On helping out, the Stockdale, Ward the other, etc

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: May 25, 2006 8:05 PM

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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On the proposition that not all academic research is particularly useful, consider these recent titles: "Burnout Among Female Indoor Sex Workers" by Ine Vanwesenbeeck (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 34, No. 6), a Dutch study finding that progressive management reduces burnout among prostitutes; and (2) "Odd Versus Even Prices and Consumers' Behavior" by Nicolas Gueguen and Celine Jacob (Psychological Reports, Vol. 96, No. 3), a French study finding that consumers are more likely to buy pancakes if their price ends in a 9 than in a zero.

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And speaking of France, a French feminist going only by the name of Mathilde is petitioning the government to abolish use of the word "mademoiselle." The term, says Mathilde, "puts a diminutive view on our girls. It turns them into incomplete 'little things,' never really autonomous, who will not become real adults unless they find a husband or become mothers." Well, in English-speaking lands, Miss and Mrs. are broadly ceding to Ms., and in Germany "fraulein" (for young women) is ceding to frau.  So in France can mademoiselle be far behind?

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Remember the other Churchill - Ward? Tenured University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill termed those who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 "little Eichmanns" and said, "It may be that more 9/11s are necessary." Now an investigative panel has found that (a) Churchill plagiarized research, (b) falsely claims to be a Cherokee Indian, (c) falsely claims he is an Army combat veteran, and (d) falsely claims to possess a Ph.D. He merits swift firing, but unhappily just one of the five members of the investigating committee concurs. The school is slated to decide later this year whether to give him the boot. Stay tuned.

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Soon Internet domain names .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov (etc.) may be joined by .xxx for - among other reasons - easier denial of access to porno Web sites by the young. A solid notion. But there are problems, of course, and the usual complainants. A .xxx domain would require registering for a fee, and someone to receive it - and likely the same someone or something to oversee compliance. Free speech considerations and what-all. Yet hey, how throttled can fee-licensed speech really be? Countless goods and services in this life, on this planet, can be gotten only for a fee, so why not porn? The Internet already boasts 4 million pornography sites.