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A friend of mine recently remarked that George W. Bush was beginning to resemble Baghdad Bob. You remember "Bob," don’t you? He was the voice of Saddam Hussein’s regime, who kept insisting that the Americans were being defeated — all the while mortar fire rained down around him.

We all got a good laugh out of Baghdad Bob. Ah, those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.

These days, it is President Bush who keeps insisting that things are getting better every day in Iraq — all the while Americans die each week and the number of enemy attacks grows to alarming proportions.

We are told that Iraq is secure except for the Sunni Triangle around Baghdad, but 40 percent of the Iraqi population lives there. And the attacks are not subsiding, they are spreading to other parts of Iraq. The President is in the same kind of denial that he is in over Afghanistan, where the Taliban is staging a comeback.

The President recently faced the TV cameras in Britain with a rather forlorn-looking Tony Blair by his side. Bush boasted of the strong support of the British people, but their rage over their Prime Minister’s support of the war is close to running him out of office.

The President continues to insist that we don’t need more American troops to secure the peace. He is confident that he will be able to hand this mess over to the Iraqis in June, and that somehow they will be able to succeed where we have failed.

My friend is right. Bush has morphed into Baghdad Bob …

ABC ran a fascinating special on the Kennedy assassination (Beyond Conspiracy). With all of the temptation to come to a sexy conclusion involving some conspiracy theory, Peter Jennings and his able crew did the opposite. They pretty convincingly proved that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman and that maybe, when all is said and done, the Warren Commission didn’t do such a bad job after all.

The only nagging inconsistency I found in this scenario is that if Oswald truly murdered President Kennedy to go down in history, then why deny it? With his big chance to proclaim to the world what he had achieved, all Oswald could utter to the TV cameras as he was taken away was "I’m a patsy" …

Am I naive for according Michael Jackson the presumption of innocence? It seems to me there are several reasons why he has already been found guilty by the media and most people I know.

First, he has admitted that he sometimes sleeps with children. But this fact alone does not prove pedophilia. Jackson could just as well be someone who has never come to grips with adulthood, who fancies himself an eternal child. Certainly the whole Neverland theme park supports that notion.

The second strike against Jackson in the public mind is that he bought off the parents of the first accuser. But that doesn’t prove guilt, either. It would not be unusual for a celebrity to believe that it’s easier to reach an out-of-court settlement than have your reputation ruined by the legal system where even if you win, you lose. It is not unrealistic to believe that the motive surrounding both accusations is money.

Strike three against Jackson is really strikes one and two also: He’s weird. Jackson looks and sounds like an alien from another planet. But living a bizarre lifestyle does not necessarily mean you have committed a crime. The dramatic police raid on his home smacked of overkill on the part of law-enforcement officials frustrated by not being able to nail Jackson the first time around.

None of this means Michael Jackson didn’t commit a crime, but maybe we ought to wait until the trial before we make that decision …

Sam Katz lost and he’s understandably upset. Whether the bugging of John Street’s office won him the election may be open to question, but the shadow it cast over the entire process is not.

But for Katz to talk openly about running again in a year after the mayor is hauled off to jail is outrageous. Street has not been charged with any crime. This isn’t California, Sam. Get over it, you’re better than that …

Another birthday has arrived. Age has given me several insights. Growing older makes it difficult to answer the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" What you want, they can’t give you.

It’s nice to get a free ride on SEPTA, but it would be even nicer if the driver just once questioned whether you were old enough to merit the perk.

It’s wonderful to hear people tell you how great you look, until you realize that they mean for a person your age.

It used to be that one of the benefits of old age for a male was that you could make passes at young women without being considered dangerous. Viagra changed all that. They run.

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