FUBAR

Where, but where, to spend?

How would the U.S. government be spending money if it wasn’t fighting the Iraq War? Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., raised the question during Monday’s Democratic presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“We are spending $9 billion to $10 billion every month,” Obama said. “That’s money that could be going right here in South Carolina to lay broadband lines in rural communities, to put kids back to school.”

Is the war keeping federal money out of local communities? And if so, is the cost worth it?

A dark cloud settles over America

As America heads into perhaps its most pivotal Presidential election in modern times candidates for the highest office in the land face an angry, disillusioned, depressed electorate that fear hard times now and see harder times ahead.

Many Americans face the coming year with sullenness and despair. Many have lost their homes as foreclosures mount. Many lost their jobs and face uncertain employment prospects for the future.

Here at Capitol Hill Blue we see that anger and darkness daily in our interaction with readers. It spills out in comments to stories, dominates discussion and touches most of the stories we print.

Many readers ask "what's the use?" In an election where "change" dominates the debate, most voters don't expect change. They see little hope from any of the candidates on either side of the political aisle.

More waste and fraud in Iraq

A defense contractor hired to repair combat equipment routinely failed to do the job right and then charged the government millions of dollars for the extra work needed to get the gear ready for battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a newly released audit.

Overall, the contractor’s employees at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait worked about 188,000 additional hours to fix Humvees, heavy transporters and fighting vehicles that allegedly were mended but flunked a military inspection, the Government Accountability Office said.

The Jose Padilla debacle

The Bush administration’s case against alleged dirty bomber Jose Padilla has sputtered to an inglorious close.

Padilla, you’ll remember, was supposed to be the leader, as the U.S. attorney general himself announced, of “an unfolding terrorist plot against the United States” that featured radioactive dirty bombs and exploding apartment buildings.

Progress for Islamic women

Saudi Arabian women are enjoying new freedoms. Reuters recently reported that, “Saudi authorities, breaking with religious codes that require women to be accompanied by a male guardian, have decided to allow women to stay in hotels on their own.”

The emperor has no brains

So it begins. Earlier this month, our emperor — a man so upbeat that he could fall down a manhole and be glad in the gloom that he didn’t wear his sunglasses — admitted that the economic situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage, or words to that effect.

Yes, that is true. Worldwide stock markets are in turmoil and Wall Street has its own convulsions. The housing market is so moribund it has a tag attached to its toes. The subprime mortgage mess hangs like a dead albatross around the necks of everyone, but especially poor people losing their homes.

Fanatics and madmen

Adolf Hitler was evil and perhaps a madman. But throughout history, there have been many evil madmen in many corners of the Earth. Few have attracted millions of passionate followers; fewer still have conquered Europe and committed genocide. So what made Hitler different and — for a time — effective?

The one stop election

Tired of the presidential campaign already? All those candidates, the incessant debates and speeches, the position papers, the partisan bickering, the uncertainty of it all?

You might want to give Cuba a try. Those Cubans know how to put on a seamless election.

There’s no campaigning, only one party and, to really streamline the process, only one pre-approved candidate for each district. And it’s all over in one day.

Mixed messages from Iraq

The U.S. military worried Sunday about “mixed messages” from Iran, listing a dramatic drop in Iranian-made weapons reaching Iraq but no reduction in the training and financing of Shiite militants.

The report card further muddles U.S.-Iranian relations as Washington ratchets up its anti-Tehran rhetoric in the shadow of a recent intelligence report that the Islamic Republic halted a nuclear weapons program four years ago.

A second suicide bombing in two days, meanwhile, killed six people in Anbar province, birthplace of the Sunni movement against al-Qaida in Iraq that has been a major factor in a recent downturn in nationwide violence.

Is true meaning of King’s legacy lost?

Nearly 40 years after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., some say his legacy is being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

“Everyone knows — even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King — can say his most famous moment was that ‘I have a dream’ speech,” said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo. “No one can go further than one sentence. All we know is that this guy had a dream. We don’t know what that dream was.”

King was working on anti-poverty and anti-war issues at the time of his death. He had spoken out against the Vietnam War and was in Memphis when he was killed in April 1968 in support of striking sanitation workers.