Generals — Assisted Seppuku and Suicide

Seppuku – Suicide by Jill Kelley’s hand

SeppukuWashington Post reported today that General John R. Allen would be retiring.

As you may recall, the Pentagon’s Inspector General quite recently determined an investigation had concluded that General Allen had not violated military prohibitions against conduct unbecoming an officer in his communications with the apparently scheming (for what purpose, exactly, we will probably never know,) ingratiating quasi-seductress and so-so-socialite Ms. Jill Kelley in spite of these communications having been described as racy and flirtatious.

Generals and Generals
This posting refers to no less than four real-life generals and one fictive general (spoiler: General Jessep in A Few Good Men). Only two of the real-life generals, however, are military generals, although that does not make the other two real-life generals less important.

The general that we refer to here, the Inspector General for the Department of Defense, heads up the Department of Defense Inspector General function, the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in matters of Department of Defense fraud, waste, and abuse. She (it is currently a woman) has sweeping powers of investigation and is nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate.

Later, we will refer to the the United States Postmaster General, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Postal Service, whose office, as the Post Office Department, is older than both the United States Constitution and the United States Declaration of Independence and whose office until 1971 was a cabinet post. In 1971, the Post Office Department was re-organized into the United States Postal Service, a special agency independent of the executive branch, and was stripped of its cabinet role and its all-important part of the succession chain for the office of the President of the United States.

In a previous posting I have written about the Allen affair, which followed the Petraeus affair, the scandal of General David Petraeus, the former boss, or Shogun, if you like, of General Allen, and involved, again, Ms. Kelley. In my musings I complained that the military failed to take the opportunity to discipline General Allen, for, what was without a doubt, inappropriate behavior by a four-star general.

Mr. Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post has reported that General Allen’s supporters:

… have described the investigation as overblown, arguing that Kelley had sought to ingratiate herself with several generals who have served at the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa and that Allen’s responses to her, which involved words such as “sweetheart,” reflected nothing more than friendship.

Nothing? I hardly think that a four-star general referring to a flirtatious military groupie as sweetheart amounts to nothing more than a platonic friendship. Moreover, regardless of terms, for a four-star general to allocate any amount of time to a groupie is simply unacceptable.

Ironically, I had expressed my hope that General Allen would would follow General Petraeus’ example and commit seppuku, and he did — sort of… Well, no he didn’t. It’s complicated, really.

Evidently General Allen quit his job, securing, of course, his considerable pension and — I guess — enough of his honor to ensure that he get a cushy consulting gig with one of the lobby firms or the many, many companies that does business with the military, citing his wife’s health problems (an auto-immune disorder, I think.)

In my view, General Allen should have committed public seppuku immediately upon learning about the Petraeus affair, since he should immediately have realized that he was bound to be caught up in the slipstream of his boss’ strange three-way with Ms. Kelly and Ms. Paula Broadwell. That would have been the honorable thing to do, would have saved the military the expenses related to the investigation and his subsequent pension, and, most importantly, would have sent a signal that this kind of behavior is inappropriate for a career military man.

Actually, had General Allen been a traditionalist, he would have committed oibara, the traditional act of committing suicide at the death of one’s master, immediately upon learning about General Petraeus’ act of seppuku, but even I think that this might have been to ask too much.

We will probably never know what went down between Ms. Kelley and General Allen, but if it is anything close to what it looks like, turning around and attempting to resign without taking blame for the disgrace that he has brought on himself, the military, and his family is a strange act, bordering on cowardice — something that should be inconsistent with an old-school warrior such as General Allen. Using the wife as a shield is downright disgraceful and, to me, severely disappointing, since I had hoped that General Allen would raise about it all, much the same way that the fictive General Jessep did when he furiously declared “You can’t handle the truth!” in A Few Good Men.

We will never know, I think, whether the Pentagon and General Allen entered into a great bargain, whereby the Pentagon exonerated General Allen in return for his subsequent — after an appropriate interval — resignation, but one could certainly be excused for thinking that would be the case. If it was, then this is completely unacceptable behavior by the Department of Defense and the military, wasting tax-payer money and failing to set an example that appears to be needed.

To me, the bottom line is that the fact that General Allen allowed himself to end up in a situation where he could be disgraced is enough that he ought to have been dishonorably discharged, and if I had any doubt about this point, then this doubt was removed when he served up his wife’s illness as a get-out-of-jail card. Shame on him. At least General Jessep, who committed an act that — in my view — was less dishonorable — had the grace to go down in flames, rather than hide behind his family circumstances.

By the way, I think it is about time that Congress or the Federal Bureau of Investigations investigate Ms. Kelley. Whereas, as far as I know, no United States four-star general of the United States armed forces have ever been killed by enemy fire, Ms. Kelley has managed to kill off two in a very short time-span. As a minimum, we ought to find out what other officers she has been ingratiating herself with and offer these officers an opportunity to commit seppuku.

Suicide by FedEx’s and United States Congress’ hands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe United States Postal Service, handily aided by the United States Congress after extensive lobbying by FedEx and UPS, has now entered into the next stage of its slow, systematic suicide.

As I wrote about in a recent posting, the United States Postal Service, an essential service and a corner-stone of democracy in much the same way that voting stations, public schools, public services, and libraries are, have slowly, but surely been maneuvered into a position where it now finds itself on the brink of extinction.

In my posting I wrote:

The emphasis of the lobbying [by FedEx in particular] has been on (1) ensuring that the postal service appear unprofitable through legislative change, (2) shifting the highly profitable business from the postal service to FedEx, (3) collecting as much money as possible from the postal service:

  • A decade of legislative changes have laid the foundation for piecemeal privatization of the postal service — most notably the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, requiring the postal service to prefund the health care benefits of future retirees — a burden not shared by government agencies or private enterprises, causing the postal service to swing to significant loss, including a $8.5 billion loss in 2010, and a $5.1 billion loss in 2011.
  • The postal service is required to use outsourced services for transportation, technology, and support, in spite of the fact that audits released by the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General has revealed that it would be more cost-effective for the postal service to perform these services itself. FedEx is the leading provider of such service to the postal service, collecting, for instance, $1.3 billion in year 2010.

CNN, which may be slow, but eventual will get there (unlike the early 90’ies where they could be relied on to get there first,) finally found it worthwhile to point this fact out, with Jennifer Liberto reporting that:

The key culprit for the Postal Service’s woes has been a 2006 congressional mandate requiring it to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees. The USPS has been borrowing billions of dollars from taxpayers to make up for the shortfalls.

Unfortunately, the United States Postmaster General, Mr. Patrick Donahoe, has now fallen into the trap of responding to the lobby-driven congressional frenzy through cost savings — initially by stopping Saturday deliveries.

Although this approach may seem reasonable in much the same way that reducing social, firefighting, and police services would to an anarchist or sociopath, it will, of course, only accelerate the bleeding out as it will surrender the very important Saturday delivery market to FedEx and UPS, driving customers away, and further divert funds away from the United States Postal Service.

The real answer, of course, is to get rid of the pre-funding mandate — a measure that is uniquely imposed on the United States Postal Service; to start charging junk-mailers reasonable rates; and to stop working with FedEx and UPS, its direct competitors. The most meaningful measure, immediately swinging the United States Postal Service from red to black, would be the immediate reversal of the pre-funding mandate, but that, unfortunately, would require politicians to stand up to the avalanche of lobby money — something that just ain’t going to happen.

So, the United States Postal Service does what it has to do, slowly draining its top line in order to reduce its bottom line. And, so, the postal creed, inscribed on the wall of the James Farley Post Office in New York City, will soon need to change to:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds — but lobbyists and United States Congress will

Of course, this annoyingly truthful inscription will only be temporary. Soon the illustrious James Farley Post Office, two full city blocks of eight acres of prime real estate in western Midtown Manhattan, will be named the Trump Pavilion, when Donald Trump and his daughter “saves” the historic building the same way they are saving the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., also prime real estate, by turning it into a hotel.

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