FUBAR

So many enemies, so little time

It would be nice — or at least more convenient — if America could fight just one enemy at a time. But that’s seldom how it works.

World War II was called a world war for a reason: President Franklin Roosevelt might have preferred to take on only Imperial Japan, the nation that had attacked us. Instead, he had to lead the country into battle also against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He had to fight not only in the Pacific but in North Africa and Europe as well.

Is talk of terrorism off limits?

Listen to some pundits and you’d think no one should ever mention the possibility of terrorist attacks in this country and that a few terrorist strikes here and there would be no big thing, anyway. Hey, we have auto accidents, don’t we?

A skewed look at America

“Are We Rome?” asks a new book, authored by an editor at Vanity Fair magazine. The subtitle is “The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America.”

It seems, given the dour mood of the country, that this would be a good time to market such a book. And, indeed, as I check its sales clip on Amazon, it seems to be moving at a brisk pace that must please both author and publisher.

So, is America creaking and crumbling like a latter-day Rome?

Freedom of speech takes a hit

The verdict is still out on whether the First Amendment has a strong voice of support among conservatives on the Supreme Court. Although Justice Samuel Alito says he is a staunch defender of free expression in both speech and print and that presumably includes the Internet, his recent end-of-the-term votes on two cases made it unclear just how staunch.

A few inconvenient truths

The Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame Wilson controversy threatens to linger for months. Exhibit A is the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing Wednesday on President Bush’s commutation of the former vice-presidential aide’s jail sentence. He was convicted of lying about his role in identifying Plame as a CIA officer.

Stealth inflation

I usually try to be timely, but this week in this column I admit I’m way behind. I unearthed a report released more than two years ago, but which contains such informational dynamite, its contents are worth dissecting even two years hence. So here goes.

I’ve often wondered why inflation is so clearly rampaging well beyond levels reported by the federal government. Case in point: On a fairly regular basis I buy 10 pound bags of carrots at my local Harris Teeter grocery store. When I started buying them two summers ago, a 10-pound bag was retailing for $3.99. It is now selling for $5.99.

While U.S. dallied, al-Qaida rebuilt

A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.

A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document — titled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West” — called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

The land is not your land

It’s no secret that foreign travel to the United States has fallen off dramatically since 9/11. The number of visitors from countries outside of Canada and Mexico is down 17 percent while travel worldwide is up 20 percent. Visitors from Japan are down 27 percent.

The result is we’re losing out on billions of dollars in tourism and business travel. One study puts the loss since 2000 at $116 billion in visitor spending and taxes and 200,000 jobs.

Have we got a deal for you

At Freedom Motors, the place to go for pre-owned vehicles (or used cars, in the old-fashioned manner of speaking), the salesmen are busy dealing with customers who ask why the Iraq Touring Convertible sold in 2003 has turned out to be such a dangerous and unreliable vehicle.

The salesmen are exasperated by these pesky customers and their complaints. They can’t understand why they are making such a big deal just because most of the claims about this jalopy have turned out to be completely untrue.

Getting a grip on terrorism

For nearly six years now we’ve been hearing from politicians and pundits about how Sept. 11, 2001, “changed everything.” One especially unwelcome change wrought by that day has been that, ever since, large numbers of otherwise sane and sensible people continue to utter the most ridiculous things regarding the subject of terrorism.

Consider a column last week by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Ignatius wonders how the nation would react to a future terrorist attack. “Would the country come together to combat its adversaries,” he asks, “or would it pull farther apart?”