Another good reason to not bomb Iran

It’s tempting to think of all Iranians in terms of the mob that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 or the intemperate remarks of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Israel and the Holocaust. But certain recent events in Iran provide insight into what its people are really like and why we shouldn’t be hasty about dropping bombs on them.

Hurry up and wait for citizenship

A wave of citizenship applications has overwhelmed US officials, leading to waits of more than a year, potentially keeping immigrants out of the voting booth for the 2008 presidential election.

The US agency that examines applications said Wednesday that it had received 1.4 million appeals for citizenship, almost double the number over the year before, and despite hiring some 1,500 employees to deal with the backlog, would-be citizens face long delays.

‘We’re on the wrong course’

Julie Murray says life is good. Yet gasoline prices are crimping her grocery budget, she can’t afford a larger house, and she says President Bush is not focused enough on people’s problems at home.

“My husband and I are happy,” said Murray, 46, a homemaker from Montpelier, Miss. “We just wish we could buy more into the American dream.”

State finds enough suckers for Iraq posts

The State Department said on Monday it had now found enough volunteers to serve in Iraq and would not have to force diplomats to go there.

Last month, in an announcement that angered many diplomats, the State Department said it might order staff to Iraq against their will if it could not fill 48 vacant spots in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad next summer.

However, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said all of the posts had now been filled by volunteers and there would be no need for “directed” assignments to the war zone.

Contractors get rich off U.S. wars

US contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2006 to over 25 billion dollars but government oversight of the firms involved has slackened, a watchdog group said Monday.

“While the billions of dollars involved and the complexity of these war-related contracts has only grown, the lack of oversight has been staggering,” said Bill Buzenberg, head of the Center for Public Integrity.

Hate crimes on the rise

Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year, the FBI reported Monday, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against blacks and other minorities.

Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.

The new normal

Soon after 9/11, the term “new normal” came into use to describe activities that before that cataclysmic event would have seemed strange if not downright weird but are now regarded as routine.

Bonds & his records must go

Now that the next spike has dropped in the matter of Barry Bonds, the question on the lips of anyone who cares — including a host of fathers and grandfathers of young wannabes — is what the good old boys who run Major League Baseball are ultimately going to do about it.

While politicians lie, more Iraqis die

A familiar pattern: The Bush Administration claims progress in Iraq so militants there step up the carnage to prove that they, not American troops, control the country.

While administration spokesmen claimed a drop in the level of violence in that civil war-torn country, bombs killed 20 over the weekend.

And, amid all the bloodshed, White House propagandists continued to spread the lie that things are improving in Iraq.

Business as usual: Politicians lie while Iraqis and Americans die.

Bracing for the air travel crunch

Perhaps President Bush is looking ahead to January 2009, when he must give up his personal jetliner, Air Force One, and his personal chopper, Marine One, and begin flying commercial. He, of course, will receive VIP treatment, but even so, if his plane is delayed, so will he.

And the odds of that happening are unhappily good and getting better. A year of record air travel has also been a year of record low punctuality, with about one-fourth of all flights arriving late.