Ross Mackenzie

Salt and pepper on a mishmash of topics currently in (mostly) the back pages of the news. . .

Some are voicing concern that the decision to deploy about 6,000 National Guardsmen along the country's southern border to help nab illegals will pull the stitching on the fabric of the Guard - a fabric already too thin. Right on. And how many of the concerned also oppose a one-year program of compulsory national service for all men and women 18-23?

Voluntary programs just don't cut it - and rarely, if ever, have: Even now, the voluntary AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is being drastically cut back. Volunteer service for the young receives a lot of lip service, but not a whole lot of participation in - or for - those areas that need it most, such as border patrol and Katrina cleanup. Compulsion may be the only way to get crucial jobs done, and not stretch e.g. the Guard too thin.

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That was good news about the nation's soft-drink distributors agreeing not to sell soda for vending-machine consumption in elementary and middle schools, and to sell only diet sodas to high schools. Why? Soaring rates of childhood obesity.

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Here's one from Forbes, about the comparative safety of Baghdad and Detroit: Iraq's new government has issued bonds "to pay off Saddam-era commercial debt. The 5.8 percent bonds due 2028 are now yielding 8.7 percent - a mere 3.8 points over comparable Treasurys. Meanwhile General Motors bonds due 2033 recently traded hands at a 7.6-point spread. Translation: A 98-year-old company that has not missed a debt payment in memory is twice as likely to burn lenders as is a year-old Middle East republic teetering on civil war. Perhaps investors think Washington is more likely to bail out Baghdad than Detroit."

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How slow is the federal government to act? Very - usually. As slow as trying to boil water over a 33-degree flame. But within just six months of his death, the Navy has named its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer for Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale. A pilot shot down over North Vietnam in 1965, Stockdale forged a network - verily a civilization - among POWs enabling more than 500 of them to defy their captors, survive and return with honor at war's end. His leadership in Hanoi earned him the Medal of Honor.

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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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