FUBAR

Going back to school

It is that time of the year when a great mass migration occurs. Unlike monarch butterflies, swallows, caribou or spawning salmon, the participants in this trek are not driven by strong instinctual need.

In fact, the participants barely understand the purpose of it. As for being driven, well, they are driven out the door by their relieved parents.

I refer to the back-to-school movement that fills the nation’s roads with yellow buses and its streets with youngsters who are so dragging their behinds that some will suffer posterior gravel rash.

Erin Brokovich is back

Erin Brockovich is moving forward with a possible sequel to the investigation she led in California, this time in Australia.

Brockovich and the Westlake Village, Calif., law firm Masry & Vititoe earned acclaim for her sleuthing in Hinkley, which found that a California power company had polluted the water supply.

The investigation was turned into a 2000 movie that earned Julia Roberts a Best Actress Academy Award.

Pentagon shuts down spying database

The Pentagon said on Tuesday it would close a controversial database tracking suspicious activity around U.S. military bases that critics complained had been used to spy on peaceful antiwar activists.

Officials decided the TALON program would end on September 17 not in response to public criticism but because the amount and quality of information being gathered had declined, the Pentagon said.

CIA report faults Tenet for 9/11 weaknesses

Mistakes and missed opportunities by the Central Intelligence Agency failed to follow up on the growing threat of al Qaeda and left America open to attack on September 11, 2001, an investigation within the CIA concludes.

The damning report condemns former CIA director George Tenet for abandoning his own declared war on the terrorist organization and diverting agency resources away from the effort to prevent an attack on American soil.

The report lays much of the blame for American vulnerability to the attacks directly on Tenet.

Iraq spirals out of control

A retired American general is admitting what President George W. Bush will not.

Southern Iraq is out of control and getting worse and there appears little the military can do about it.

As the war escalates and the White House continues to claim otherwise, the death toll mounts and the situation becomes more and more hopeless.

Yet Bush stubbornly sticks to his failed Iraq strategy and shows no sign of bending to the will of the American people or the face of reality.

The loss of freedom of speech

Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University are two very senior scholars who are currently taking very intense heat.

Next month, their book “The Israel Lobby” will be published. They argue that the United States is too closely allied with and too accommodating of Israel. Predictably, their viewpoint has generated very hostile criticism. Several organizations that had scheduled appearances by the authors have canceled under pressure, including at least one East Coast academic institution. That is regrettable.

Hedge-fund con artists

The recent market meltdown had much less to do with bad subprime loans than advertised. It was caused more fundamentally by excesses at hedge and private equity funds. Those contraptions, invented by the sinfully wealthy barons of Wall Street, have lied to themselves and their investors about the efficacy of their schemes. Now they are quiet in their sins as bad home loans take the rap for a global meltdown that the U.S. housing market is not large enough to cause.

America’s most watched

You’re being watched. Not only by Uncle Sam but also by your employer, by the kid working behind the counter at the local gas station, by the automatic teller machine at your bank and by your computer.

We are a society under surveillance, constantly monitored, scrutinized 24/7, analyzed for patterns and suspected without reason.

And, for the most part, the vast majority of us don’t mind.

That may be more frightening than anything else.

This time FEMA claims it’s ready

The statistics are most impressive: 10 million liters of water and 4 million MREs stockpiled in Texas; 1,300 buses, 130 airplanes and “hundreds” of helicopters ready to go; 10,000 Texas National Guards on standby by mid-week; and contracts already drawn up for relocation housing.

Did anyone really win in the Padilla case?

With characteristic overstatement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales proclaimed the verdict in the case of Jose Padilla “a significant victory” in combating terrorism.

It was a victory in the sense that the jury quickly found Padilla and two others guilty but “significant” would be stretching matters.