Bullying our way to world peace

What we need in this country is a new definition of toughness. As one who is very tough himself in ways that are not obvious, I am ideally positioned to describe the qualities of the new toughness that should become the model for our leaders.

As it is, when Americans think toughness they think swagger. For example, our current president long ago adopted the Texas swagger, a popular genre for would-be swaggerers, although connoisseurs detect in the presidential swagger a hint of the Eastern Prep School Stroll and the Ivy League Strut — that certain flexing of the shoulders signaling that the swaggerer’s daddy has more money than your daddy or at least belongs to a better country club.

High gas prices force driver cutbacks

Americans, notorious for their love of the open road, are cutting back on gasoline consumption as prices at the pump continue to break records.

During the week leading up to the Memorial Day holiday, the traditional start of vacation season, Americans pumped 5.5 percent less gasoline than a year ago as average prices hit a peak $3.84 a gallon, MasterCard Advisors said in a report.

Escaping politics with Indiana Jones

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve had it with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. I’ve certainly had it with George W. Bush.

I’ve had it with politics, at least for now, so I did what I always do when I’ve had it: I escape with a movie. Not just any movie, mind you, but a bona fide fantasy, the more adventurous and far-fetched the better.

U.S. water system on brink of collapse

After police protection, water and sewer services are the most demanded city service in America. Yet experts say that in many cities, those systems are on the brink of collapse.

America’s R&D train wreck

Eight out of ten Americans tell pollsters they believe the nation is on the “wrong track,” an analogy born of the age of the railroad. Unfortunately, passenger trains are faster and fuller elsewhere than they are in America.

Diplomacy, appeasement or war?

President Bush’s speech to Israel’s Knesset, where he likened negotiating with terrorists and rogue nations to “the false comfort of appeasement,” provoked an angry response from Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama. Obama’s protest, in turn, provoked a scornful rebuke from GOP frontrunner John McCain.

Summertime, summertime

I know summer is coming, not just because Memorial Day is Monday, but because of the high hopes which are setting in.

The older my four children get, 14 down to 7 this summer, the more I have high hopes for summer with them: That this is the summer they will read a certain number of classic books, be committed to a regular schedule for chores, piano practice, sports, we’ll have consistent and productive family time together, some time away (every detail thoroughly planned out in advance of course), they will grow personally and spiritually, this is the summer they will get along better, in short we’ll have the best summer ever.

Missing the point

A new report declares that a “boy crisis” in education doesn’t exist and that both sexes are about equal in their standardized tests scores. At least that’s the analysis of 40 years of these tests by the American Association of University Women, which promotes gender equity for women.

Balking at using torture

At least one government agency, the FBI, felt the administration’s harsh treatment of detainees, which top Bush officials repeatedly tried to justify, was wrong.

A report by the Justice department’s inspector general, long delayed because of infighting between the department and the Pentagon over how much should be made public, praised FBI agents for refusing to join harsh and abusive interrogation techniques by the military and CIA in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. The agents described some of the techniques as “borderline torture.”

We’re not number one

Being a patriotic fellow, I am always saddened to learn that the good ol’ USA isn’t No. 1 in all fields.

That was my reaction last week when I read an Associated Press story from Edinburgh, Scotland, that said a collector had paid $12,840 for 35 original poems by a William Topaz McGonagall, “internationally celebrated as the worst poet ever to assault the English language.”