“Are We Rome?” asks a new book, authored by an editor at Vanity Fair magazine. The subtitle is “The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America.”
It seems, given the dour mood of the country, that this would be a good time to market such a book. And, indeed, as I check its sales clip on Amazon, it seems to be moving at a brisk pace that must please both author and publisher.
So, is America creaking and crumbling like a latter-day Rome?
The verdict is still out on whether the First Amendment has a strong voice of support among conservatives on the Supreme Court. Although Justice Samuel Alito says he is a staunch defender of free expression in both speech and print and that presumably includes the Internet, his recent end-of-the-term votes on two cases made it unclear just how staunch.
The Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame Wilson controversy threatens to linger for months. Exhibit A is the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing Wednesday on President Bush’s commutation of the former vice-presidential aide’s jail sentence. He was convicted of lying about his role in identifying Plame as a CIA officer.
I usually try to be timely, but this week in this column I admit I’m way behind. I unearthed a report released more than two years ago, but which contains such informational dynamite, its contents are worth dissecting even two years hence. So here goes.
I’ve often wondered why inflation is so clearly rampaging well beyond levels reported by the federal government. Case in point: On a fairly regular basis I buy 10 pound bags of carrots at my local Harris Teeter grocery store. When I started buying them two summers ago, a 10-pound bag was retailing for $3.99. It is now selling for $5.99.
A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document — titled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West” — called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.
It’s no secret that foreign travel to the United States has fallen off dramatically since 9/11. The number of visitors from countries outside of Canada and Mexico is down 17 percent while travel worldwide is up 20 percent. Visitors from Japan are down 27 percent.
The result is we’re losing out on billions of dollars in tourism and business travel. One study puts the loss since 2000 at $116 billion in visitor spending and taxes and 200,000 jobs.
At Freedom Motors, the place to go for pre-owned vehicles (or used cars, in the old-fashioned manner of speaking), the salesmen are busy dealing with customers who ask why the Iraq Touring Convertible sold in 2003 has turned out to be such a dangerous and unreliable vehicle.
The salesmen are exasperated by these pesky customers and their complaints. They can’t understand why they are making such a big deal just because most of the claims about this jalopy have turned out to be completely untrue.
For nearly six years now we’ve been hearing from politicians and pundits about how Sept. 11, 2001, “changed everything.” One especially unwelcome change wrought by that day has been that, ever since, large numbers of otherwise sane and sensible people continue to utter the most ridiculous things regarding the subject of terrorism.
Consider a column last week by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Ignatius wonders how the nation would react to a future terrorist attack. “Would the country come together to combat its adversaries,” he asks, “or would it pull farther apart?”
Rupert Murdoch, the international media mogul, is trying to buy The Wall Street Journal, and Bill Moyers of PBS is scared to death, not to mention angry.
Murdoch, he said in a diatribe on his TV show, is “to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power, he is carnivorous, all appetite, no taste. He’ll eat anything in his path …”
It is rare if not completely unheard of to find a book about sports that is really about something far more profound — the human condition and the impact of a game that helped change if not entirely improve it.