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No Way to Live

Can living conditions for our military be improved? Also: Obama's oxymoronic pro-lifers. Unions and illiteracy. Those relatives abroad. Plus more.

9.15.08

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A CRIME AGAINST OUR WARRIORS
Re: Matthew Bishop's Coming Home to This?:

I would like to thank Mr. Bishop for his fine article. This is a subject that is significantly under-appreciated by too many within the general population of our country. It is truly a crime against our warriors that have gone in harms way to protect us and our freedoms. Particularly the enlisted barracks have deteriorated greatly in the last three decades or more. The state of housing for the married service members is not a whole lot better. Something simply must be done about this problem, and done now.

There is one aspect of the problem that is not addressed in this article that significantly complicates the situation, and is not sufficiently understood by the general public. The problem is that the Congress does not simply appropriate a single sum of money, send it to the Pentagon, and say spend it as you need to spend it. Congress passes bills to appropriate money to specific accounts or groups of accounts within the military. While the military budgets overall have been squeezed, the military construction and maintenance budgets have been significantly shorted in the area of military housing. Then all of a sudden a problem like the one at Walter Reed jump up to the public consciousness and the Congress leaps into action to hold hearings designed to assess blame on various military decision makers, and deflect the blame from Congress itself for not providing the necessary money and authority on an ongoing, realistic, non-crisis basis.

While I, too, agree that the appropriate military brass have not done their jobs, I do think that Congress deserves a lion's share of the blame. The politicians are more concerned to provide earmarked funds to civilian projects in their own districts, to ensure their own re-elections, and in issuing inane statements about the untoward cost of the military budget for PR purposes.

Unfortunately the road to promotability, particularly for flag rank officers, does not significantly depend on providing decent living conditions for their troops. The road to the next promotion depends entirely too much on networking and politics. This is particularly true at the flag ranks, but starts at the level of Majors that want to make Lt. Col., in other words mid field grade ranks. It is no sure bet that an outstanding warrior among the eligible Majors will get promoted to the upper ranks of the field grades. There is much blather about providing for the welfare of one's troops, but when the rubber meets the road in the fit reps that determine promotability, the politics of the military have an inordinate amount of influence. So we see "Bird" Colonels and the lower flag ranks spending inordinate amounts of time and effort in getting to know and be approved by Congressional politicians and their staffs. On the other hand, we have top quality warriors spending their careers trying to stay as far away from the Pentagon as possible, and then retiring after 20 years at the Lt.Col. rank, when they truly should be ticketed for flag status.

Disclaimer; the above discussion does NOT apply to me. I spent my military service in the lower enlisted ranks, and up to the lower NCO ranks, in a period between Korea and Vietnam. I do have a son who made a career in submarines for the Navy and retired a Chief. Additionally I have a former Marine cousin that retired at Lt.Col. after being denigrated by his superior for being a "war fighter." I have another cousin that retired from the Navy at the rank of Lt. Commander. I had an uncle that retired from the Navy after a career as a pilot. My father and another uncle served in the USMC and Army, respectively, during WWII. Then there are my numerous acquaintances that spent varying amounts of time in the military at varying ranks, both officer and enlisted.
-- Ken Shreve

I'm a retired USAF Master Sergeant, and while at times Air Force facilities were a little less than grand, places like Kunsan and Taegu Air Bases in Korea come to mind. But I was absolutely flabbergasted by the conditions of some dorms (a.k.a. barracks) that are on Ft. George Meade, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

It is no big military secret that the Air Force spends more on enlisted dorms than perhaps the other services put together. The standard that the Air Force was working towards was similar to many college dorms. Contrast this with the livening conditions for the other services.

The Marine Barracks at many Marine and Naval installations can vary greatly, The newer ones can put the Air Force to shame, but there are still many dating back, if not to World War II, then the close of the Korean War. Many have had updates and upgrades, but the basic structure, including plumbing and electrical lines is still out of date by decades. The Navy, again, it really varies and can vary on the same installation. And the Army has been most deplorable; maintenance has been deferred and deferred again. And often, instead of a full replacement, it is patched and patched over again.

There are many excuses but it boils down to Service and Command priorities.
-- Sandra Dent

Back in the day, as many of my students say, while I was briefly stationed in Jacksonville, South Carolina, many a young Marine and I (proudly Navy) would rent a room in the Thunderbird Hotel down the road from the base. Since we were lowly paid E-3's and under, we kept the out of pocket costs for comfortable accommodations down by using the full capacity of the rooms; often we had 10 or 12 people in one small room with a television and private bathroom, but this was preferable to the spartan and overcrowded barracks we called home when we weren't in the fields. Later I was PCS'ed to El Toro Marine Corps Base in California. I shared a room with a perfectly gentle and gentlemanly navy corpsman; the room was barely large enough for keeping clothes and a bunk-rack. Since we were naval personnel on a USMC base, we were eligible to receive a housing allowance that we pooled to live in the very ritzy area of Irvine. This allowed us to escape the loud, cramped space that most young Marines had to endure daily. Our brothers in arms had to make do with the little spaces they were allotted.

Now Marines are a hearty and spirited lot who do not ask much. They volunteered to join a special group knowing they will often spend 20 plus day a month in the field, sleeping, eating and other less mentionable functions, in the dirt. They work 18 hour days. And damn me if they don't do so with a smile, but when they get back "home" they have to endure barrack housing that no one on welfare would be asked to use. While the pay is low, they somehow get by. Few, if any, enlist in the military for the money, and Uncle Sam takes care of most of the essentials. But having to face the BEQ (Base Enlisted Quarters) after a long deployment, either in ConUs or overseas, can be downright depressing. Yes, the Marines are willing to live in sub-standard housing without complaining, but the questions are, doesn't the cost of forcing that choice cost more than good housing and don't "our boys" deserve a helluva lot better? Base house need not be base.
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

What do America's warriors deserve? Tax free incomes! Why should those volunteering to potentially place themselves in harms way have to sacrifice twice by paying Federal taxes when effete, rich and lazy liberals do nothing, but disparage our military and the nation's finest generation? For that matter all military pay for retirees, the Guard and reservists should be tax free too. Republicans looking to make gains in Congress in November should add this to the list of things they plan to do in the first 100 days after the moronic Nancy Pelosi has been kicked out of the Speaker's chair and replaced with a can do Republican.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Habbanyiah, Iraq

TALL ORDER
Re: Matt Bowman's Meet the Obama Pro-Lifers:

Interesting article by Matt Bowman on Pro-Lifers for Obama. Now, how about a little equal time. How about an article highlighting us Pro-Choicers who are supporting McCain/Palin?

There is significant libertarian support for McCain now that he has chosen libertarian-leaning Sarah Palin for VP. While we libertarians oppose government funding of abortions, and oppose late term abortions, the majority of us are Pro-Choice on the question of early term abortions. Why hasn't the media focused on how many of us are putting our Pro-Choice stance aside to support the McCain/Palin ticket?
-- Eric Dondero

We need to thank House Speaker Pelosi and Senator Biden for their "instructions" on what the Catholic Church teaches about abortion. Their informative discussions have finally caused Bishops to defend the Church's infallibility regarding abortion. Now we have Welfare-Only Pro-Lifers, (WOPL) working for and with Obama, trying to tell faithful Catholics and Christians that Obama will reduce abortions with federal funding. If you believe this I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you for cheap. Obama's campaign uses the most liberal Catholic organizations to woo the rest of us, the practicing, believers in the Magisterium, upholders of the Papacy Roman Catholics into thinking Obama is a pro-life candidate. "Obama's emotional attractiveness" should assuage our skepticism of his pro-abort stance. No thank you. I sneer.
-- Clasina J. Segura
New Iberia, Louisiana

"McCain/Palin platform declares that 'government must find new ways to empower and strengthen' pro-life pregnancy centers, which 'provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need.'" Excuse me, was that find or fund?

Simply stated, the government has no compelling reason for funding (un)Planned Parenthood or pro-life pregnancy centers. The responsibility of teaching of the value of life, yet to be born and already here, falls to the parents and religious institutions, not the state. Once again, the government is blatantly and purposely deaf to the voice from the wilderness crying, "Leave us alone!"?
-- Ira M. Kessel
Rochester, New York

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING
Re: Lawrence Henry's The Picture:

May the Lord bless and keep you in the Picture for many years to come.
-- John Schuh

What a great story.
-- Tom Smith
Austin, Texas

THE HYPOCRISY OF IT ALL
Re: J.T. Young's Lower Education Blues:

The one thing all opponents (e.g., liberal politicians, school administrators, the teachers union, teachers, Democrats, the black "leadership") of school choice have in common is they do not have to send their own kids to horrible schools.

Even HRH, Barack Obama, sends his kids to private schools; as did the Clintons, the Carters, the Kennedys, etc.; all prominent opponents of school choice.

Because their own children are not at risk, they could give a rat's ass that a significant percentage of school children are forced to attend inferior skills. What matters to them is garnering campaign support and money from the vested interests that oppose school choice. This is absolutely disgusting.

Rest assured that if all opponents of school choice were forced to send their own kids to crummy schools, school choice legislation would pass through all the state legislatures and the US Congress faster than the speed of light.

The hypocrisy and disgraceful behavior of our politicians, the entrenched education establishment and "progressive" elites is beyond contempt.
-- CA
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

It is almost surreal that someone could write about the lack of competition in public schools and never mention the 800 lb. gorilla primarily responsible for it: unionism. As long as unions run public schools, nothing -- and I mean nothing -- will substantially change.
-- Arnold Ahlert
Boca Raton, Florida

Please explain the rationale for "American colleges do fine," when approximately 70% of graduate engineering students in American universities are foreigners, most of whom will return home and compete against American workers after graduation. Must be some new economics beyond my ken.
-- David Govett
Davis, California

NEVER MIND
Re: Ralph R. Reiland's Barack's Failed Euronomics:

The article by Mr. Reiland reminded me of the 1992 campaign. There was a small recession then that lasted 6 months -- from the last quarter of 1990 through the first quarter of 1991. After that the economy perked up and continued so for several years. The Clinton campaign said "it is the economy, stupid," and with the help of the MSM and not inconsiderable assistance of that nincompoop Perot, and won the election with the 44% vote. For 18 long months after that small recession was over, the NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN would start their evening news with pictures from unemployment offices in various states, while their "experts" were deploring the Administration economic policies. The day after the election of that disbarred felon Clinton, all such pictures of long lines in unemployment offices disappeared like by miracle. Today our MSM keep talking about the recession while there has been no fall whatsoever in our GDP. In spite of a small rise in unemployment the total number of the employed today is some 11 million larger than in 2001. I expect the MSM will soon start again their evening news by showing the lines in the unemployment offices which, by the way, are always long because the government employee union has imposed liberal working rules relative to frequent breaks and long lunches.
-- Marc Jeric
Las Vegas, Nevada

SHADES OF GREY
Re: Mark Hyman's If Only Sam Kinison Met Barack Obama:

I mentioned in an earlier letter that I am married to a Filipina, so I have some personal experience with the issues raised by Mark Hyman on help to extended family members overseas (commenting on Obama's failure to do so for his half brother in Kenya). My wife has been well educated on the resentments that can occur when too much help is forthcoming to extended family members (which also include some half-siblings), thus undermining their independence. We have found that the best way to assist family members is to limit our assistance to funding education and funding medical treatment that could otherwise not be afforded (we do provide a modest amount of monthly income to her elderly mother). I think what amazes both of us about the Obama situation is that for this self-proclaimed humanitarian to take no interest at all in his extended family would seem to be coldly inhumane. Maybe there is more behind the scenes that has not been shared. But our view is that the Obamamessiah is another typical leftist who loves humanity and ignores or dislikes persons. There are ways to help extended family that do not involve taking over their lives or engaging in tribal "extended family sharing".
-- Stephen Zierak
Kansas City, Missouri

WHAT'S THE USE?
Re: Michael Tobias's letter (under "Conservative Magnet") in Reader Mail's Credit Where It's Due:

Utopian. And this is not meant sarcastically. One-upmanship is never practiced with a B.A. in anything, at least not how I got it. All I know I learned from George Will, William F. Buckley and Teddy White when he was writing his Making of the President books. When I think how I frittered away units on Byzantine History -- even one on Crime and Punishment, it is almost embarrassing to recall.

You are right that Sarah Palin would make a good president. You are right up there with my pal, Bill Buckley, who said he would trust the first 500 people listed in the Boston phone directory more than...whatever the rest of that quote is...to run government...

My first vote at 21 was for Harry Truman. I grew up thinking FDR was king and I would never have to make a choice. Tom Dewey reminded me not of the man on the wedding cake but of the little cartoon dude in Esquire magazine -- that is what a deep thinker I was. But I was glued to the ticker tape in the AP room of the newspaper I worked for, cheering Harry along.

My point -- if I have one, is that all nomination process is fixed. We can make our modest donations, we can pound yard signs into our pristine lawns, we can lick envelopes -- I've done it. All the stuff that makes us think we are part of the process. If we are completely deluded, we can become delegates and go to the convention. And none of it matters.

The only time I ever personally profited from a Republican nominee was when Goldwater ran. His convention was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. We were in our first home looking out on a huge unlandscaped backyard. Poor as church mice, new baby, not even a clothes dryer! Then fortune smiled. My husband and a friend, both scroungers, went over to the post-convention Cow Palace and offered to dismantle all of the structures for the wood. The friend was a horticulturist at SF State. My husband was an IA teacher. I got a beautiful lanai from the Republicans and a million seedling begonias from the hot houses of SF State. A veritable paradise

Tell us how we can get ourselves a real People's Choice and if we get to tar and feather him if things don't work out? That would be my choice. You've got to put your plan in action before the next election. Because I will be 85 by then and loonier than I am now.

George Will has a delightful way of summing up in baseball terms, now and again. He quoted Dizzy Dean announcing at the start of the 1934 World Series between the Cardinals and the Tigers, "This Series is already won, but I don't know by which team." The same could be said about this election. My money's on McCain-Palin. Particularly as Obama probably has a contract out on Biden about now -- a kind of mercy killing to end his suffering of foot-in-mouth disease.
-- Diane Smith
P.S. Mr. Tobias points out that the Dole/Kemp ticket was so drab less than half the electorate bothered to vote.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH
Re: Jeff Beckham's letter (under "Bush Vs. the Terrorists") in Reader Mail's Credit Where It's Due and Quin Hillyer's The Terrorists Are Losing:

With all due respect to Jeff Beckham (who lives a stone's throw from me), I must say that the idea of trying to blame Bush for "dropping the ball" as it were and allowing the tragedies of 9/11 to occur is patently ridiculous.

After the 2000 election recount controversy and the bitter Democrats' reluctance to even allow George Bush to begin moving into the White House it was well into February before he could get on with picking his cabinet members and making the transition to office.

The planning and preparation for that attack took place well before Bush ever took office. I recall another attack under another administration in 1993 which was an attempt to fell one tower building into the other. It was treated as a street crime to be dealt with by law enforcement. Until the end of that "other" administration's term (seven more years) the terrorists -- unhindered -- were able to infiltrate our society, lived and moved around among us, and using our resources (flight training schools) managed to put all the pieces in place to bring their plan to fruition. "Let give credit where credit is due" shall we?
-- John Nelson
Hebron, Connecticut

Oh, we're back to that blame game. Are we? Well, I'll tell you what. Maybe all this would have been academic if Mr. Bill used his cojones for taking out a few terror masters when they were in his sights instead of diddling with the help.
-- Mike Dooley

In response to Mr. Hillyer's article praising President Bush for 7 years of absence of any terrorist attacks on our country, Mr. Beckham states that the 9/11/01 terrorist attack should be ascribed to President Bush. Well, that attack was planned and put in execution during the presidency of that disbarred felon Clinton. He is the one who threatened criminal prosecution against any FBI and CIA agents passing terrorist information to one another. He is the one who did not approve the hit against bin Laden. It is Clinton's Immigration office which gave a visa prolongation to a 9/11 terrorist 6 months after the attack and his "martyr" death. I would not wish such a blindness that affects Mr. Beckham to anybody. He will surely give money to Abu Hussein and of course vote for him and that bloviating gasbag Biden, the past master of "borking" and "high-tech lynching."
-- Marc Jeric
Las Vegas, Nevada

It is incredibly hard for us to follow your logic when you insist on talking with a crack pipe in your mouth. To say that President Bush deserves no credit for the lack of terror attacks on American soil because he "dropped the ball" on 9/11 is like saying that FDR deserves no credit for defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan because he "dropped the ball" on Pearl Harbor. How far do you want to follow this logic? Should we say that Bush senior deserves no credit for Desert Storm because he "dropped the ball" on Kuwait? Shall we assume JFK deserves no credit for the Cuban Missile crisis because he "dropped the ball" during the Bay of Pigs? What about Woodrow Wilson: did he "drop the ball" with the Lusitania, and thereby forfeit his victory over the Kaiser? Does Abe Lincoln's preservation of the American Union not count because he didn't prevent Fort Sumter?

You, sir, need to inhale something other than narcotics. Oxygen might do for a start.,
-- Paul LaRue

RATIONALIZING
Re: Craig Sarver's letter (under "More Like a Lower Bound") in Reader Mail's Credit Where It's Due:

Craig Sarver noted that blanking the Presidential line on the ballot is the equivalent of voting for the Obamamessiah. This is not precisely true, in that refraining from involvement in a lesser of two evils situation is not the same as endorsing by positive action one of those evils. However, he is certainly correct that if conservatives and libertarians do not vote for John McCain, then John McCain will not be elected. So blanking in his opinion "is not worth the risk." While I understand Mr. Sarver's point, I don't think he understands mine. Unlike the idiots on the left, I believe conservatives and libertarians do consider long-term effects of actions they take. My point was that I believe for all the reasons I stated John McCain would have a very unsuccessful Presidency, and that this would yield bad policy (unopposed by his party), further damage the Republican brand, and undermine the future of a rising star in the party. I balance that against an Obama Presidency that would have to maneuver in an environment of Republican opposition and the unmasking of what he is really about.

There could actually be less bad policy in such a context (two years of the more moderate Clinton ushered in a Republican Congress), and in any event I doubt he would survive the next election. If you believe that it is not likely that John McCain will fail in his administration, then, yes, by all means, pull the lever for him. However, since I think it is very unlikely that McCain will succeed, then the long run damage he will do far outweighs the negative consequences of what the empty suit will be able to actually accomplish. America has survived bad Presidents before, and will do so in the future. But can the Republican Party survive someone who could be the next Herbert Hoover?
-- Stephen Zierak
Kansas City, Missouri

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE
Re: Diane Smith's letter (under "Sally's Cronies") in Reader Mail's Credit Where It's Due:

May I add, for the enjoyment of Ms. Diane Smith, one more Dorothy Parker quotation that I have used on occasion?

Ms. Parker was at a large soiree where a young Sally Quinn type female held a door open for her, tee-heeing, "Age before beauty."

Replied Ms. Parker, sweeping through the doorway, "Pearls before Swine." (With or without, one would assume, lipstick.)
-- Kate Shaw
Toronto, Canada

ONE FINAL THOUGHT
Re: Jeffrey Lord's Who is Sally Quinn?:

Whenever the name of Ben Bradlee comes up I am reminded of his glee at the downfall of Richard Nixon, his pride in effecting it, and his joyous statement -- something like, "I've never had so much fun in my life!"

And always then I am reminded of a song of David about such men: "Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? ...He whose walk is blameless...and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow man,...( Ps. 15: 1 - 3, NIV)
-- Hannah Robb
Lowell, Michigan

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