And the Livin's Sleazy

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As summer rolls in, Berkeley shifts from the frenetic, scrambled nature of finals into a slow, easy-living style befitting the kind of students that need to stick around for summer school. Some are starting up the high-powered internship that we "would have gotten if we didn't party so darn much," but overall, things mellowed as the year came to an end.

Berkeley in the summer becomes the kind of restive, small village the locals love to brag about, kind of like Mr. Wilson's house when Dennis the Menace is gone-slow, but a good slow. The bars aren't crowded, Telegraph seems almost quaint, and a sun-drenched Tilden screams "eat mushrooms in me!"

But while you are here for the summer, whether for school, work or just to keep that healthy distance between you and your parents, do not succumb to the temptation of getting lost in the pleasant Bay Area temperatures and counting your chest hairs by the pool.

This is not the summer to lay low, and it is definitely not the summer of love. Someday soon, we may be able to spend our summers in a hammock, painting our chests and drinking cold Pabst, but not when our president has stuck the United States's collective fist right into a hornet's nest.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I plan to plug in my mini-fridge, load up on the pineapple juice and settle into a summer of watching C-Span. There will be some outlandish campaign antics going down, and as P.T. Barnum once said, "You will have to see it to believe it." No matter who goes down for this prison abuse debauchery, I expect to hear all sorts of craziness coming from Washington. Coming soon in July: "War is Peace."

Last week Bush asked for another $25 billion (yes, with a "B") from Congress which, when added to the $75 billion from April of last year and $87 billion from September, brings the total for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to $165 billion. That is quite a hefty sum of money, especially when conservative estimates place the Iraq conflict alone costing about $5 billion per month with no end in sight.

The Iraq war has turned President Bush into a kind of hapless plumber, bungling things up then sheepishly returning to Congress to ask for more time and money. First we were going to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but now we realize that he wasn't the only problem, and the whole situation has gone to hell. We have been in Iraq for more than 14 months now and not only are the pipes still broken, but the whole basement is flooded.

And really, the pictures of prison abuse aren't helping anything. Should we have classified those pictures? Should we have classified the picture of a cargo plane filled with flag-draped coffins? Should we have classified the cost of the war and possibly the fact that we are even fighting it?

The answer to each of these questions is: "of course not." Sure, these pictures are unpleasant, but burying your head in the sand gives government leaders carte blanche to do whatever they want. The only check on the U.S. government is not the international community or the United Nations-it is public opinion in the United States. When U.S. polls, e-mails and letters talk, politicians listen. However, when the government knows no one is watching, they can do what they want, which is often far from your best interests.

But don't let the unpleasantness keep you from staying on top of the U.S. situation in Iraq. It is U.S. money being spent in Iraq and U.S. goodwill being used up, so you better make sure you know where these two things are going. Whether you like it or not, Bush is waging war in Iraq in your name.

Bad news begets bad news. Who will have to fight the next war Bush gets us into? Our generation. Who will have to pay off the $489 billion deficit for 2003? Our generation. Dick Cheney told us that "Deficits don't matter." Well, Dick, as I understand it, bonds pay off deficits, and taxes pay off bonds.

So take stock of what is being perpetrated in your name, or 30 years from now we will look back on this summer as the turning point that never happened. It may be tempting to sit on the porch, tanning your skinny legs and spraying the dog with the hose, but you don't have the luxury to ignore the craziness happening in Washington because eventually, it will find its way to your lap.

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