FUBAR

What’s wrong with America?

Even folks in the Optimist Club are having a tough time toeing an upbeat line these days. Eighteen members of the volunteer organization’s Gilbert, Ariz., chapter have gathered, a few days before this nation’s 232nd birthday, to focus on the positive: Their book drive for schoolchildren and an Independence Day project to place American flags along the streets of one neighborhood.

Rebuild the World Trade Center

In olden days, Americans needed just 13 and a half months to erect the Empire State Building, four and a half years to build Hoover Dam, and six years, four months to install the Transcontinental Railroad. And yet this Independence Day, six years, nine months, and three weeks have elapsed since September 11, and Ground Zero remains an 80-foot-deep international embarrassment for the United States.

The government functionaries who fathered this fiasco should yield immediately and assign private developer Larry Silverstein to arrange what already should have occurred: the Twin Towers’ return to America’s skyline.

The wholesale lethargy at Ground Zero became painfully clear in Tuesday’s report on the 16-acre site where al-Qaeda murdered 2,750 innocents:

An election of issues or skills?

As we’ve been celebrating this month what remarkable people our country’s founders were, it’s tempting to wonder what they would think of how we’re handling their legacy.

They would undoubtedly be thunderstruck that a man of color is in serious contention to be the next president, although some of them might think it certainly has taken us a long time to get to this point.

Mandela no longer a terrorist

For four decades, the United States officially branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist because of his association with the African National Congress in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa.

No privacy at Passport Agency

As America celebrates its birthday, new disclosures showcase just how disposable privacy has become in what used to be the home of the brave and the land of the free.

An investigation into practices of the U.S. Passport service show government employees routinely snoop into the private files of celebrities, sports figures and other prominent Americans.

Should marriage be saved?

Modern journalism should adopt the acronym NAOS (Not an Onion Story), to identify actual news that can’t otherwise be distinguished from outright satire. A perfect candidate is the report that Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter have co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Amendment.

Fireworks are a Constitutional right

With patriotism at high ebb around the Fourth of July, and the Second Amendment with perfect timing having been confirmed as an individual right to own guns, I believe it is the hour when we the people must assert our ancient right to keep and bear fireworks.

U.S. taught Chinese torture techniques

American military trainers taught Chinese Communist torture techniques at a glass at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, using a chart that was copied verbatum from a 1957 Air Force study of techiques used by the enemy during the Korean war.

Disclosure of the class shows just how accepted the use of torture has become in U.S. treatment prisoners and shows the Bush Administration continues to lie when it claims such techniques are not authorized.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin said every American would be "shocked" at the revelations.

No longer a ‘person of interest’

After almost seven years, former biological warfare scientist Steven Hatfill is finally, in the words of one of his lawyers, "an ex-person of interest." He and his legal team will also collect a cash payout of $2.825 million from the Justice department and the department will also buy Hatfill an annuity that will pay him $150,000 a year in recognition of the fact that its heavy-handed

A giant step backward

I often wonder if Antonin Scalia might not be more comfortable in another century, past not future, one not touched by the miseries and dangers of urbanization. I certainly think we would be if he were.