FUBAR

No surge in electricity

It was supposed to be a happy-talk news briefing by an Army general about progress in rebuilding Iraq. It turned into a cry of woe about the disintegration of the supply of electricity to Baghdad.

The briefing, as reported by The New York Times, led to questions to Karim Wahid, a respected Iraqi official, who told reporters that a key reason why there are only two to six hours of electricity in Baghdad on any given day is that armed militia groups now control electric dispatch centers and refuse to share power.

It shouldn’t happen to a dog

I’ve never been one of those fawning pet owners, the kind who dress up their animals in funny clothes and won’t let them be dogs. I guess I can understand some of the extremes when they substitute for children and human companionship, and I have rarely found many humans as loyal as a dog once it decides to latch on to you.

A tribute to the Big Mac

Cleveland has its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate the likes of Mick Jagger and the Beatles. Washington has its Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to highlight such milestones as man on the moon.

North Huntingdon, near Pittsburgh, is honoring another type of human achievement by turning the words “twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheese picklesonionsonasesameseedbun” into a tourist destination.

Stopping MySpace predators

The recent headlines might send a chill up any parent’s spine:

Suspect Accused Of Using Facebook To Lure 15-Year-Old Boy. Seven Teenaged Girls Assaulted By Men They Met Through MySpace.Com.

Social networking Web sites, such as MySpace, Facebook and Friendster, are a virtual playground where millions of children log in looking to make friends near and far.

Pentagon fails to protect troops in Iraq

The Pentagon expects to deliver only 1,500 mine-proof armored vehicles to Iraq by the end of the year, less than half the number promised a month ago, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Press secretary Geoff Morrell said the Pentagon will not be able to meet its goal of delivering 3,500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by the end of the year.

“If we could get 1,500 to theater by the end of this year that would be a positive development,” he said.

Will we be ready next time?

Two years ago, the CIA sent to Congress a report of several hundred pages done by its inspector general detailing the agency’s errors and missteps leading up to 9/11. The CIA fought strenuously against its release. Based on a heavily edited 19-page summary, it’s easy to see why.

Much of the summary spells out what was previously known or guessed at, and it did find that there was no “single point of failure” that allowed 9/11 to happen or “silver bullet” that would have prevented it.

Helping a friend

The guy has been a friend of John Powers since their middle-school days in Cumberland, R.I. When Powers headed for the University of Rhode Island, his friend headed for the Marine Corps.

His friend came back from Afghanistan in 2005.

“I saw his life fall off the face of the earth,” says Powers. “He couldn’t get a job.”

It has been two years, and still Powers worries. His friend will be OK for a couple of months, then get caught in that dark, frightening confusion that the Marines never prepared him for. He’ll stop calling.

Hearts, minds and souls

The first concept to grasp is that the global conflict now under way involves both a clash of arms and a clash of ideas. To succeed in this war will require effective combat on both fronts.

The second concept is this: The clash of arms and the clash of ideas influence one another, often in peculiar and even counterintuitive ways.

One example: Al Qaeda in Iraq could not challenge American troops directly. Their solution has been to target innocent Iraqis instead, to slaughter innocent Muslim men, women and children by the hundreds.

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.