Bill: ‘I concur with Flynn M. – purchasing a house in the Bay area of California is a nightmare! My wife and I just started looking at buying a house in Pleasanton (about 30 miles due East of San Francisco). We’ve looked at houses in the $500k-$650k range – average houses. We saw a ‘fixer-upper’ at $530k! We may have to move 30 miles away just to get an average house for $350k! Crazy.’


‘Some conservatives credit Mr. Bush with an ingenious plan to starve the government beast: the huge tax cuts will eventually force huge spending cuts. But this is rather like praising an alcoholic for his ingenious scheme to quit the bottle by drinking himself into bankruptcy.’ – The Economist, July 3, 2003


‘To address concerns about the savage violence engulfing ‘postwar’ Iraq with a cocksure ‘Bring `em on!’ as [President Bush] did last week . . . showed a lack of capacity to identify either with enraged Iraqis who must rise to such a taunt or with young GIs who must now answer for it. . . .‘ – James Carroll

☞ And several of you sent me this, from the Austin, Texas paper:

Bush’s Bring ’em on speech rings hollow as he cuts benefits for soldiers, veterans
Thursday, July 10, 2003

Many veterans, like me, are still shaking their heads in disbelief over President Bush’s recent bluster about the Iraqi opposition killing our troops one by one almost every day. “Bring ’em on,” said Bush, sounding like a character out of a bad Hollywood movie or an ad for TV wrestling.

It’s impossible to imagine Dwight Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy uttering something so shallow. But Bush knows his audience: millions of baby boomer men who missed military service but who still harbor adolescent fantasies of guns, glory and conquest. These are the same men whose pulses raced over Bush’s “Top Gun” performance on an aircraft carrier, a piece of bravado that left many veterans appalled.

The Bush administration, playing Roman empire overseas, is starting to treat its own citizens like a Roman mob, manipulating us with spectacles, theatrics and cheap taunts at an enemy while our soldiers are in harm’s way.

When I was in the Army, we had a term for officers in love with themselves when they were armed and in uniform. We called them “showboats.”

This was a term used as a warning to other soldiers. Showboats would get you killed because of their vanity, their poor judgment and their machismo.

Showboats were to be avoided at all costs. We preferred officers who were cynics and fatalists like us, and quietly secure enough to rely on the usually more experienced sergeants they commanded. Such officers understood that war is always a tragedy, sometimes an unavoidable one, and not an adventure.

Officers like that were outnumbered by showboats. Infantry grunts knew that. We now have a government full of showboats, many of whom never served.

Every report coming back from Iraq says that our troops’ morale is bouncing off rock bottom. They’re in urban combat; it’s miserably hot; they’re increasingly hated by the Iraqis. There’s nowhere to escape the heat, the hostility and the threat of death.

There is no exit strategy; people like U.S, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, have concluded we’ll be in Iraq for years.

Not you and me, of course. Some unlucky 20-year-old with a flak jacket, helmet and 30 pounds of gear in 110-degree heat, a nervous human target facing angry Iraqis, among whom could be an assassin or a suicide bomber.

The situation is not much different in Afghanistan, our other even more forgotten war, where our control extends to a small perimeter surrounding Afghan President Hamid Kharzai. The rest of the country is back in the hands of warlords or religious fanatics.

Bush has inexplicably acquired a reputation as a friend of the military, but it’s based on symbolism rhetoric.

Not only are our military fronts in a grave state, but Bush has cut the budgets that help soldiers overseas. Even the Army Times complained about Bush’s cuts in a lead editorial on June 30. The White House opposed a doubling, to $6,000, of the benefits paid to families when a soldier dies in combat. In October, the White House announced a planned rollback in monthly “imminent danger” pay and in family separation allowances, even though the military is turning to reserve forces.

The White House also cut budgets for upgrading military housing, and it proposed caps in pay rates for the lowest ranks of enlisted personnel.

It also whacked veterans’ benefits, cutting $14.6 billion over 10 years.

Bush is waging war on the working families of soldiers, too, by changing the rules on who is eligible for overtime pay, attacking trade unions, cutting social service benefits, and rewarding his wealthy friends with tax cuts.

Congress is blameworthy too, led by flag-waving military service evaders such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Out of 535 members, only Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has a son serving in Iraq.

The hypocrisy of this administration and its allies in Congress is breathtaking. Then again showboats are a type who are usually objects of comic scorn.

When are Americans going to come to their senses about their government?

Chapman is director of The 21st Century Project at the LBJ School. Contact him at

Enough craziness for one morning.

Monday: Crazy Hospital Charges


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