Ross Mackenzie

A sampler of seemingly small items in the news, with comments direct or implied. . .

President Bush's Oval Office address advocating stricter border monitoring against illegal immigrants and greater use of National Guardsmen prompted immediate concerns about stretching the Guard too thin. And not just the Guard: The Army Reserve already has denied the resignations of at least 400 officers - notably in undermanned fields or if they have not served in Iraq, Afghanistan or homeland defense.

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And speaking of the military, it has come to this at West Point: In April more than 1,000 cadets - about one-quarter of the enrollment - demonstrated for an hour (when does a demonstration become a riot?) by throwing fireworks (etc.) from windows and shouting obscenities. Oh, and their grievance? The manner in which a drug search was conducted in Bradley Barracks - by police squads with drug-sniffing dogs who entered the building during a fire drill. This, at a school training future Army officers.

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Then there are those earning combat pay in the nation's public schools. A new study by the National Education Association, the nation's biggest teachers union, finds low pay and poor working conditions are pushing more than half of new U.S. teachers out of the profession within five years. Other likely reasons: (a) social and cultural forces driving down students' ability and/or their will to learn; (b) buttinski parents; (c) the difficulties of dealing with school bureaucrats; and - given that most new teachers are young women - (d) personal decisions by teachers to put their families first.

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"Post Office Planning Stamps Good Forever," read a recent headline. That is: good for as long as it sometimes takes a letter consigned to the Postal Service to reach its intended destination.

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From the dead zone of Old Europe, this bulletin: Insufficiently upset about such crucial issues as Iran, the European Commission (EC) in Brussels has decreed that pipe-organ builders will get the lead out. The EC has issued a directive according to The New York Times limiting in new pipe organs "the proportion of hazardous substances like lead, mercury or cadmium to 0.1 percent of a finished product that works on electricity." The directive will take effect in July. Britain's 400 organ builders, who make about 40 organs a year, are enraged - "caught," says one, in "an absurd anomaly."

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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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