Love & marriage? No kidding around

First comes love, then comes marriage — but these two things are no longer inextricably linked to nor necessarily followed by “the baby carriage.”

A new poll by the Pew Research Center finds that Americans are de-linking children as the sine qua non of successful marriages. In fact, they now tell pollsters they rate “having children” as the ninth most important out of 10 markers of successful marriages.

Land of the unfree

America is about slavery. It was this grotesque, anti-human institution that shaped our Constitution, and it was slavery that formed some of our most basic attitudes about government, producing destructive political behavior to this very day.

You can believe that story if you choose this Fourth of July week, or you can believe something else: that the historians who give vent to it are bunkum artists whose sensational revisionism achieves the double objective of getting them noticed and of debasing this remarkable land in which we live.

July 4th: Reflection & renewal

The Fourth of July celebrates community, local as well as national. Parades featuring people in uniform — scouts, firefighters and police as well as the military and others — traditionally are a fixture. Military uniforms remind us of the role of war in our history — and our present.

From ancient times, parades have been vital to the reintegration of warriors into society. War is profoundly disruptive and disturbing as well as dangerous. Even the rare man who finds combat invigorating and rewarding is in severe need of an honoring welcome after the killing ends.

Coverups spawn more coverups

On the night he became president of the United States under the most unprecedented of circumstances, Gerald Ford stood in the East Room of what was officially his new home and nailed the essence of governance in a single sentence: “I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together …” By that standard, the government of President Bush and Vice President Cheney came unglued long ago.

Is the Secret Service stretched too thin?

These are hectic times at the U.S. Secret Service, which faces a big-time security strain as the 2008 presidential campaign heats up.

The agency is planning to hire and train 103 agents to protect President Bush when he leaves office Jan. 20, 2009. And the scramble to replace him is expected to put an unprecedented burden on the Secret Service, which is already spending $44,000 a day on around-the-clock security for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Public fed up with Bush & Congress

Like twin Jacques Cousteaus of the political world, President Bush and Congress are probing the depths of public opinion polling as voters exasperated over Iraq, immigration and other issues give them strikingly low grades.

In a remarkable span, the approval that people voice for the job Bush is doing has sunk to record lows for his presidency in the AP-Ipsos and other polls in recent weeks, dipping within sight of President Nixon’s levels during Watergate. Ominously for Republicans hoping to hold the White House and recapture Congress next year, Bush’s support has plunged among core GOP groups like evangelicals, and pivotal independent swing voters.

Congress is doing about the same. Like Bush, lawmakers are winning approval by roughly three in 10. Such levels are significantly low for a president, and poor but less unusual for Congress.

A challenging time for our military

With little fanfare, in 2000 the U.S. Military Academy abandoned the Army Mule, its mascot since 1893, and reassumed its historical mascot, the Black Knight.

In the late 19th century nearly every soldier was familiar with mules, the ambiguous, long-eared offspring of a donkey and a horse. This sterile, double-natured beast performed much of our country’s hard labor in pre-mechanized days. Its virtues were catalogued by novelist William Faulkner: The mule was powerful, rugged, dependable and tenacious, able to bear almost any burden and endure nearly any abuse.

This fight can’t end well

President Bush and Congress are headed to a constitutional showdown that can’t help but end badly for one or the other or both.

The clash pits the right of Congress to conduct oversight over the operations of the executive branch against the right of the president to receive candid, unfettered advice in confidence from his aides.

Both House and Senate committees have issued subpoenas for documents and testimony and have threatened to go to court to enforce them if the subpoenas are not honored.

‘Sicko’ plays fast and loose with the facts

Michael Moore’s new movie, “Sicko,” should be called “Skipo,” since it skips over so many facts en route to government medicine.

An engaging and surprisingly funny Moore explores a grim topic: America’s problematic health-care system. HMOs and other managed-care companies often earn billions by just saying no to the gravely ill. Moore introduces us to real men, women and children who this industry has failed.

Taking a step backwards

In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that students could not be assigned to public schools solely because of their race. This past week, a deeply divided high court ruled, 5 to 4, that this is still the case.

But the social context has changed dramatically over the intervening 53 years. Back then, the racial criterion was a tool to keep black and white students apart. Now, school districts, often pursuant to court orders, assign on the basis of race to ensure that black and white students attend school together.