Ross Mackenzie

Iraq, yes, and the continuing investigation into the lost shuttle Columbia, and the sordid saga within the Catholic Church, and the yearning national need for an intelligent compulsory universal service NOW. But other news stories abound as well, such as:

North Korea. It and a number of its neighbors evidently have looked around and seen the effective determination of the Coalition enterprise in Iraq. (BEGIN ITAL) The Americans mean business, and possess the means to accomplish what they set out to do. What's more, since October the United States and a dozen other countries have organized the defections of about 20 key North Korean officials, including leading nuclear scientists, such as the reputed father of the country's nuclear programs, Kyon Won Ha. So we likely have a heightened sense of North Korea's nuclear capabilities. Not surprisingly, the North Koreans have agreed at last to talk a few things over.

With just about everyone applauding the military these days, how about a special word or two for those in the reserves and the National Guard? At about 1.2 million, they now account for nearly 50 percent of U.S. military personnel; as of mid-March, about 225,000 had been called to active duty. During the 1990s, most call-ups were for only 90 days. Now, with military billets too often going unfilled and with active-duty personnel spread thin, first-responder reserve and guard call-ups often are for a year, with some now having their tours extended to a second year. Perhaps half of those called up suffer income losses, with consequent strains on their families in health care, childcare, and every day just getting along. The military needs to increase complement and manning levels. Oh, and a standing ovation please for reservists and guardsmen doing so much of today's military heavy lifting.

The Air Force Academy, the college for future Air Force officers, is mired in a controversy that could do more damage to the Air Force than Tailhook did to the Navy. In Tailhook, pilots did - or did not do - egregious things with or in the presence of female Navy cohorts. At the Air Force Academy, allegations of widespread rape of female cadets by their male cohorts, and mishandling of the incidents by higher-ups, have led to the departures of the superintendent and commandant, among others. Investigations are under way and Congress has gotten into the act. If the allegations are true, it's bad, even criminal charges may ensue. So off we go: This one may have repercussions far and wide - and high into the wild blue yonder.

Leading press outlets, reflecting their own leftist biases, long have insistently accorded liberal Republicans such sugarcoated euphemisms as centrists and moderates and middle-of-the-roaders to mask their liberal inclinations. But as the liberal-Republican breed tends to follow the furbish lousewort and the snail darter toward oblivion, the practice may be giving way. The other day The Washington Post, in a story about opposition to President Bush's proposed tax cuts by self-absorbed senators Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, carried this headline: "GOP Liberals Are Key to Tax Cut." If the vast majority in the Republican Party (and notably the Republican Congress) are conservatives, do conservatives not constitute the mainstream - with those floating along over there near the left bank properly called liberals?

With today's tendencies toward casualization leaving a lot of people looking as though they just got up, the new fashion of pajama bottoms - particularly among high-school girls - carries with it a certain inner logic. Flip-flops or slippers often complete the "dormwear" look. It's a look some high-school administrators rightly are outlawing, to some of the offending girls' exasperated chagrin. 'Sfunny that fashion will persuade girls it's cool to wander the halls in pajamas, just as they will flounce and drape in a bikini long before they will go out in public in a far-less-revealing bra and panties. Today, pajamas are in fashion. Tomorrow, birthday suits?

American Airlines (AMR Corporation) may be the latest major air carrier to go toes-up. Partly, airlines are going bankrupt because of provisions in the National Railway Act giving airline unions excessive power. But this time, American may go under because of corporate greed. Unions (notably stewardesses) voted to save the company from bankruptcy by accepting pay cuts only hours before American announced a plan to give executives exorbitant retention bonuses (sometimes double their base salaries) and to protect their pensions in the event of bankruptcy. The unions went, understandably, ballistic and are promising to vote again on whether to accept their own wage concessions. If they reject the concessions this time around and the company consequently files Chapter 11, the corporate swells will have only their own greed to blame.

But in terms of the overall labor force, union membership continues to drop. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that in 2002 the percentage of workers in unions had fallen to 13.2 percent, down from 13.4 percent in 2001 and from generally 35 percent in the 1950s. Similarly, combined union membership nationwide declined 280,000 in 2002 from the 2001 level, to 16.1 million - principally because of job losses in heavily unionized realms such as steel, hotels and airlines.

And speaking of over-compensated executives, Jack Welch may be the corporate sector's poster boy. General Electric paid him Croesus sums for turning the company around. Known at GE as "Neutron Jack" for his tough management style, the hard-bitten Welch - now retired - has accepted a major role in a leadership and training academy for principals in New York City's public schools. It's a task in a realm where Welch's success or failure may prove his real value, his true worth.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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