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November 11, 2005


Rona Barona

Wow, that is amazing!!! Don Johnson went from being the hip star of "Miami Vice" to being the Facilities Manager at a school. Well, I guess if Gary Colemen can be a Security Guard it can happen to anyone...


The janitor is going to one of those strange places that need help in order to...help someone other than us?


I had to read it a couple of times to realize the Gulf Coast region means the hurricane zone. I'm not sure what you are seeing in the letter, but the 'committed to duty' stuck out for me. Did the headmaster attempt to talk him into not doing his duty and staying there to take care of the school?


No way.

The names are wrong and the dates are wrong.



This is not an unusual situation, if that is why you posted it. I have a 37-year-old nephew who is currently stationed in Ramadi. He was in the 1991 Gulf War serving with the Marines. Since his home was not near a Marine reserve unit, he joined the Army reserves after his service, and has now been called up. His wife and three young children went to stay with her mother while he is away.

The Unbeliever

Perhaps I'm still in Plame word-parsing mode, but am I the only one who thinks that last line is the most telling? "Finally, on a happy note" seems to indicate the writer thinks that anytime someone serves in the military, it's a tragedy. (Maybe the previous sections of the newsletter were filled with some kind of doom and gloom which warrants the sentence, but my parsing seems reasonable based only on what I can see.)

Now obviously it's a hardship for Don's family, and I'm not minimizing their sacrifice. But it seems wrong to automatically associate bad feelings with seeing a friend ready and willing to serve his country.


Actually, I think the thread title says it all.

Jim O'Sullivan

OK, Tom. What do you make of it?


Unbeliever, you're reading of that line is fair, but I think another fair reading is that the news is sad because they will miss him.

I think it's also worth mention that John Smith is willing to put off retirement (on short notice, no less) to help out the school while Johnson's away. Giving one of his remaining years to make the situation easier on everyone. He also participates in Johnson's service.


My younger brother (55 USMC Nam) recently pulled his 2nd tour in Iraq with the Army Corps of Engineers interfacing military and contractors. When he got back I joked that he did one tour for each of us and that it was my turn next. "You got that right" he quipped.


Well, out here in the red states, we sometimes wonder about the pundits who presume to speak for the blue side, who obviously have no experience of what we take for granted -- reservists who are our neighbors, family, coworkers, etc. rotating in and out. Occasionally we wonder, far away from the target-richness of urban areas, why we seem to be making all of the sacrifices, while the people most directly benefitting just whine.

I think the moral of the story is simply that the whining ingrates may have big mouths, but they don't speak for their neighbors any more than they speak for us...

cathy :-)


It's a little like something I remember from "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", except those schools sounded a bit more patriotic about it all.


Given the lack of snark or irony in the paragraphs which preceded it, I think the 'finally, on a happy note' can be taken at face value in the sense of ending on a note that is 'happy' as in 'joyful'.


It appears to be an excerpt from a staff newsletter, and seems pretty value neutral to me. I find myself wondering what I'm missing.


Make it count.

Rick Ballard

What I find lacking is honor for undertaking perilous duty. Katrina and Kabul are apparently equivalent to the headmaster. Since I am unable (at the moment) to read his mind I should add that not noting peril in a piece that his family will certainly read could be entirely innocent.

Every week my pastor offers prayers of safekeeping for those performing perilous duty and always includes firefighters, police and EMTs along with our armed forces. It is a fitting tribute and today is an especially auspicious day to relfect upon it.


What I think is interesting about the letter is what its missing (A sense of patriotic fervor) and what is there (a palpable sense of disappointment.)

When you read the letter, the first two sentences are positive in tone, and there is an expectation of "good news" implicit in its chatty nature. You kind of expect it to say....

Perhaps you read or heard that [Don Johnson], our Director of Facilities, was asked to lead a National Guard unit for several weeks in the Gulf Coast region this fall. Don has been in the Guard for over twenty years and has developed significant leadership experience in that time. Well, Don has just been promoted to the rank of Captain...

or something along those lines.


Yikes! Is he the bathroom janitor? "Director of Facilities"...facilities being bathrooms? And Joe Smith, called upon to lead the maintenance crew from time to time, is the back up janitor?


What I find lacking is honor for undertaking perilous duty.

Ditto. The guy is taking up arms and going to war to fight the people who killed 3,000 Americans, including some from that very school, and this is his send-off?

Here is one of the early lines from Bush's speech today:

Those who have risked their lives for our freedom have the respect and gratitude of our nation on Veterans Day and on every day.

One sentence - not so hard.


Yeah, TM, the principal could've used the facility manager's service and sacrifice as an example of behavior worthy of respect, emmulation, and celebration, rather than using a narrative tone akin to announcing a death in the family. It seems especially out of place to characterize Johnson's military service obligation as "difficult news for the school" as most employers are proud to have employees that demonstrate such leadership skills and responsibility.


I am the wrong guy to ask about this.

I was in the audience at a school assembly last year (first to fourth graders) which was about the tsuanami relief effort in the Indian Ocean.

And some 60's relic decides to conclude the asembly by playing a 60's era anti-war song, "Ain't Gonna Study War No More".

Oh, boy. What I wanted to say was, (a) since the subject is tsunami relief, it might be worth noting that the US Navy led the relief effort, with helicopters, water treatment capability, and medical facilities that were vital. So, (I might have said), while this bim is strumming her guitar, the people who studied war are saving lives.

But we can all agree (I would have segued) that war is a bad thing. But isn't crime a bad thing? Problem solved - I ain't gonna study to be a cop no more.

Isn't disease a bad thing?

No worries - I ain't gonna study to be a doctor no more.

And how about folks trapped in burning buildings. Distasteful, yes? Well, I ain't gonna study firefighting no more, either, so that's taken care of, too.

Then, if any had failed to escape my wrath, I would have paraphrased Jack Nicholson's "You want me on that wall" speech - what are we teaching these kids, anyway - when our nation is attacked, its someone else's job to defend it? Oh, I would have delivered a Few Good Words.

But instead of delivering a tirade I just left the auditorium and ranted at a friend. But, in a moment of self-awareness, I'll guess the incident still rankles.

Jim E.

With all due respect, I think TM is looking for ways to be offended. Only one person, Rick Ballard, noticed the same ommission as TM -- and Rick later points out that maybe it's actually thoughtful, for the sake of the family, to NOT bring up the peril the soldier will face. The newsletter goes out of its way to acknowledge the man's lifelong commitment and leadership and dedication to the service, making it seem like he's proud and ready and not bitter about being called up. I thought it was a nicely personalized , solemn, and appropriately respectful tip of the hat. When one is getting upset about the lack of boilerplate language, I think the parsing is going too far. But that's just me, and I realize this can be an especially sensitive topic.

Cathy (with her g--damned smiley face) takes the cake for taking this moment to spit on the blue states for their supposed lack of sacrifice, without it dawning on her that the soldier in question is from New England.

Jim E.

Oops, upon re-reading Cathy's last sentence, I think I belated stumbled upon her meaning. So she does recognize the blue-stateness. Hers still remains a needlessly bitter comment which implies that blue-staters are not sacrificing and don't appreciate those who do.


Wasn't that just precious?


Well, I found it a bit clinical and matter of fact. It's a non-professional newsletter written in a newsletter style and there is obvously a wall between the author and everything the military stands for. I think I've seen this type of writing too often to have noted it as something out of the ordinary.

Your eyes just glaze over after a while.


Yes, Syl, and over the window on that wall are pasted tissues of wishful thinking. What are they gonna do when they're at their doors?

r flanagan

Maybe the headmaster just made the mistake of publicly revealing what a lot of people privately think . " I support the War
provided it doesn't inconvenience me ".

If a corporate ceo - or a drug store owner- honestly said what he thought about an employee going to NO or Kabul I suspect that mostly you'd get a similar reaction.

Reminds me of listening when a board of directors learned a key employee was going on jury duty (fairly short term at that). The scornful response : "doesn't that guy know how to get off". Not the same
thing , but indicative.

Perhaps it would have been different if he'd volunteered for Kabul. Not sure whether it would have been different- better or different- worse but I think the latter.


With all due respect, I think TM is looking for ways to be offended.

As noted, that may well be the case.

However, I think I would draw the line between supporting the troops and opposing the war in a different place.


What are they gonna do when they are banging on the doors of the school? It has happened in the European part of the old Soviet Union, and some even more Western Europe state will see one in the not so far off.


tags be gone !


to spit on the blue states for their supposed lack of sacrifice

Yes your take was a mis-take but it does reveal your attitude. The high horse resentment that you have at being thought of as whiney cowards by those who shoulder the burden. That attitude will not be forgotten and the memory will linger for a generation at least.

It's true that those carrying the weight look down on your ilk. They paid for the privilige. Your resentment on the other hand is simply craven.


Reading this thread raises a question.

How many posters on this blog could mount a cogent argument for the other side? I would bet the number is lsee than 5. Its very difficult to support with forc and conviction something one doesn't believe in. Isn't that one of the reasons that people hate trial lawyers?

Jim E.

"The high horse resentment that you have at being thought of as whiney cowards by those who shoulder the burden."

My point was that cathy -- and apparently you, too -- is the one on the high horse.

And unless you and cathy are logging in from Iraq (or from some military barracks), all three of us are in the same "coward"* boat you resent so much. Others, (not you, not cathy) are shouldering a burden for all of us. What I resent is other "cowards"* calling out me, and other non-enlisted people, for being a coward*. And, no, I don't believe you or cathy can speak on behalf of those who are actually in harms way. What state or city people live in gives them no more, and no less, credibility than people in other particular American locations. (cathy proclaimed the authority to speak for all redstaters.) It's clear that cathy gives a rat's ass about the largely anti(Iraq)war population in NYC, after all -- a city that knows about sacrifice and loss.
* I'm using your wrongheaded and simplistic definition of "coward" here. I don't automatically label non-enlisted fold as cowards. That's stupid.

Jim E.

"fold" should be "folk"


Your rant is so telling.

unless you and cathy are logging in from Iraq

I served in my time. Nam. There's going to be a big difference in how vets are treated this time around. Hint ... you and your ilk aren't going to like it.


Apologies in advance TM for the irreverent take on your thread.

All Bared Some, Some Bared All

From LGF today:

" #32 rw in san diego 11/12/2005 09:24AM PST
I'm not an O'Reilly admirer, but I'm with him on what he said about cities that don't support our military. You don't want them when you don't need them, fine. Don't call when you do. Put in a call for Boobs not Bombs, or big scrotum, or scary naked people. I'm sure they'll all be a great resource in time of need."

The thought of San Francisco's "Municipal Guard" or Civil Defense Tactical Teams being composed of the likes of Sherry Glaser, Big Scrotum (must be seen to be believed IOW YIKES) or scary naked people just cracked me up.

On second thought....I guess they do know how to march.

How Berkeley Can You Be?


As the author of the newsletter excerpt, I read with interest the various efforts to parse my intent. I most appreciate the comments of Jim E., who seems in his first paragraph to capture the spirit in which I wrote this. I'm only sorry that no one online was there to see "Don" raise the flag at the Veterans Day assembly yesterday, as he and other teacher-veterans were honored.

Sally Cheng


Thanks for weighing in and finally bringing light to this muddle of commentary.

When I first read the excerpt, I tended to agree with Jim E, but not having known how little or much of the newsletter TM had selected, found it hard to better divine the writer's intention.

boris: unless the VA's budget is corrected, and quickly, our Iraq vets will be receiving worse treatment than our Vietnam vets received.


receiving worse treatment

Wasn't talking about GI bill Sally.

who seems in his first paragraph to capture the spirit

Yes Tim, sympatico, it shows. The sad dignity untainted with patriotic ferver and the noble restraint because these are such trying times for us all after all.

As if in the distance, perhaps over yonder hill, wafts the faint strains of drum and fife ... can't quite make out ... battle hymn ??? ... when johnny ??? ... can't tell, the wind scatters the melody, no matter.

Perhaps when these dark days are finally behind us you won't notice the stoney faces and the eyes that look right through. Probably better that way. You wouldn't know why or understand if you did.


The Veteran's Adminstration spends twice as much as the private sector for medical care. Their care can be spectacularly good and spectacularly bad. Their marvelous computer system has remedied some of the spottiness that used to be rampant.

And I don't think our soldiers and veterans are getting a very good deal on so many other things.

Their services, in the private sector, demand and get an order of magnitude better remuneration.


TT, if I could ignore Duelfer and Rossett, I could argue that the invasion was the wrong way to depose Saddam. His control, though, was too pervasive, and his ambitions too evil to have waited for any other resolution. I did not become in favor of this war until around May of 04, when it became evident that we would yield power to the Iraqis, and I read a report about a survey in Afghanistan that gave me early indications of the purple finger revolution.


And there's no Christian like a convert. I used to mock Georgie Boy, telling people that the only reason he hadn't yielded to his urge to go to war was 'cuz his Mommy told him, "Not yet".


The Reservist's wife I told that one to got a ribbon after the conflict was joined because she laughed at it.


So Tim, whattya think of the war?

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