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Is There Anything American About America Anymore?

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Sometimes I wonder where they took my country when I wasn’t looking. It's been dragged off, sealed in a box and hidden in the basement under a pile of recyclables.

Strange things have happened and they are not all attributable to the war in Iraq or a pitiable Congress tied down in the Capitol like Gulliver.
(Associated Press) CHICAGO - Chicago's police department is investigating an officer's use of a Taser last month on an 82-year-old woman who was swinging a hammer when police arrived.

Officials with the city's Department on Aging went to Lillian Fletcher's home Oct. 29 to make a welfare check, and called police when they saw Fletcher in a window swinging a hammer back and forth . . . officers arrived and in an attempt to subdue Fletcher one of them used their Taser. The department is trying to determine if the officer violated department policy regarding the use of stun guns.

Lillian suffers from dementia and becomes easily confused, according to her granddaughter. A 20 year-old crack addict might be a threat, but you’d think Chicago’s finest would be able to handle an 82 year-old with nothing more in her hand than a hammer.

Elsewhere, Barry Bonds is indicted for using steroids, so his home run record will be stained, while A-Rod is reported to be negotiating a contract with the Yankees that would pay him $300 million if he can break Bonds’ record.
(USA TODAY, Bob Nightengale) Bonds' indictment sparks talk throughout baseball--Barry Bonds, baseball's all-time leading home run hitter, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about using steroids.

. . . indictment in San Francisco probably ends the 43-year-old slugger's career three months after he broke Hank Aaron's home run record under a cloud of suspicion about whether Bonds had taken performance-enhancing drugs. Now Bonds--a hulking symbol of an era in baseball that featured booming home runs and questions about whether steroids were tainting the game's integrity — could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Baseball has integrity? Who knew?
(Associated Press Report) Warren Buffett advised Alex Rodriguez to approach the New York Yankees and go around agent Scott Boras, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. . . "A-Rod really loves being a Yankee," Buffett was quoted as saying. He wouldn't comment on the substance of any discussions with the player.

. . . Rodriguez, on Boras' advice, opted out of the final three seasons of his record $252 million, 10-year contract Oct. 28. Upset with developments after he opted out, Rodriguez contacted Buffett, and the wealthy investor told him to approach the Yankees without his agent, the Journal said.

With the assistance of Goldman Sachs executives John Mallory and Gerald Cardinale, Rodriguez and the Yankees negotiated a $275 million, 10-year contract that is in the process of being finalized.

Well, there you have it. If Goldman Sachs and Warren Buffett don’t represent integrity, I don’t know who would.

The selective morality of Major League Baseball when it comes to guys like Bonds and Pete Rose, allows owners to flim-flam city after city for new stadiums without so much as a wink or a nod. Steinbrenner’s a stand-up guy and Pete and Barry are bums.

What a laugh.

My Washington Post cheerleads from its front page that
“Bush has bolstered morale inside the West Wing and rallied his Republican base through a strategy of confrontation with the Democratic Congress, built on the expansive use of his veto pen, then laments “yet none of this has particularly impressed the public at large, which remains skeptical that anything meaningful has changed and still gives Bush record-low approval ratings.”
There was a day when more was required of a president than bolstering morale among his own staff and confronting Congress with vetoes. (Clue to WaPo; you cheer the confronting of Congress when Congress is wrong and the president is right, not the other way around)

There was also a day (and it was not all that long ago) when Katherine Graham, owner of the Post, would have remained as skeptical as the public. But those were the days when it was a leading newspaper.

We are building a wall between ourselves and our Mexican neighbors;
Fence Lab scales new barriers--U.S. seeks blockade that will keep out crossers, but nicely

(Richard Marosi, Tribune Newspapers) SAN DIEGO - U.S. Border Patrol agents, sweating under a hot Texas sun, squared off against an array of fences. They swung axes at posts, used blowtorches to melt steel, tore through sheet metal with crowbars and scaled walls with ladders.

Government engineers rammed remote-control sport-utility vehicles loaded with 10,000 pounds of sand into the barricades at 40 m.p.h. Together, in a nine-week project called Fence Lab, they were trying to solve one of the nation's most vexing problems: how to find fencing strong enough to protect the U.S. from one of the largest human migrations in history, but sensitive enough to the fact that Mexico and the U.S. are friendly nations.

It hardly matters. You can’t go into Mexico or Canada anymore and get back without a passport and the Department of State can’t get you one. The wave and smile at our borders disappeared courtesy of Herr Chertoff and the Patriot Act.
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But I’ve found that when it comes to vexing problems, particularly the nation’s most vexing problems, the best place to get advice is in old East German Berlin. Those commies knew all about how to vex and a few of them are still around, running consultancies.

Vexing was a sort of specialty behind the Iron Curtain.

Don’t ask the likes of George Bush to pay any attention to an old has-been, like Ronald Reagan, who stood before that particular iron curtain shaking a moralistic finger and saying,
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Strange times. The dollar is worth half of what it was when Bush took over from that rogue Clinton, Richie Daley in Chicago actually thinks having the Olympics there would be a good idea, 45 million Americans have no health insurance and 35 million need a handout just to get food. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took a Republican Congress no one liked and chopped its approval rating in half, a restaurant's pimping a $25,0000 dessert in New York and even the writers have given up on TV.

Mine was a simpler time, when families survived on a single income and one car, if they were lucky. Kids played baseball in the street and stayed out until their moms called them home for dinner—a cooked dinner at an actual table. Hall-of-Fame great Ernie Banks played an entire career with the Chicago Cubs, made ten all-star teams and never topped $65,000 in salary.

Americans believed in their country, believed in each other, carved pumpkins on Halloween and worried about their sons being drafted. But they never tortured anyone--it just wouldn't occur to them-- and if the police stopped them or knocked on the door, they’d better have a damned good reason.
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Thursday is Thanksgiving and this is still the best country in the world. As hard as we are on ourselves and as wrongheaded as we seem to be at times, there are still more people trying to get in than we can take.
I guess that’s American.
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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)

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