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Off the hook again 

"Dead wrong": Don't you just love the words?

The information that led the United States into war in Iraq --- the information that is said to have led the United States into war in Iraq --- was dead wrong, according to the presidential commission investigating the pre-war intelligence.

That, apparently, will be the end of the story. What the Bush administration did with that dead-wrong information doesn't matter. Gotta move on.

Obviously, there were terrible, tragic failures within the intelligence community. And I'm still convinced that the Bush administration was determined to go to war in Iraq, right from the get-go.

But even if I'm wrong --- even if the administration exerted no pressure on the intelligence agencies, even if the president was duped --- the commission's report is yet another indictment of a frightening and dangerous administration.

What the administration desperately needed after 9/11 was thorough analysis, skepticism, testing, probing, the airing of opposing views. But that is not this president's style. From the beginning, he has gotten rid of people who disagreed with him, and that practice has intensified in these early months of his second term.

The intelligence agencies were dead wrong on Iraq. And so was George Bush.

On what will he be dead wrong next?

Great expectations

New York's state legislators obeyed the law and passed a budget on time. Whoopeedoo.

It's an indication of the state of this state --- or of New Yorkers' low expectations --- that we're all so excited. Sure, on-time budgets are a good thing, in principle. For the past 20 years, school districts across the state have been forced to put together their own budgets --- on time, in compliance with the law --- without knowing how much money they'd get from the state, one of their most important revenue sources.

Unquestionably, public disgust forced the legislators to act. But don't get too carried away, citizens. Lots of things still have to be wrapped up. The governor may veto parts of the budget. And late budgets aren't the only sins of state government. Among the others: borrowing money to pay for operating costs, voting on important bills with little discussion, letting partisan politics set election-district boundaries, and ignoring a court order on school funding.

Tamp down the celebrating. We've been thrown a bone.

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