What took so long?

Recession, like menopause, is a retrospective diagnosis. You don’t know you’re in one until you’ve been in it for at least two quarters (referring to a recession) or a year (for menopause). The question for me is not: Are we hitting a recession in 2008? It is: What has made the economy so buoyant that we didn’t submerge into a recession several years ago?

We can be replaced

It has long been said that the car part most prone to failure was the nut behind the wheel, and now General Motors seems on the way to solving that weakest link by eliminating it.

GM says it will begin testing driverless-car technology by 2015 and begin selling driverless cars around 2018. Most of the technology — radar, GPS mapping, automated controls, stability sensors — are already available for a car to drive somewhere by itself and parallel park when it gets there. (How much technology, you may well ask, does it take to sit motionless in traffic on, say, I-95?)

Eliminating war virgins

This time last year, the Marine Corps scrubbed its personnel rosters and found more than 66,000 leathernecks who had not yet done a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan. The top brass put them at the front of the line.

Now, the Army has followed suit. A servicewide check has determined that about 40 percent of the 515,000 active-duty soldiers have not yet set foot in a combat zone even as the wars stretch into their fifth and sixth years, and some troops have had to serve four or even five tours.

Supremes need to wake up to reality

If the Supreme Court is as hermetically sealed from outside influence as many believe, then the recent carnage in Nebraska and Colorado will have no influence on its decision whether the Second Amendment gives individual Americans the right to bear whatever arms they choose or limits it to a collective right controlled by the state for the national defense.

We’re no longer a ‘can do’ nation

The official ineptitude that has dogged our war effort in Iraq has spread to affect the fate of tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees, many in fear for their lives having worked for us, desperate for sanctuary in the United States.

We are obligated to help them. You can argue that the violence is Iraqi-on-Iraqi, but there wouldn’t be internecine violence if we hadn’t arrived and there would be less violence if we had arrived in the numbers our military planners recommended.

CIA tape destruction was a criminal act

Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as U.S. attorney general became mired in his ambiguity over whether harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding constituted torture. In the end, the former judge was confirmed but by the narrowest margin for his post in over 50 years.

Now, with just over two months on the job, the issue of waterboarding is back on his doorstep. So far, Mukasey is handling it better than he did the Senate.

Wall of shame

The town of Granjeno is two miles north from the Rio Grande, separating Mexico and the United States. It is just two levees away and neighbors a bird and wild life refuge.

The historic town was founded a decade before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The cemetery bears testament to the town’s long history. People in the area with names like Anzaldua and de la Garza are living links to long-disappeared Spanish colonial land grants. Their pedigrees are as consequential as those of the Mayflower descendents.

Hoover’s plan to throw everyone in jail

We’ve known for a long time that the early 1950s was a nightmarish time in this country. It was the time of the arch-demagogue, Joe McCarthy. It was the time when the Cold War was at its coldest, a time when Americans confused dissent with disloyalty, when people were gripped with the fear that that alien doctrine of communism would infiltrate our open society and destroy us.

News media downplays Iraq war

As America heads into a Presidential election year where Iraq is a central issue, mainstream media outlets plan massive cutbacks in war coverage and reductions in resources and personnel dedicated to reporting on the conflict.

Sources within both broadcast and print media organizations tell Capitol Hill Blue the Iraq war is now a “back burner” to primary election coverage and no longer worth the massive expenditures for coverage of the past three years.

“Americans are war weary,” says one media consultant. “The war doesn’t sell and this is a business.”

Katrina remains a national disgrace

One can only hope that the holiday season brings good cheer to those who lost everything two years ago from the hurricanes Katrina and Rita, especially those who were at the mercy of charlatans who stole more than $500 million of government aid and the Lord only knows how much in relief funds donated by private citizens with big hearts and often small pocketbooks. That is $1 out of every $10 in government aid alone.