says, "This is more than exciting, Christiane."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... A special salute to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, which was so helpful to Enron. It was set up to protect investors from abusive practices in commodities trading, and to that end this alert guardian watchdog of commodities has proposed three new rules that would, according to The New York Times, "reduce the quality of disclosure required in reports of past performance, increase the opportunity for advisers to put some clients' or their own interests ahead of others' and curtail the already lax regulation on operators of hedge funds. Using language that could have come straight out of an Enron annual report, the commission said the rules would streamline regulation, allowing 'greater flexibility and innovation.'"

Just what we need! Less financial regulation! I can't wait to see those hedge funds cut loose. We can make Enron look like peanuts. HealthSouth will be a mere blip on the radar compared to what's to come. Ah, the genius of the free markets.

Another special salute to the executives of Delta Airlines, who have just awarded themselves a $42 million "perk package." The airline is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and is begging Washington to have the taxpayers bail it out. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said: "Thousands of airline workers have lost their jobs or given significant wage, benefit and work-rule concessions since Sept. 11 to help save their companies. Therefore it is disconcerting, if not outrageous, that airline executives are lining their pockets while employees are subsidizing these bonuses and bankruptcy-protected retirement plans."

Delta's top five executives got full salaries plus bonuses totaling $4.8 million, while the company is hemorrhaging money. Another 55 second-tier executives got six-figure bonuses totaling $12.5 million. Delta also spent $25 million setting up special accounts to protect certain executives' pensions in the event of bankruptcy. The plan calls for two more payments this year and next.

I can't wait to help bail them out

And of course we are all happy to learn that the Bush administration plans to provide universal health care and massive school construction for postwar Iraq, while simultaneously cutting health and education funding here at home.

Those of you who feel an impulse to raise your hand and ask, "Uh, what about us?" are just being selfish. If we get universal health care and massive school construction (between one-third and one-half of all American schools are somewhere between dilapidated and flat falling apart), why then, Bush couldn't afford to give a $350 billion tax cut to the richest 1 percent of Americans. You see how selfish you're being?

Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund has a depressing new set of statistics about the damage being done to American children -- more falling into poverty, more homeless, and cuts to Head Start, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program, after school, pre-school, schools, food programs ... on and on the list goes. Edelman calls it "an ideological coup d'etat." Did anyone vote for this?

The other night in Ames, Iowa, a man stood up to ask me a question. "I'm from Texas, but I left 50 years ago," he said. "I guess I've just forgotten. Could you explain to me just what you Texans mean when you say, 'Compassion?'"

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2003 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.