When the media does the right thing

A few years back — some 30, to be exact — the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency showed up at my office to ask that a story obtained by our Pentagon correspondent be withheld, not because it was inaccurate but because it would endanger the life of an operative inside the Soviet Union.

He made a very persuasive case that the information on which the story of Soviet laser technology was based was so tightly held that it was highly likely that revealing the United States had knowledge of it would point the finger at the source.

Consumer confidence takes another nose dive

In more bad economic news, consumer confidence and home prices posted sharp declines while higher costs for such basics as food and energy left wholesale inflation rising at the fastest pace in a quarter-century.

The new reports Tuesday raised the threat of a return of “stagflation,” the economic curse of the 1970s in which economic growth stagnates at the same time that inflation continues racing ahead.

Dying to be thin

A friend of mine committed suicide earlier this month. That’s one way of describing what happened.

Another way of describing the event would be to say she died from anorexia nervosa.

Yet another description would be to say she was killed by a culture that, from the time she was a little girl, tormented her constantly about her body.

Here’s an e-mail a 14-year-old girl sent recently to Monique van den Berg, an English professor whose blog is dedicated to, among other things, encouraging people to stop hating their bodies:

Marine vehicle delays cost American lives

The Marine Corps has asked the Pentagon’s inspector general to examine allegations that a nearly two-year delay in the fielding of blast-resistant vehicles led to hundreds of combat casualties in Iraq.

The system for rapidly shipping needed gear to troops on the front lines has been examined by auditors before and continues to improve, Col. David Lapan, a Marine Corps spokesman, said Monday night. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, however, “the Marine Corps has taken the additional step” of requesting the IG investigation, Lapan said in an e-mailed statement.

More guns no solution to school shootings

Just as with JFK’s assassination and the Challenger explosion, I remember precisely where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about a school shooting. On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman collected his small arsenal and rode the elevator to the observation deck of the landmark tower on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Thirty-two floors above the ground, he had an excellent field of fire in all directions and, an expert marksman, went on a murderous rampage before he was fatally shot by police.

More evidence of a police state

A new St. Paul, Minn., police policy for investigating protest groups draws praise from police experts for its sensitivity to dissent, but criticism from those who worry that police will spy on activists leading up to the Republican National Convention.

“It looks like they are in the business of infiltrating groups,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, after reviewing a copy of the policy requested by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

Failing to learn from history

Young Americans, whose liberty and security will depend in part on how future presidents conduct foreign policy, have good reason to study how past presidents did it.

A recent scientific survey, however, determined that most college seniors didn’t know the difference between President George Washington’s understanding of the imperatives of American foreign policy and President Woodrow Wilson’s — remarkable, given that Washington’s and Wilson’s visions represent profoundly different strains in the making of American policy.

More and more chances for bad meat

It’s not just the meat of “downer” cattle we should be worried about infiltrating our food supply. There’s little standing in the way of meat from sick pigs, sheep, goats and other animals from winding up on our plates.

Even though 143 million pounds of possibly tainted beef from ailing animals had to be recalled recently after a videotape showed workers allowing cattle too ill or weak to stand being slaughtered, at least there exist federal regulations intended to protect us from eating meat that could make us sick.

Yellow journalism at The New York Times

One of the first rules of decent, principles-abiding journalism is that you don’t print rumors. That is nevertheless what The New York Times just did in a smear job on John McCain, who is very nearly certain to be the Republican nominee for president.

The city of Berkeley screws up again

The brouhaha sparked by the Berkeley (Calif.) City Council these past couple of weeks demonstrates again that you can be within shouting distance of one of the world’s great educational institutions and still be terminally stupid.

The council, as almost everybody not in a deep trance must know, voted to send a letter telling the U.S. Marine Corps to, in effect, get the hell out of town.

Predictably, that got the right-wing bloggers knee jerking right back, sending them into paroxysms of righteous indignation.