Posts Tagged ‘Fort Dix’

There Will be a Dr. in the White House

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos   

Dr Jill Biden, a working teacher and soon to be First Lady.

Dr. Jill Biden, a working teacher and soon to be First Lady.

  Where to begin?

     With the sophomoric hit job by someone who obviously considers himself to be a man of letters?

     With the preening joy in gratuitously insulting the future First Lady of the United States by calling her “kiddo”?

     With the utterly unconvincing “argument” offered in defense of his “point”?

     With the clear anti-elitist snobbery of the author?

     With the decision by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor to print the column?

     With the subsequent decision by that editor, Paul Gigot, to defend his decision by insulting those who objected to it?

     With Gigot’s belittling of the criticism — of which there was plenty — by dismissing it as political and “playing the race or gender card”?

     With the obvious problem many conservatives in this country have with intelligent, accomplished women?

     With the problem many conservatives have with higher education in general?

     With The Wall Street Journal perhaps confusing itself with its neighbor and sister Murdoch paper, The New York Post?

     With the egotistical “old fart” attitude of the author who obviously feels he can say whatever he pleases as.long as he drops a name and mentions a fact or two about himself that he thinks will establish him as a modest, if brilliant, regular guy?

       Yes, I’m talking about the opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal encouraging soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden to drop the “Dr.” in front of her name. The author, Joseph Epstein, wrote: “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” He also called the title of Biden’s dissertation that led to a doctor of education degree from the University of Delaware “unpromising.”

        A real charmer, this Epstein. So let’s start with the old fart, who has apparently made a career of insulting women, gays and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his narrow, exclusionary, view of the world. I feel qualified to toss the “old fart” label around since, at 79, I am a mere four years younger than Epstein and have been called the same. Takes one to know one.

      His basic argument about the use of the Doctor title by Biden is that today it doesn’t mean anything, unless you’re a medical doctor. He says. He says the honorific has been cheapened by relaxed requirements. He just says these things with only anecdotal comments to support them while also noting “modestly” that he didn’t have what it took to attain a doctorate back in the day. Since Epstein is 83, the day was, well, way back.  

     There’s a lot of “just one of the guys” shtick in the column as he tries to justify the rudeness and crudeness of his approach. (Kind of reminds one of a certain orange-haired president.) For example, Epstein writes: “I taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree. I have only a B.A. in absentia from the University of Chicago—in absentia because I took my final examination on a pool table at Headquarters Company, Fort Hood, Texas, while serving in the peacetime Army in the late 1950s.”

      Swell. Well, I was a reporter and editor on daily newspapers for more than 40 years, including 23 years of writing daily editorials and I have only a B.A. in English, from Adelphi University, which I received six months before reporting in December of 1963 for basic training to Fort Dix, N.J., where I drank 3.2 beer. It was a stint that was delayed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy during the Vietnam War era. So what?

      Epstein again: “I do have an honorary doctorate, though I have to report that the president of the school that awarded it was fired the year after I received it, not, I hope, for allowing my honorary doctorate.” (That doctorate was from, I believe,  none other than my Adelphi University, which fired Peter Diamandopoulos in 1997 for conflicts of interest and lavish. lifestyle.) Epstein then goes on at length to ridicule the excesses of schools awarding honorary doctorates, which is a valid point, but has nothing to do with Dr. Biden’s doctorate, which was more than honorable. 

       Epstein also “casually” drops the name of his “friend,” the late Sol Linowitz, as an example of someone who had a huge collection of honorary doctorates, dismissing the possibility that perhaps Linowitz, a man of many accomplishments, deserved all the honors. I can’t match that super friend connection, but, like Epstein, apropos of nothing, I once shook hands with Jackie Robinson and Jesse Jackson (different times and places) and they had major impacts on society, too. Maybe even honorary doctorates.

       Just a brief research on Epstein (Wikipedia) revealed that he was eventually fired from his job as editor of The American Scholar, the magazine for Phi Beta Kappas, for his unrelenting anti-feminist views and refusal to allow any counter arguments to the arch-conservative writers he welcomed to his editorial page. He once called feminist scholars “dykes on bikes.” He was editor of the magazine for 21 years and, if anything, one might wonder how such smart people put up with him for so long. 

        Epstein also wrote a piece in 1970 for Harpers Magazine in which he called homosexuality “a curse, in a literal sense.” If he could, he said, “I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.”

        So this is the expert Gigot chose to attack Jill Biden in The Wall Street Journal, maybe feeling the Fox News loudmouths we’re getting too much love from the uber-conservative audience. But then Gigot, criticized mercilessly on social media, inexplicably feels he must defend his decision to publish Epstein’s hit job and to use Epstein’s favorite weapon — claiming “identity politics” — in dismissing comments from the Biden campaign critical of the piece. Gigot: “My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism.”

        Nonsense. First of all, if Gigot thought Epstein made a legitimate point and decided to run the column, then he should simply have stood by his decision. Period. That’s why he’s the editor. The column may have been insulting, but it wasn’t libelous. (I have a little experience in this regard. Once upon a time, Rupert Murdoch also owned the paper for which I worked. He left us pretty much alone because we made money. As editor of the editorial page, I was called a left-wing, pinko more times than I can remember, but people still managed to find their way to the opinion section.)

        Of course, Gigot also had the option to simply say, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I had a brain freeze. The guy is a jerk. I’ll try not to do that again.“

        But he didn’t. Instead, he chose to go along with the currently popular Republican position that higher education is something to be mocked and accomplished people, including a future First Lady, are to be subjects of ridicule. How he feels this plays to the resumes and prejudices of readers of The Wall Street Journal is beyond me. 

       In the fallout from the article, Northwestern University and its English Department have apparently condemned Mr. non-PhD Epstein and the university removed him from its page of emeritus professors. Gigot called called it an example of “cancel culture,” another phrase conservatives like to throw around these days. But since Epstein doesn’t think much of titles, he shouldn’t mind.

        Of Biden, Epstein wrote, “A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”

        Well, Joe, another wise man (an uncharacteristically unhumble me) once said, “There’s nothing so unappealing and unconvincing as a whiny, old, misogynistic homophobe full of regret that he didn’t achieve a distinction that he might have and envious of a classy woman who did.” Think about it, kiddo, and drop the act.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Happy Birthday to Me, Dylan and JFK

Monday, May 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

JFK ... at a press conference

JFK … at a press conference

The headline tells the story. Well, at least the premise. Bob Dylan and I both turn 76 today (May 29). Funny, I can almost believe it about myself, but not about Dylan, even though he’s literally been around my whole life. But while I appreciate his contribution to music, which won him a Nobel Prize for its poetic, lasting message, it’s not the sound of Dylan’s unique voice that I carry around in my head every May 29.

That would be Kennedy’s, with his distinct Boston accent. I’ve been aware of sharing a birthdate with the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of The United States, considerably longer than I’ve known the Dylan connection. That’s because Kennedy, who would be 100 today, was president at a time when I first became intimately aware of how a president could have a profound impact on my life, personally.

That was in October of 1962, the Cold War was heating up. I was a senior in college, with a draft deferment and Kennedy was telling Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to get his nuclear missiles out of Cuba or else. When Khrushchev refused, JFK ordered a blockade of U.S. Navy ships around the island to prevent delivery of any further missiles or equipment from the Soviet Union. As Soviet ships steamed towards Cuba, I waited nervously with the rest of the world to see if nuclear warfare would break out. Kennedy refused demands from other world leaders to back down.

Eventually, U.S. sailors boarded one Soviet ship and looked around. Then the Soviet fleet turned around and sailed back to Russia. Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missiles. Kennedy in return agreed that the U.S., having been humiliated in a failed invasion attempt at the Bay of Pigs a year earlier, would attempt no future invasions of Cuba.

A year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, as I awaited reporting to Fort Dix, N.J., for basic training, JFK was assassinated, postponing my duty for a month. And 20 years later, as fate (synchronicity?) would have it, the first editorial I was asked to write as the new editorial page editor for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., was to mark the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Headline: “The Measure of the Man.”

Some 34 years later, much of it still applies. The legend of JFK — Camelot (Jackie, John-John and Caroline), PT-109, Navy and Marine Corps Medals, the Purple Heart, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” “Ask not …”, the challenge to put a man on the moon, the Peace Corps, the New Frontier, a limited nuclear test ban treaty — still far outweighs his failings, including extramarital affairs, hiding illnesses from us, escalation of the American troop presence in Vietnam and a reluctance to take a firm stance in the growing battle over segregation in America.

He is regularly rated as one of this country’s greatest presidents, a testament I believe to his ability to inspire hope, faith and courage in Americans, especially young Americans like me, at a time of grave danger. Much of that owes to his youth (he was 43 when elected president, the youngest ever) and his ability to eloquently deliver the words written for him by Ted Sorensen, a synchronistic match if there ever was one. But Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, was no slouch at writing either, having won a Pulitzer Prize for biography with “Profiles in Courage.”

After considering a career in journalism, he decide on politics. Good choice. But as president he courted the news media, including initiating regular White House press conferences. He connected with people.

If Dylan’s message was often one of rebellion, Kennedy’s was unfailingly one of of hope. We can do this. We are up to the challenge. We care. His average approval rating as president was 70 percent, the highest in the history of Gallup. He also ranked third, behind Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa, in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century, according to Wikipedia.

Four years ago in this blog, writing “The Measure of the Man II,” I recounted my history with JFK and wrote, “The question I still ask myself is, what might JFK have done, what might he have meant to America and the world, if he had lived longer?’’ That was on the 50th anniversary of his death.

I also wrote, “I’m also going to remember to honor him not on the date he died, but on the date we both were born.”

So happy 100th, Mr. President. And Bobby, stay forever young and keep on pluckin’. I’ll meet you at 100.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Improving Military Justice

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

 

By Jeffrey Page

So antiquated and one-sided is the American form of military law that a Canadian judge refused to return a U.S. soldier who had been charged with deserting across the northern border. This comes at a time when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called for a revamping of the classically oxymoronic system of military justice.

One aspect of the system that galls critics is the power of high-ranking commanding officers to insert themselves into the process and exercise their prerogative to alter the charges brought by prosecutors and the verdicts returned by juries. The most notorious recent example of this, as noted in The New York Times, was an Air Force general’s nullifying a subordinate officer’s conviction on charges of sexual assault.

Many people who have faced the military justice system in matters serious as well as frivolous understand that it is, at its core, an absurdity. Note that the Air Force lieutenant colonel convicted of aggravated sexual assault had been sentenced to a mere one year in prison.

Without suggesting that rape and the refusal to carry out an order are in any way comparable, let me present an example of how military justice often works.

Once, a long time ago, at Fort Dix, N.J., I was charged with sleeping while at parade rest. Explanation follows.

One hot day in July of 1964, Tango Company, part of a basic training regiment, was marching to breakfast. We had to wait outside the mess hall until another company finished their meal and departed. An Army Reserve sergeant doing his two-week summer training, ordered us to stand at parade rest, which is a slightly relaxed form of standing at attention. We were on a construction site where the Army was building new barracks and I found myself atop a small pile of bricks. I looked down to get my bearings and to adjust my stance.

That was when the sergeant ordered me to perform 10 pushups, a mild punishment when you do something the wrong way.

For what, I asked.

He said, “For sleeping at parade rest,” which is as close to a physical impossibility as you can get. I refused – a very stupid move. And sure enough, later that morning, a clerk told me the company commander, a captain named Dixon, wanted to see me.

“You disobeyed the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer,” Dixon said gravely.

“The man is insane,” I began.

“Shut up, Troop,” he said and proceeded to inform me that we don’t disobey orders in this man’s army. Capt. Dixon yelled a lot and stopped every so often to ask if I understood the seriousness of what I had done. It was clear he didn’t care one way or the other about what the reserve sergeant had ordered, or why.

Finally, the captain told me I could choose my punishment.

“You can have a court martial, at which you will be convicted and sentenced to 45 days in the stockade,” he said, while shaking his head slightly. A signal?

Or, he said while continuing that head-shake, I could choose non-judicial punishment as described in Article 15 of the Universal Code of Military Justice. This would involve a hearing before this very same very angry Captain Dixon. “It would not be a court martial, but you will be convicted and you will lose a month’s pay,” he said. That would have been $78.

The third choice? I could report to Tango Company’s headquarters at 3 o’clock in the morning for three days running, sweep the floor, wash the floor, dust the furniture, and tidy up the place, he explained while nodding slightly. Then I would report to my platoon for a full day’s training and a loss of two precious hours of sleep. Reveille was at 5 a.m. I would start my cleaning at 3:15 a.m. I would be exhausted. And that’s the punishment I elected.

In going before Congress to change the system that allows commanders to ride roughshod over common justice – or finesse it, Hegel should be applauded. Justice should not be booted around in serious cases, but commanders like Dixon should have the right – the obligation, in fact, to get to the bottom of minor, piddling cases like mine and send the wrongdoer on his way.

I concede I was saved from doing time in an army jail by the same wink-and-nod system of military justice that saved the lieutenant colonel from prison. But military justice sometimes seems not interested in justice.

The system needs repair when a guilty-verdict in a felony case is tossed aside and a recruit comes this-close to spending 45 days in jail for disobeying an idiot sergeant.

That’s not justice, military or otherwise.

My Deciding Gun Factor

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

As the urgency in the discussion of the need for stricter gun laws increases, allow me to tell you about the moment when my ambivalence about guns turned to something else.

It was during basic training at Fort Dix in the brutally hot summer of 1964. We, in Tango Company – “Tough Tango! All the way and a little bit more!” we were ordered to shout several times a day – had undergone any number of training classes at the rifle ranges. Our weapon was the M-14, a particularly nasty instrument that the army issued as standard equipment from 1959 to 1970. Set on automatic, the M-14 could fire at the rate of 750 rounds per minute. Our ammunition clips held 20 rounds. This was not a weapon for sport.

With initial rifle training over, we knew how to fire the M-14. Now we marched to a new range for combat training. Here we would work in teams of two. My buddy, a guy named Vince from Newburgh, and I faced downrange. He was about 15 yards to my right. The idea was that he would make a dash forward, firing at an imaginary enemy, while I covered him. Then I would move forward and he would cover me.

The ammunition was live. As a result, Al Minicus, our normally laconic platoon sergeant, informed us – many, many times – that we must be facing straight ahead before firing our weapons. Any deviation from this rule could result in extra duty at best, a court martial at worst.

As Vince started forward, I rose to one knee and fired into a thicket of bushes about 50 yards straight ahead of me. Then, as Vince dropped to the ground, I stood and ran past him while maintaining the 15-yard space between us. He now was firing to cover me.

Just then, I heard the training officer blow his whistle, which meant, in descending order of immediacy: cease firing at once; get your finger off the trigger; freeze; bring your weapon diagonally across your chest to port arms; stand at attention.

The officer, a young lieutenant, approached me, called Vince over, and asked if I knew why he had whistled. I did not, but wondered if this somehow was going to turn into an extra tour on KP or guard duty. But I was innocent.

The lieutenant said that Vince had fired his weapon several times at a 45-degree angle to his left – meaning right at me. “At your head,” the officer said. Vince started apologizing and the lieutenant told him to shut up.

I felt a surge of nausea. I felt my knees weaken. I had a vision of my head in pieces. I found myself leaning on my rifle like a crutch, something you’re never supposed to do. The officer then asked me if I wanted to have a few moments alone with Vince behind the latrine so I could “deck this sorry son of a bitch.” I did not.

At that moment, I threw up an ocean of breakfast onto the rifle range, and this seemed to annoy the lieutenant as much as Vince’s misdirected firing had. Then, using standard army logic, Sgt. Minicus came over and said that Vince was lucky because he hadn’t hurt me and would be punished only with an extra KP duty. He never mentioned how lucky I was that Vince had missed.

I finished basic training and later returned to my National Guard unit in New York where, in the next 5½ years of my enlistment, I never had to carry a weapon with live ammunition. Which was fine with me, almost as fine as being alive.

Vince wasn’t evil, just careless. Adam Lanza and all the others who have contaminated our society with their unhappiness weren’t careless, just evil.

And armed.