As Abu Ghraib fades in the news somewhat, the presidential contest heats up. But other topics worthy of comment abound. . . .
The Pentagon apparently has no plans to request a return to the military draft; the White House apparently doesn't either. How odd. The nation is at war. Recruitment is struggling. The Army is (1) extending service commitments, (2) recalling to active duty 5,600 recently departed service veterans to help address personnel needs in Afghanistan and Iraq, and (3) swearing in enlistees scheduled for 2005 induction early so as to meet 2004 recruitment goals. The Senate has approved increasing the Army's strength by 20,000. The Navy and Air Force, although cutting overall complements, often cannot fill designated billets.
If not a draft, then how about a program of compulsory universal service for all men and women 18-23 - no exceptions but the severely handicapped, one year, with a front-end military component of several months followed by non-military civilian service? Not only would it help meet military shortages; it also would broaden understanding of the military in society at large. And it would build a sense of give-back service in this culture of the young.
The Forest Service has proposed a rule to limit the use of all-terrain recreational vehicles (ATVs) that destroy solitude and gouge the landscape. National forest use of ATVs has soared sevenfold in the past 30 years. Yes, it would be elitist to forbid ATVs in forests, just as it would be to forbid snowmobiles in Yellowstone and other national parks; the forests belong not only to karma-seeking greens. But it is neither elitist nor unfair to restrict the ATVs to certain areas and certain trails, even to certain forests. And it is past time to do so.
With its sidestepping of the "under God" Pledge of Allegiance case (would an invalidation of the phrase have served to re-elect President Bush?), and with its refusal to overturn an appellate ruling against Virginia Military Institute's dinner prayer, the Supreme Court hastened its own rush into incoherence.
A review of the 50 state constitutions finds 41 favorably citing "God." Eight of the remaining nine cite the "supreme ruler of the universe" (Colorado and Missouri), the "sovereign ruler of the universe" (Maine), the "great legislator of the universe" (Massachusetts), the "creator" (Delaware and Virginia), the "supreme being" (Iowa), and the "author of existence" (Vermont). Hawaii, finally, stipulates its gratitude "for divine guidance." It's enough to cause one to conclude the authors and ratifiers of the 50 state constitutions knew something too many today, including the Supremes, prefer to forget.
How is it commendable or prudent or a subject of pride that in the United States not a single oil refinery has been built in more than 25 years?
In his strange autobiography, Bill Clinton notes his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky was "immoral and foolish," his "relationship" with Gennifer Flowers one he "should not have had." He also mentions, albeit negatively, Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones. Alas, he fails to reference alleged encounters with, let's see: Dolly Kyle Browning, Connie Hamzy, Sally Perdue, Bobbie Ann Williams, Sandra Allen James, Christy Zercher, Juanita Broaddrick, Eileen Wellstone, Lencola Sullivan, Susie Whiteacre or Elizabeth Ward.
And speaking of predation, the first Roman Catholic diocese, in Portland, Ore., has been driven into bankruptcy by predatory priests who demanded sex from the young - mostly boys. Announcement of the bankruptcy filing came as jury selection was to begin in yet another trial, with millions already paid to successful litigants. The Portland diocese said, in effect, Enough. The diocese of Tucson, Ariz., may be next.
Given the lessons flowing from the damage done by primarily homosexual priests in Catholic dioceses, one wonders whether those lessons have been taken sufficiently to heart in key Protestant denominations - Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian - courting schism over such issues as homosexual marriage, blessed homosexual "civil" unions and non-celibate homosexuals in the ministry?
In the culture it's an anti-Bush tag-team, what with Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and - next up - publication of the ranting novella "Checkpoint" scheduled for just before the Republican convention. In an interview, "Checkpoint" author Nicholson Baker, who has written deeply about an escalator ride and phone-sex, terms President Bush "beyond the beyond."
Bill Cosby keeps on. In May he blasted many young African-Americans for failing to take advantage of opportunities earned by the civil rights movement. On July 1, addressing Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH in Chicago, he lamented those who "think they're hip (although) they can't read (and) they can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere." And: "For me there is a time . . . when we have to turn the mirror around. Because for me it is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us. And it keeps a person frozen in their seat. It keeps you frozen in your hole you're sitting in."