Random walk: on West Point, McCain, old Europe, Russia, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jun 08, 2006 12:05 AM

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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Democracy is not flourishing under Russia's Vladimir "Bad Vlad" Putin, nor is its population. Putin devoted a considerable portion of his May state-of-the-nation speech to Russia's annual population loss of 700,000. "We need to reduce mortality, have an effective migration policy, and increase the birthrate" - in decline for 15 years. "We have raised this question many times but in fact have done little," he said. So now Russia has begun offering cash to its women to produce more babies.

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John McCain has shocked the self-deluded left - shocked it - by signifying as a conservative Republican actually interested in the Republican presidential nomination. Amazing. Lofty liberal columnist E.J. Dionne put it this way: "If McCain spends the next two years obviously positioning himself to win Republican primary votes, he will start to look like just another politician."

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For the third and fourth time in four years, the Senate - clotted with lawyers but boasting just one physician - has failed to impose caps on medical malpractice awards. Three Republicans, all lawyers, voted with the Democrats to uphold a filibuster preventing floor votes on two bills. There oughta be a law . . ..

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Which returns us to the matter of the vacancies on the appellate courts - with the announced departure of the 4th Circuit's stellar Michael Luttig for Boeing, 18 vacancies overall. For those vacancies, the Bush administration has offered just 10 nominees. Why - oyez, why indeed? And of the 10, the distinguished Democratic members of the genteel Senate Club aren't particularly happy about any of them and are threatening selective filibusters. Same old same old, and tiresome - and wrong. The administration ought to flood the Senate with appellate nominees and employ nuclear devices as necessary to win floor votes on each one.