FUBAR

Hedge-fund con artists

The recent market meltdown had much less to do with bad subprime loans than advertised. It was caused more fundamentally by excesses at hedge and private equity funds. Those contraptions, invented by the sinfully wealthy barons of Wall Street, have lied to themselves and their investors about the efficacy of their schemes. Now they are quiet in their sins as bad home loans take the rap for a global meltdown that the U.S. housing market is not large enough to cause.

America’s most watched

You’re being watched. Not only by Uncle Sam but also by your employer, by the kid working behind the counter at the local gas station, by the automatic teller machine at your bank and by your computer.

We are a society under surveillance, constantly monitored, scrutinized 24/7, analyzed for patterns and suspected without reason.

And, for the most part, the vast majority of us don’t mind.

That may be more frightening than anything else.

This time FEMA claims it’s ready

The statistics are most impressive: 10 million liters of water and 4 million MREs stockpiled in Texas; 1,300 buses, 130 airplanes and “hundreds” of helicopters ready to go; 10,000 Texas National Guards on standby by mid-week; and contracts already drawn up for relocation housing.

Did anyone really win in the Padilla case?

With characteristic overstatement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales proclaimed the verdict in the case of Jose Padilla “a significant victory” in combating terrorism.

It was a victory in the sense that the jury quickly found Padilla and two others guilty but “significant” would be stretching matters.

Tough times for man’s best friend

If you have any doubts about the despicable nature of the allegations against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, you can dispel them by Googling a term like “dogfighting” and perusing the pictures and stories that pop up; any reasonably civilized human being will be disgusted.

Lone officer goes on trial for Abu Ghraib

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, the only military officer charged in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib jail, goes before a court martial Monday in Fort Meade, Maryland.

More than three years after snapshots of Iraqi prisoners humiliated by their prison guards shocked the world, only a handful of US soldiers have been convicted, but none of their military or civilian superiors.

A tainted victory for Bush

The guilty verdict against Jose Padilla showed the Bush administration could win a high-profile terrorism conviction despite questions over whether it acted legally in detaining the U.S. citizen for 3-1/2 years without charges.

But critics and law experts called Thursday’s verdict a messy win for the government, in which it was able to avoid answering for its long detention and interrogation of Padilla without the legal rights normally granted U.S. citizens, and, his lawyers said, for torturing him.

Suicide rate up among soldiers

The US army said Thursday that at least 99 soldiers committed suicide in 2006, nearly a third while in Iraq or Afghanistan, signaling a rising suicide rate compared to previous years.

The army also recorded 948 serious suicide attempts which required hospitalization or evacuation as well as two deaths with unclear causes still under investigation.

Among soldiers who killed themselves in 2006, 27 were in Iraq and three were in Afghanistan. The army also reported 44 suicides in the first six months of 2007, 17 among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mine safety agency under fire

The government agency overseeing coal mine safety was supposed to have changed its ways after West Virginia’s deadly Sago Mine disaster. Its handling of the cave-ins at Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine have some worried that the changes didn’t go far enough.

Government officials on Friday indefinitely halted their attempts to dig to six miners trapped since Aug. 6, after a cave-in Thursday night killed three rescuers and injured six others.

A stupid lawsuit

Kia Vaughn says Don Imus ruined her reputation when he called members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos,” but it’s something else entirely that stands to hurt her name: a lawsuit she’s filed seeking money from the shock jock.

The suit on behalf of this star center of the team says “defamatory, sexually denigrating and slanderous statements and comments against the women athletes … were heard, believed and understood by millions of listeners … as factual pronouncements concerning the character, chastity and reputation of the plaintiff.”