No rest for the weary

Looks like the United States won’t be freed anytime soon from the burdensome role its troops have played — largely by default — as Europe and others turn to for emergency military help.

In 2002, now-ex-Pentagon chief Don Rumsfeld proposed the establishment of a NATO “rapid-reaction force” that could be quickly deployed to the Balkans or any other regional hot spot to serve as peacekeepers to quell violence before it spreads or respond fast to terrorist attacks.

The end of privacy

It suddenly turns out that U.S. intelligence agencies have been gathering much more information about American citizens than anyone thought or is appropriate and the nation’s largest communications companies have been part and parcel of these activities. Is anyone really surprised?

Serving those who stand and wait

With a certain smug national self-satisfaction, it is called the “classic American success story.” A young lad — or lass, for that matter — of no particular advantage or solvency starts at the very bottom and through pluck, spunk, moxie and other vaguely obscene-sounding virtues works his way to the top of some huge enterprise.

Nowhere is that more true than in Washington, D.C., a capital whose very fuel is plucky young people, a city of limitless opportunity because there is plenty of room at the bottom and, when the electorate rouses itself, a lot of turnover at the top.

Stopping Internet porn

To hear my male peers tell it, when we were young one of them might stumble across — or somehow purloin (sometimes from a father’s stash) — the rare Playboy magazine.

And that would pretty much have to last the entire neighborhood of adolescent boys about a year, until the next one came along. That’s all they got until maybe they saw a pornographic movie in their fraternity basement.

And along the way it was pretty clear they were doing something secret, unusual, out of the norm. Not okay.

Guest worker all-stars

There can’t be many baseball fans that are still surprised by lineups of big leaguers whose names end in “guez” or “rez” or “ina.” Count ‘em: Rodriguezes, Ramirezes, Hernandezes, Gonzalezes, Perezes, Vazquezes, not to mention the Zambranos, Cabreras, Encarnacions, Suzukis, Matsuis, and Kims. Is there still a major league catcher not named Molina?

Raining cash on the wrong people

As the Senate debates a five-year, $286 billion agriculture-subsidy extravaganza, consider the heartwarming rhetoric about saving family farms. Who ever imagined such families included the Rockefellers?

As the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG.org) priceless Farm Subsidy Database reveals, philanthropist Mark Rockefeller received $228,350 in conservation subsidies between 2001 and 2005 for his Idaho farm. His brother, banking legend David Rockefeller, scored $29,615, thanks to his Hudson Valley farm.

No match, no papers, no problem

It is said politics makes strange bedfellows. In this case, let’s call it bizarre bedfellows. There are few issues on which I normally agree with Colorado conservative Rep. Tom Tancredo. But when it comes to illegal immigration, we’re somewhat in sync.

U.S. ready to sack Blackwater

A State Department review of private security guards for diplomats in Iraq is unlikely to recommend firing Blackwater USA over the deaths of 17 Iraqis last month, but the company probably is on the way out of that job, U.S. officials said.

Blackwater’s work escorting U.S. diplomats outside the protected Green Zone in Baghdad expires in May, one official said Wednesday, and other officials told The Associated Press they expect the North Carolina company will not continue to work for the embassy after that.

More spy abuse by FBI, Pentagon

The Pentagon has misled Congress and the US public by conniving with the FBI to obtain hundreds of financial, telephone and Internet records without court approval, civil-rights campaigners said Sunday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has successfully challenged key planks of US anti-terrorism legislation, said it had uncovered 455 “National Security Letters” (NSLs) issued at the behest of the Department of Defense.

A howl of protest

That screech you hear is the sound of brakes being applied to the Army’s plans to replace the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arguably the most sacred spot in America, the majestic white sarcophagus has developed cracks and the elements have eroded its marble surface, rendering its inscriptions less distinct.