FUBAR

Rewarding failure

If AIG were in the public relations business instead of insurance, it surely would have gone broke years ago.

Take the reaction to its decision to go ahead with $450 million in bonus payments, including $165 billion paid out over this last weekend, to executives of the business unit whose recklessness almost wrecked the company. Also over the weekend the firm disclosed that had to sue $34 billion in bailout money to make good on credit default swaps the unit has written that had gone bad.

When honesty is only an illusion

Trust in government — essential to a democracy — depends greatly on whether citizens believe the government’s dealings are conducted honestly and above board. In the United States, the means of verifying that is the Freedom of Information Act, a law laying the ground rules for access to federal records, passed in 1967 and strengthened twice since then.

The health care crisis: Is it solvable?

As the nation seems to be marching inexorably toward universal health care, did you ever wonder why medical costs have grown beyond all other goods and services? Why is it that this nation ranks only 20th in the quality of its care despite those 12 percent annual increases that have been routine since the advent of Medicare?

Recession set to be longest of postwar period

Factory jobs disappeared. Inflation soared. Unemployment climbed to alarming levels. The hungry lined up at soup kitchens.

It wasn’t the Great Depression. It was the 1981-82 recession, widely considered America’s worst since the depression.

That painful time during Ronald Reagan’s presidency is a grim marker of how bad things can get. Yet the current recession could slice deeper into the U.S. economy.

Afghanistan: The new Vietnam?

The new Obama administration has been forthright in redirecting primary attention in the war on terrorist groups to Afghanistan, where the Taliban — a vital al Qaeda ally — is becoming stronger.

Following initial policy review, a decision has been made to increase United States forces in the mountainous sparsely populated country by 17,000, to a total of 55,000. Pressures on our already thinly stretched military will be eased by reductions in forces in occupied Iraq.

Let’s face it…Pork is with us to stay

Those expensive non-crucial items — also known as "earmarks" — lawmakers stick into nearly every spending bill to help assure their reelection would be better labeled "nose marks" for all those snouts in the public trough. Even the fact deficit spending is expected to reach unprecedented levels hasn’t deterred the collective gluttony.

Is a Disunited States in our future?

Top Russian diplomat Igor Panarin has been predicting for more than 10 years now that the United States will break up into six separate pieces that will become client states of China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union. Alaska will revert to Russia, although Sarah Palin will surely have something to say about that.

Now he’s come up with more specifics. There will be economic and moral collapse this year, followed by martial law and civil war, with the breakup coming next year.

Good etiquette for a bad economy

As you know, the best minds in Washington, D.C., are working to fix the economy. That strongly suggests to me that the recession is going to be around for a while yet.

So how are we to behave in our reduced state of prosperity? What etiquette should we observe? To answer these questions, I am writing an important and timely book, "Good Manners That Poor You Can Afford."

One in five homeowners in trouble with mortgages

One in five U.S. homeowners with mortgages owe more to their lenders than their properties are worth, and the rate will increase as housing values drop in states that have so far avoided the worst of the crisis, a new study shows.

Bush’s lust to become a dictator

The Obama Justice Department has released nine legal memos drafted in the aftermath of 9/11 that bypassed the Constitution to justify near-dictatorial powers for then-President Bush.

A memo for the file written five days before the Bush administration left office formally repudiated the still-secret memos "because of the doubtful nature of these propositions." Doubtful, indeed.