FUBAR

Spying needs a human touch

The day of the spy-in-the-sky approach to intelligence gathering may be coming to an end, plagued by cost overruns and systems so complex they take too long to perfect and probably most importantly are increasingly less useful in the age of terrorism.

Was Pat Tillman murdered?

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

Finally getting the message

Droughts in the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic United States. Floods in Texas, Southern England, China, Pakistan, Colombia and, of all places, Sudan. Watch global weather reports and, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way global warming is blowing. It’s blowing your way, and fast.

Let’s hope Congress “knows,” when the House takes up a historic measure, possibly as soon as next week, to raise automobile fuel-economy standards for the first time in almost 30 years.

Shaping the school day

When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, it was seen, for good or ill, as a federal intrusion into an area — elementary and secondary education — that was traditionally a local and state prerogative.

Now comes evidence that over the five years of the act it has reshaped, often in major fashion, the school day, particularly in the elementary schools.

The gospel according to ‘Deadwood’

With the DVD release of its third, and final, season, I’d like to suggest that HBO’s “Deadwood” is the finest theological drama ever made for an otherwise dismal medium.

I realize that for many familiar with this series, my assertion will seem perverse. The drama’s violence and profanity make HBO’s far more successful “The Sopranos” almost seem like fodder for the Disney Channel. I also realize that theology was probably the last thing of which David Milch, the executive producer, expected to be accused.

The last great hope of society

Today’s column is about class and American society. Please do not run for the hills immediately because I write as a man of the people. Maybe you will thank me later. (Foolish me, I always live in hope.)

The question of the day is: What makes a classy person in the best sense of the word? Wearing an ascot and looking a perfect chump at a cocktail party won’t do it, even if you complete your ensemble with red or green pants decorated with little whales.

Yet, I myself have been tempted on occasion to don an ascot for a night out and was only saved by a spousal death-ray stare.

The lessons of Michael Vick

In an essay about a trip to Morocco, George Orwell noted that it took him several weeks to notice the means by which firewood was being carried past his house. Under each of the enormous loads was a tiny old woman, almost mummified by the sun and by decades of hard labor.

Follow the money

It was one of those ideas that look great on paper: Sock drivers convicted of serious driving offenses with super-fines — up to $3,000 extra — and devote the money to highway improvements.

Virginia, following New Jersey and Michigan, enacted such a law. It went into effect July 1 and already the state is having second thoughts, a cautionary lesson for states thinking of doing likewise.

Enhanced or inhuman?

Friday afternoon, the White House’s preferred time for actions to which it wishes to draw minimal attention, President Bush issued a long-awaited executive order on torture.

We’re against it. Sort of.

The order requires U.S. interrogators to obey the international Geneva Conventions regarding prisoners that bar “humiliating and degrading treatment,” serious enough that any “reasonable person” would deem it “beyond the bounds of human decency.”

Dangerous daily drives

Doug Marlette, an editorial cartoonist best known for his syndicated comic strip “Kudzu,” was killed in a car wreck in Mississippi recently. On the previous Friday he had delivered the eulogy at his father’s funeral in North Carolina, and on Tuesday, July 10, he was on his way to Oxford to help a group of high-school students mount a production of “Kudzu: A Southern Musical.”