ThinkFast: August 21, 2006

Iraqi insurgents killed 20 people and injured 300 as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered for a holy Shiite festival over the weekend. But in a sign of just how routine the intense sectarian bloodshed in the capital has become, the U.S. military reported “relatively little violence.”

U.S. Postal Service gone wild. As the top executive at the USPS, Azeezaly Jaffer “ran up $8,252 staying at a Washington hotel suite,” “blew $3,486.33 in one evening for steak dinners and a bar-hopping binge,” and “tipped two lucky waiters $1,511.66 following a seafood dinner.” It was “all on the Postal Service’s dime.”

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said President Bush should stop viewing the world “from the position of a superpower” and Vice President Cheney should “calm down” and stop criticizing Russian leaders. The U.S. should understand that “leadership should be done not by domination, not by becoming a policeman in the world, but by being a partner,” Gorbachev.

The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate, the federal research agency in charge of countering emerging terrorist threats such as liquid explosives, is so hobbled by poor leadership, weak financial management, and inadequate technology that Congress is on the verge of cutting its budget in half. Lawmakers call the agency a “rudderless ship.”

82 percent. Number of Katrina victims who say their lives are still not back to normal, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 43 percent of Americans believe the federal government has failed to learn from Hurricane Katrina and the nation is no better prepared for a major disaster than it was before.

“The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.” William Burr, who compiled the report for The National Security Archive, said the move represented one of the “more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy.”

Violent crime is “on the rise” in cities across America, “fueling criticism of Bush administration policies as a wave of murders and shootings hits smaller cities and states with little experience with serious urban violence.”

The economic slowdown. Recession appears unlikely but “The job market is now tepid, consumers are tempering their spending, and inventories – from women’s apparel to computer hard drives – are starting to rise.”

And finally: “Conservatism is widely seen as having the upper hand” in country music, but Nashville artists on the left have grown frustrated with that reputation and are starting to speak out. A sample from “W Cheese,” written by Darrell Scott: “They filled our plate with freedom fries, red, black and blue, white lies/And a helping, heaping, hating size of stinkin’ W cheese.”