FUBAR

Wounded vets face financial woes

He was one of America’s first defenders on Sept. 11, 2001, a Marine who pulled burned bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon. He saw more horrors in Kuwait and Iraq.

Today, he can’t keep a job, pay his bills, or chase thoughts of suicide from his tortured brain. In a few weeks, he may lose his house, too.

Gamal Awad, the American son of a Sudanese immigrant, exemplifies an emerging group of war veterans: the economic casualties.

Judge knocks down part of Patriot Act

An Oregon judge on Wednesday ruled that two provisions of the Patriot Act violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer wrongly arrested by the FBI in 2004 for possible ties to the Madrid train bombings, who challenged the secret searches of his home and office.

A bizarre spectacle

A world of intellectual tolerance and insidious hate was jammed into the quadrangle of Columbia University on Monday. Jammed inside a cramped campus hall. And jammed into the big screens of our television sets, and the small screens of the Internet feeds that beamed around the planet.

A real need for a shield law

The excesses of the CIA-leak investigation made clear the need for a federal shield law to protect reporters and their sources. Indeed, the need for such a law has been clear since 1972, when the Supreme Court upset a long-standing understanding that journalists were more or less immune from government investigations into their reporting.

Since then, federal prosecutors have successfully chipped away at that protection and, by one count, more than 40 reporters have been questioned about their sources and at least two have wound up in jail.

When arrogance rules, reason loses

Why can’t we get out of Iraq?

I was considering this question as I drove home a few evenings ago, when I stopped at a light behind a big SUV, an Expedition or a Suburban, with a couple of bumper stickers on the back. One read “Bush/Cheney ’04.”

The other one read: “The next time you feel perfect, try walking on water.”

I don’t remember feeling perfect lately, and hardly anyone I know feels that way on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I cannot walk on water and am, therefore, properly put in my place.

U.S.: Iran smuggling weapons to Iraq

The U.S. military accused Iran on Sunday of smuggling surface-to-air missiles and other advanced weapons into Iraq for use against American troops. The new allegations came as Iraqi leaders condemned the latest U.S. detention of an Iranian in northern Iraq, saying the man was in their country on official business.

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said U.S. troops were continuing to find Iranian-supplied weaponry including the Misagh 1, a portable surface-to-air missile that uses an infrared guidance system.

Mercenaries sold arms on black market

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

Where are the grown-ups?

America has gone childish on us, and not just America, by the way: The whole of the West has to some extent succumbed to a kind of adolescent mode of dealing with things, and there’s grave peril here, such as a lessened ability to stand up to Islamic radicals.

Tax cuts or health care?

Democratic primary voters now have a clear choice: subsidized taxes to provide health care for all Americans versus lower taxes on the middle class. Barack Obama’s promise this week to deliver up to $85 billion in annual tax relief for middle-class Americans is the type of plan that has the potential to stop the so-called Unstoppable Hillary.

The guts of Sen. Obama’s plan is to offer a $1,000 annual tax credit for middle-class American families with two earners. This, he says, would cut taxes for 150 million Americans or roughly half the population.

Cheating your way to hero worship

Maybe you noticed it too. The scandal over the New England Patriots’ cheating lacked the one inevitable ingredient of every sports scandal, and I, for one, am sort of offended by the omission.

You’ll recall that the Patriots were caught trying to steal the New York Jets sideline play calling signals by surreptitiously and illegally videotaping them from within the stadium.