FUBAR

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.

A double standard on free speech

Suppose you’re a U.S. citizen concerned about some issue or the other –something happening to the environment, maybe, or perhaps a seeming injustice.

You’ve composed careful letters to members of Congress, showed up at political forums and written op-ed pieces for the local paper, and you seem to be making no progress whatsoever. You are one of 300 million in this country, and those numbers seem to sum up your influence: You are a minuscule fraction of the whole, an unheard, unheeded whisper in a mighty, roaring crowd.

Then you bump into an idea.

Paris Hilton mania is a societal shortfall

Paris Hilton says that being in lockup for a few weeks was traumatic. I think being shot at in Iraq would be traumatic — not taking a little time off from having every whim satisfied on a whim. Nonetheless, different folks have different levels of trauma-handling ability. She apparently reached hers. (The lovely Paris was sent to jail for driving on a suspended license following a DUI charge. And good for that judge.)

Troubling signs from the Supremes

The impact of the Supreme Court’s latest First Amendment rulings is well defined in one case and not so in the other, leaving a host of special interests applauding wildly and those who believe that student speech is as protected as any other shaken.

The practical result of the court’s 5-4 decision to allow issue ads before an election that mention a specific candidate probably will be to substantially increase the cost of the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, already approaching a record of over $1 billion.

CIA still hiding a lot

While the CIA is lauded for releasing 700 pages documenting some of its most egregious 1950-1970 abuses, critics say the US spy agency remains secretive about its current controversial activities, critics said.

“We don’t know everything that’s going on today. But it seems to me there’s already enough evidence to conclude that things are not so different today,” said David Barrett, political scientist at Villanova University, author of a 2005 book on the CIA and Congress in the 1940s and 1950s, speaking to the New York Times.

A fitting end to a stupid suit

The case of the $67 million pants — the plaintiff later generously knocked it down to $54 million — is over for the time being, but for a week or so it vied with Paris Hilton in the public attention paid to jurisprudence.

But this case was sadder than that of the jailbird heiress and also more serious.

The background: After three years of unemployment, Washington attorney Roy Pearson finally netted a good job and treated himself to a $1,000 suit. He took it to his local dry cleaners for $10.50 in alterations.