Is There Anybody Here with a Lick of Sense?

AUSTIN, Texas -- New nominations for the hotly contested "What Were They Thinking?" title, also known as, "Is There Anybody Here With a Lick of Sense?"


  • American Airlines' executive team wins Boneheads of the Month. The same day -- same day -- American's flight attendants followed its mechanics and pilots in voting to give back hundreds of millions of dollars in salary and benefits to keep the company out of bankruptcy, American revealed it had given huge bonuses to six top executives, presumably for their stellar work in driving the company to the edge of bankruptcy. American also provided millions more in extra pension benefits for 45 top executives.

    Honest to God, management made the announcement about the executive bonuses right after the polls had closed and the flight attendants had approved $340 million in annual concessions by a margin of 52.7 percent, the second time the attendants had been polled. The company's unions had voted to give back a total package worth $1.62 billion and hundreds will lose their jobs, and then they find out the top execs have given themselves big pay raises. Disgusting doesn't cover it. CEO Donald Carty, who makes $811,000 a year, would have gotten a $1.6 million bonus.

    Naturally, the flight attendants immediately threatened to pull back on their concessions, as did the ground workers and mechanics. American then announced that six executives would give up their bonuses (awww!), but not the pension benefits. American called the big raises "executive retention bonuses." I don't know if you've looked around the airline industry lately, but there is not a whole lot of executive head-hunting going on. What are they going to do, go to work for US Airways? United? Delta (which pulled exactly the same noxious executive compensation stunt last month)?

    If American wants to stay out of bankruptcy (which is debatable: Certain circuit courts are noxiously servile about protecting executive compensation from bankruptcy). I suggest they undo this deal right away because their passengers are now talking about boycotting the airline -- and that was the passengers in first class.


  • Donald Rumsfeld and the looting of Iraq's incomparable National Museum in Baghdad. This one is so simple it's embarrassing. Does no one in this administration have any manners? Where is Karen Hughes? When something even more horrible than is usually expected happens in the course of war -- even when it is not our fault -- what we say is: "What a terrible thing. We're so sorry that happened. Even though it was not our fault, we -- like all civilized people -- regret and mourn the irreplaceable loss to the history of civilization." That's all we have to say.

    It is not necessary to become defensive and react as though the looting were some attack on one's professional competence, and it is certainly not necessary to become sarcastic and try to belittle the loss ("My goodness, were there that many vases?" asked Rumsfeld of the looting of 7,000 years worth of archaeological treasure. "Is it possible there were that many vases in the whole country?" he asked sarcastically. Well, yes.)

    Is this really the face of America we want to show the rest of the world? Are there any grown-ups in this administration?


  • The Bush administration granting contracts to rebuild Iraq to Dick Cheney's firm Halliburton and the Republican-connected Bechtel Group of San Francisco. Has no one in this administration any sense of public relations? Have they any idea how this looks to the rest of the world, which was largely convinced we invaded Iraq for the oil to begin with? Halliburton and Bechtel? Have any of these people ever heard of the need to avoid the appearance of impropriety? Or are we just past that now, so cocky we don't even care? We knew going in this was going to be the peace from hell, and so far the administration has made every misstep possible. Did it occur to no one that the fact that Rumsfeld's chosen puppet, Ahmad Chalabi -- a convicted embezzler, sentenced in absentia to 22 years prison in Jordan -- might prove a bit sticky? Might even be perceived by the Arab world as a colossal insult?


  • George W. Bush, for lying to Tony Blair in Northern Ireland, promising the United Nations would have a major role in rebuilding Iraq and then waiting two whole days before making it clear the U.N. would have no role. Bush didn't just stab Blair in the back, he gutted and filleted him. So much for the Bush administration and loyalty. That's sure way to make all our friends anxious to stand up with us next time.

    (Also, special mention to the dipsticks in the administration who prepared the briefing books for the Northern Ireland trip, which were clearly labeled, "Belfast, Ireland," thus adding to Bush's well-established reputation as someone who can't tell one country from another.)


  • Worst Idea of the Month: Fundamentalist Christian missionaries are now salivating over the prospect of going to Iraq to convert the hapless heathen. This is guaranteed to make America as popular as the clap in the region. The Southern Baptists are poised to deploy en masse, reminding us of Texas newspaperman William Brann's famous comment, "The trouble with our Texas Baptists is that we do not hold them under water long enough."

    The proselytizing fundamentalists plan to offer physical aid as well as spiritual enlightenment, which will make life difficult for traditional aid workers who do not proselytize.


Molly Ivins is a best-selling author and columnist who writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings.

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