Rich Tucker

Bad news, folks. We’re winning in Iraq.

According to a front page story in The Washington Post, “The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group.”

Wait -- isn’t that good news? As Charlie Gibson put it on ABC’s World News Tonight, “One item from Baghdad, today. The news is that there is no news. The police told us that to their knowledge, there were no major acts of violence. Attacks are down in Baghdad, and today, no bombings or roadside explosions were reported.”

Oh, come on, Post. Come on, ABC. You’re not trying hard enough. Any story can be bad news if you’re willing to dig deep enough.

Luckily for us, the Baghdad bureau of McClatchy Newspapers did just that. “A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months,” Jay Price and Qasim Zein reported. “That’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.”

See, finding the bad news is easy. The reporters even managed to find a struggling, out-of-work deathworker to comment. “Certainly, when the number of dead increases I feel happy, like all workers in the graveyard,” 30-year-old Basim Hameed lamented. “This happiness comes from the increase in the amount of money we have.”

Well, maybe not.

Few of us have more money than rock stars, yet that money can’t buy them love or, apparently, good health. A recent study of 1,000 rockers found that rockers are “two to three times more likely to suffer a premature death than the general population.” The Rolling Stones are the exception that proves the rule. Mark Bellis, the lead author of the study, suggests this may be because impoverished former rockers often lack health insurance.

There’s a simple solution to all this, and it’s amazing that nobody’s thought of it yet. We need to make rock stars eligible for SCHIP.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, that’s the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, launched in the 1990s to provide health care to children whose parents were too poor to purchase insurance.

Like all government programs, SCHIP is expanding, not contracting. This month lawmakers approved bill a bill that would have made government health care available to families that earn three times the federal poverty level, as much as $62,000 for a family of four. That earned a sensible, and -- sadly -- rare, veto from President Bush, a veto that’s now been upheld.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for