FUBAR

The Iraq-Vietnam parallels

Some columnists, commentators and politicians, especially on the right, have been reluctant to acknowledge parallels between the Vietnam War and our current war in Iraq.

Nevertheless, the two have a lot in common: Undeclared by Congress, both wars emerged from murky motives, both were fought against a cultural backdrop that we didn’t fully understand but insisted on interpreting in terms of our own values, and both had uncertain goals and slippery definitions of victory. Why are we surprised that Iraq has turned into a Vietnamlike quagmire?

Baseball’s shame

My three sons very seldom agree on anything. In fact a get-together often resembles gorillas squabbling over who is the real Alpha Male with each using his own athletic prowess as proof and then asking their sister to referee.

Rules? We don’t obey rules

Americans rightly admire our troops for their bravery, dedication and integrity.

The Marines, for instance, are renowned for abiding by an honorable code — as warriors and as individuals in civilian life.

They epitomize the rectitude of America’s soldiers.

But a recently disclosed Pentagon study — little noted in the media — has seemingly cast a shadow over our troops. The study of U.S. combat troops in Iraq finds that less than half of the soldiers and Marines surveyed would report a team member for breaches of the military’s ethics rules.

Plame loses another round in court

The ex-spy whose unmasking led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide cannot disclose the dates she worked for the CIA because the details were never declassified, a federal judge has ruled.

The decision, made public on Friday by U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, was a victory for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which sought to block former agent Valerie Plame Wilson from including the dates in her upcoming memoir, “Fair Game.”

Soldiers convicted of rape, murder in Iraq

A military jury found a soldier guilty of rape and murder in the slayings of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and her family, despite testimony that cast doubt on his involvement.

Jurors deliberated much of Friday evening before convicting Army Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 22, of conspiracy to commit rape, rape, housebreaking with intent to commit rape and four counts of felony murder.

He faces a mandatory life sentence when a sentencing hearing begins Saturday. The jury will decide if he will be eligible for parole.

A bridge too far

And so our latest true-life, made-for-cable-TV disaster unfolds.

Remember the talk about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure after levees failed during Hurricane Katrina? Remember those SUV-eating sinkholes in Brooklyn? Remember the report that $120 billion a year is wasted on road repairs because our highways are decaying? Remember when the electric grid caused a power blackout that affected millions? Remember the Hawaii dam that collapsed, killing seven people? How about the analysis that 13,000 highway fatalities each year occur because of congestion or poor maintenance and design?

The value of loyalty

Some years ago through a newspaper ad, I found a roofing contractor to put a tar roof on an addition to my home. It was a sweltering July day. When I arrived from work, I found the roofing crew, all Mexicans, spreading the hot tar on the flat roof.

Seeing them toil in the blazing sun, I climbed the ladder to offer them some cold drinks, and we struck up a conversation. I asked the crew leader how long he had been doing this kind of work. For ten years, he said.

“Ten years? Why don’t you start your own roofing company?”

The news from Wall Street is not good

Newspapers today still count for something — and in some societies they can count for a great deal.

That Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. are to become the new proprietors of The Wall Street Journal is a matter of concern not only for us in America. It is a matter of interest for everyone in the world — especially, with the rise of China, for Asians. The quality of American society overall, from the White House to the newsroom, has impact elsewhere. World stability depends on well-informed political decision-making, including and especially in Washington.

American ethnic cleansing?

On a cross-country road trip more than three decades ago, I visited the Jackson County museum in Oregon. I remember one display in particular about the Chinese community there.

An exhibit card apologized for the forced removal and intimidation of its Chinese citizens. That community acknowledged the racist attitudes and behaviors of the late 1800s, later legislated into the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

‘Sicko’ needs a fact physical

In his new movie “Sicko,” Michael Moore uses a clip of my appearance earlier this year on “The O’Reilly Factor” to introduce a segment on the glories of Canadian health care. Moore adores the Canadian system. I do not.