Ross Mackenzie

President Bush has declared major combat over in Iraq, as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has declared it over in Afghanistan. But elsewhere, big things are happening....

The Saudis - those ever-constant, ever-smiling friends of the West - are sending American forces packing, except a few who will train Saudi troops. The Saudis who run the place play double games. They help us, but at arm's length. They sell us oil, but manipulate the price. They claim friendship with the United States while their citizens fly planes into our buildings; more broadly, they finance our terror enemies. They allow us to use their Prince Sultan Air Base (etc.), but then draw a veil to hide American forces from Saudi eyes. For half a century, Saudi royals have looked to Washington for protection - accepting our weapons and our might, then telling us to leave.

Here at home, the unconscionable Democrats, primarily those who opposed the president in going after Saddam, persist in opposing his nominees to the federal courts. The Republicans were not blameless on court nominees by President Clinton, but these days the Democrats make the Republicans of the Clinton years look like Little Leaguers. Given the close partisan split in the Senate, leftie Dems are redefining the math to require 60 votes on key nominees. The Republicans should redraw the rules to require only 51 votes to break a filibuster.

In California, Gov. Gray Davis dreamed of a run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then came the power crisis - and brownouts, and Enron, and soaring costs to consumers. Comes now the $35-billion state budget deficit, increasing by $21 million per day - with state spending having grown at twice the rate of state tax revenues during the past four years. With an economy bigger than that of all but a few countries, California's government is behaving like a banana republic regime. Governor Davis' approval ratings have slumped to just 24 percent, and there's a serious voter effort to have him recalled.

Nine of Wall Street's biggest investment houses have paid $1.4 billion in fines for unbecoming (even criminal) behavior. Essentially, the houses were on the take to companies whose stock they recommended buying. Investment advice is only as good as the integrity of the house that provides it. Tainted and biased research and recommendations can cost investors dearly. If litigation ensues, as it likely will, $1.4 billion in fines may mount to many billions in criminal fees - with some of the guilty paying with years of their lives.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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