Johnny comes homeless

Peter Mohan traces the path from the Iraqi battlefield to this lifeless conference room, where he sits in a kilt and a Camp Kill Yourself T-shirt and calmly describes how he became a sad cliche: a homeless veteran.

There was a happy homecoming, but then an accident — car crash, broken collarbone. And then a move east, close to his wife’s new job but away from his best friends.

More lies about troop levels in Iraq

Look beneath the Bush Administration spin on planned troop drawdowns for the failed Iraq war and you will find the truth about U.S. presence in that civil war-torn country: American troops will be there for the next decade.

Or probably longer.

While Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters that plans to reduce U.S. troop presence in Iraq “remain on track” he hedged by saying “further withdrawals will depend the readiness” of the country’s army.

Inflation becomes the new comeback kid

An unwelcome visitor to the economy is back — inflation.

The year-end figures for 2007 show an inflation rate of 4.1 percent, up from a relatively restrained 2.5 percent for 2006 and the highest in 17 years. And another index shows that the problem isn't over yet. The producer price index, which measures inflation at the wholesale level, went up 6.3 percent, the highest since the economically awful year of 1981.

The perfection of inexperience

To live into adulthood in our era is to be in a constant state of amazement. Everything is in a constant state of flux and what seemed preposterous in one age is commonplace in the next.

I was reminded of that by a story in the Sunday Business section of The New York Times the other day. Headlined "Having a Little Work Done (at the Mall)," it described a trend of medical spas that have sprung up in shopping malls to offer services such as chemical peels, laser hair-removal, Botox shots and wrinkle-filler injections.

A joke that could have turned deadly

In the entertainment-starved Persian Gulf, telling a U.S. Navy vessel that you're coming after it and the ship will explode in a few minutes is apparently what passes for humor.

It turns out that the voice that passed that spurious warning to three Navy ships as they were being approached by Iranian speedboats is a notorious maritime heckler who has come to be known as the Filipino Monkey after his racist insults to Filipinos.

The stampeding media herd

Two incidents of unintended consequences this week compel us to revisit just how wrong things can go in the herd journalism that has spread faster than mad cow disease along the 2008 presidential campaign trail.

While both occurred during the week of the Michigan Republican presidential primary, neither really had anything to do with that event. One was about yet another mindless stampede of the media herd covering the Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in Nevada and South Carolina. (And we'll get to that one later.)

Hello? Hello? Anybody home?

Yoo-hoo, anyone home at the Federal Election Commission?

We're in the midst of the most expensive campaign season in recorded history but the panel that is supposed to keep watch over contributors and spending — and spank those who break the rules — has so many vacancies it can't even meet.

Currently, only two of six commission seats are filled, and an ongoing spat between the Democratically controlled Congress and the White House over the qualifications of one nominee means there's no end in sight to the vacancies.

Two versions of the same war

Consider two versions of our war in Iraq:

The first is the one that we know best, the "war of choice" that many Americans objected to from the beginning. It began in March 2003, more or less in reaction to the 9/11 attacks, even though many people knew, even then, that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11.

Do vets come home murderers?

A study conducted by The New York Times has found 121 murder cases in the United States, which involve veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars following their return from the front.

The newspaper said that in many cases, combat trauma and stress from overseas deployment appear to have set the stage for the killings, along with alcohol abuse and family problems.

Joint Chiefs boss: Time to close Gitmo

The chief of the U.S. military said he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States.

"I'd like to see it shut down," Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October.