Category Archive 'West Point'

06 Jan 2021

West Point’s Honor Code Now Has Minority Exceptions

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The military is different from civilian life. Officers in the course of their careers face a very real prospect of being forced to make life-or-death decisions, including decisions to sacrifice lives including their own, intentionally. Officers must be prepared to follow orders at any cost. And the word, the testimony, of an officer must be absolutely reliable.

The service academies are different from ordinary colleges. College students, in general, are having the time of their lives, partying, dating, experimenting with drugs, while service academy cadets are living monastic lives regulated by iron discipline.

A military officer’s career involves great responsibility and is held exceptionally in honor. Cadets traditionally pay a very serious four-year price for entry into the profession of arms.

There have in the past, on infrequent occasions, been service academy scandals, incidents of cadets cheating on exams and the like. Read about them in the newspapers, we civilians have invariably shuddered and experienced a sense of pity at the rigor and mercilessness of the service academies’ honor code. Similar behavior would almost certainly have gone utterly undetected at our own elite schools and, even had someone been caught, his punishment would most likely have been less severe.

Apparently, now, all that is over with. The famous West Point Honor Code is now just empty rhetoric.

There’s been a new West Point cheating scandal involving 73 cadets and a math test. Most of the guilty parties are described as athletes. The news accounts features the recognizable pause-and-throat-clearing before the code word. “Athletes” here is obviously the equivalent of “teens” in current news stories of looting and violent urban crime. Athletes means minority beneficiaries of affirmative action admission.

In past incidents, being detected cheating meant doom. Cheaters were expelled, period. Not today. Not for “athletes.” 55 of the guilty parties will be receiving “rehabilitation.”

John Hinderaker explains what has happened.

Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the superintendent at West Point, offered a guarded explanation in a memo to the faculty. He said the Academy’s honor code “has resulted in an inequitable application of consequences and developmental opportunities for select groups of cadets.”

But what is “inequitable” about expelling all cadets caught cheating on an exam? The honor code applies to all cadets regardless of “class.” The past practice of expelling violators applies equally to all cheaters regardless of “class.” This is a classic neutral rule.

Clearly, Williams is concerned that application of the neutral rule has a “disparate impact” on particular subgroups of cadets. That’s why he’s departing from past practice.

Williams didn’t specify which groups of cadets he’s talking about. Conceivably he was talking about athletes. Fifty-five of the accused cheaters play sports for West Point. Nearly half of that group is on the football team.

However, I doubt that athletes are the main “select group” Williams is concerned about. I suspect that the primary concern of Williams is with the impact of enforcing the honor code on Black cadets. I can’t say this for certain. It’s not even certain that a disproportionate number of the cheaters are Black.

But there are sound reasons to believe that Williams, who is Black, had race in mind when he decided not to expel the cheating cadets. Rod Dreher explains the grounds for this suspicion in a post for The American Conservative.

He points out that when someone talks about “equity” these days in the context of unequal outcomes, he is usually talking about race. As Dreher says, “if [Williams] is not talking about race here, then what is he talking about?” Equity for football players? That would be a new one.

The notion that there’s inequity when neutral rules adversely affect Blacks in disproportionate numbers is a key element of “critical race theory.” And critical race theory has spread to West Point.

Gramsci’s Long March Through the Institutions has even marched right through West Point.

19 Jan 2019

Salter at West Point

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James Salter was a fighter pilot during the Korean War.

Arnold Gingrich, Esquire’s great editor, is spinning in his grave. Former contributors, like Papa Hemingway, doubtless remark ironically in Hell about what has become of the former men’s magazine, today, in the hands of hipster millennial metrosexuals, full of left-wing piety and political correctness.

Today’s Esquire makes a somewhat desperate effort to rustle up subscribers (who wants to read PC sermons and lectures on Diversity?) by recycling quality writing that appeared in the magazine back in the good old days.

The latest revival item is a gem, a 1992 memoir of West Point by James Salter.

My father, hair parted in the middle, confident and proud, was first in his class. A brilliant unknown with a talent for mathematics and a prodigious memory, he graduated just ahead of a rival whose own father was first in 1886.

The school was West Point and he had also been first captain, though that was harder for me to imagine. In any case, the glory had slipped away by the time I was a boy. He had resigned his commission after only a few years and not much evidence of those days remained. There were a pair of riding boots, some yearbooks, and in a scabbard in the closet, an officer’s saber with his name and rank engraved on the blade.

Once a year on the dresser in the morning there was a beautiful medal on a ribbon of black, gray, and gold. It was a name tag from the alumni dinner at the Waldorf the night before. He liked going to them; they were held toward the end of the winter and he was a persona there, more or less admired, though as it turned out there was a flaw in his makeup not visible at the time that brought him, like Raleigh, to the block. It was not his head he lost but his kidneys, from high blood pressure, the result of mortal anguish, of having failed at life.

When I was older he took me to football games, which we left during the fourth quarter. Army was a weak but gritty team that came to Yankee Stadium to play Notre Dame. Behind us, the stands were a mass of gray, hoarse from cheering, and a roar went up as a third-string halfback, thin-legged and quick, somehow got through the line and ran a delirious, slanting eighty yards or so until he was at last pulled down. If he had scored, Army would have won.

In the end I went to the same school my father did, though I never intended to. He had arranged a second alternate’s appointment and asked me as a favor to study for the entrance exam. I had already been accepted at Stanford and was dreaming of life on the coast, working for the summer on a farm in Connecticut and sleeping on a bare mattress in the stifling attic, when suddenly a telegram came. Improbably both the principal and first alternate had failed, one the physical and the other the written, and I was notified that I had been admitted. Seventeen, vain, and spoiled by poems, I prepared to enter a remote West Point. I would succeed there, it was hoped, as my father had.

In mid-July up the steep road from the station we walked as a group. I knew no one. Like the others I carried a small suitcase in which would be put clothes I would not see again for years. We passed large, silent buildings and crossed a road beneath some trees. A few minutes later, having signed a consent paper, we stood in the hall in a harried line trying to memorize a sentence to be used in reporting to the cadet first sergeant. It had to be spoken loudly and exactly. Failure meant going out and getting in line to do it again. There was constant shouting and beyond the door of the barracks an ominous noise, alive, that flared when the door was opened like the roar of a furnace. It was the din of the Area, upperclassmen, some bellowing, some whispering, some hissing like snakes. They were giving the same commands over and over as they stalked the nervous ranks that stood stiffly at attention, still in civilian clothes, already forbidden to look anywhere but straight ahead. The air was rabid. The heat poured down.

I had come to a place like Joyce’s Clongowes Wood College, which had caused such a long shiver of fear to flow over him. There were the same dark entrances, the Gothic facades, the rounded bastion corners with crenellated tops, the prisonlike windows. In front was a great expanse, which was the parade ground, the Plain.

It was the hard school, the forge. To enter you passed, that first day, into an inferno. Demands, many of them incomprehensible, rained down. Always at rigid attention, hair freshly cropped, chin withdrawn and trembling, barked at by unseen voices, we stood or ran like insects from one place to another, two or three times to the Cadet Store returning with piles of clothing and equipment. Some had the courage to quit immediately, others slowly failed. Someone’s roommate, on the third trip to the store, hadn’t come back but had simply gone on and out the gate a mile away. That afternoon we were formed up in new uniforms and marched to Trophy Point to be sworn in.


03 Sep 2015

WTC Steel Added to 2016 West Point Rings

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West Point cadets in India White uniforms celebrating after Class Ring ceremony.

New York Post reports that a new ingredient will go into the melting pot, along with class rings belonging to West Point graduates of long-ago.

When graduates of West Point’s Class of 2016 go into their years of service as officers of the Army, they will be wearing something no other cadets have worn before — class rings that include steel from the World Trade Center. …

It’s at the ring ceremony that seniors — known as “firsties” — get their rings, which become a physical link between future officers and the West Point graduates who went before.

The ceremony takes place at one of the most beautiful places in America — Trophy Point. The trophies, which are cannons captured in 1812 and other wars, look out over a slope giving north into the Hudson River.

Class of 2016 cadets were marched — to a cadence set by trumpets, pipes and drums — onto this slope. They passed Stanford White’s famous battle monument, topped with a statue of “Fame.”

The Army knows how to do ceremonies like few other American institutions. The cadets are dressed in a uniform called India Whites, worn only by West Point cadets.

There are about 1,000 cadets in the Class of 2016, and it takes a while for them to be marched in. It’s an important enough event that parents and relatives, girlfriends and boyfriends have come from across the country.

Each class designs its own rings. The ingots of the Class of 2016’s rings were poured earlier in the year at the Pease & Curren refinery in Rhode Island. That ceremony, known as the “ring melt,” is a tradition begun for the rings of West Point’s bicentennial class in 2002.

Since then, it’s not just any gold that goes into these rings. They’re made from gold from class rings that were worn by earlier graduates and that have been donated, melted and mixed with new gold to make rings for the following year’s first-class cadets.

A small amount of gold is preserved after each melt so that every graduating class will have traces of gold from all the rings that have been donated since the program began.

This has enabled every class since 2002 to “grip hands” with graduates from the past.

This year, 34 class rings were donated from classes between 1924 and 1985. Some families donating rings sent family members to the ring melt, where they placed the rings in a crucible. A film of the event shows a number of them, including Tom O’Neil, who donated the ring worn by his grandfather.

The grandfather, Col. Thomas O’Neil, had been in the Class of 1934. His grandson had carried his ring through two combat tours in Iraq and two years in Afghanistan. At the ring melt, he spoke of what the moment would have meant to his grandfather.

Five daughters of Col. Leo Hugh Lennon, who had been in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, placed his class ring in the crucible. Others did the same, some saluting.

This new tradition has brought to 356 the number of rings whose gold is in the latest ingot.

It was the Class of 2016 itself that decided to include in the alloy of the rings for this year steel from the World Trade Center, Cathy Kilner of the Association of Graduates tells me. …

Toward the end of the ring memorial ceremony, the cadets are ordered to “reeee-cover,” meaning put their hats back on, and are dismissed. They make their way up the slope and across the plain, past the statues of Sylvanus Thayer, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower and George Washington.

04 Dec 2012

Lesbian Wedding in the West Point Chapel

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The Thinking Housewife comments on another of those dramatic symbolic moments in the left’s forcible conversion of America.

I read yesterday the news stories about the first same-sex wedding ceremony at West Point’s chapel and was completely uninterested. This “wedding” between two elderly lesbians, whose enormous smiles belie an immense disdain for our heritage and for civilization itself, was news around the country but it is not news. It’s just another all-too-predictable ceremony of the liberal state. These two women, and homosexuality itself, are convenient characters in the drama. These uplifted swords, with their evocation of America’s martial past, and this Gothic chapel, with its reference to the fortress of Christianity, are magnificent props. They serve in the most theatrical way to affirm the power of the liberal state and to proclaim its victory. It has conquered our most treasured institutions. It has stolen right up to the foot of the altar. Liberalism has defeated the greatest competing authorities to itself: traditional morality, masculine initiative and the family. It has defeated God himself. This wedding is an assertion of power. There have been many like it for years and there must be more and more ceremonies of its kind. For the forces liberalism has conquered are the forces of life itself.

Don’t miss the comments.

23 May 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

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Brook trout fishing, filmed by F.S. Armitage on June 6, 1900 somewhere along the Grand Trunk Railroad. 1:15 video.


Who should replace Dennis Blair as National Intelligence Director? No one, proposes John Noonan at the Weekly Standard:

Unnecessary bureaucracy has a venomous effect on the national security establishment, whether it’s infantry or intelligence. The director of national intelligence, which has ballooned to a 1500-man supporting office, was a top down solution to a bottom up problem.

Admiral Blair was a casualty of Intelligence Community turf wars. Closing the DNI office would reduce unnecessary conflicts and duplication of effort. It’s too logical a course of action to be given serious consideration most likely though.


Bruce Fleming
says that standards at US service academies have been lowered for affirmative action and to allow academy teams to compete in the NCAA top divisions. He thinks standards should be restored or all the service academies closed down.


Robin Hanson observes a unidirectional dynamic at work in progressive statism.

[I]n any area where we let humans do things, every once in a while there will be a big screwup; that is the sort of creatures humans are. And if you won’t decrease regulation without a screwup but will increase it with a screwup, then you have a regulation ratchet: it only moves one way. So if you don’t think a long period without a big disaster calls for weaker regulations, but you do think a particular big disaster calls for stronger regulation, well then you might as well just strengthen regulations lots more right now, even without a disaster. Because that is where your regulation ratchet is heading.

What if you can’t imagine ever wanting to weaken a regulation, just because it was strong and you’d gone a long time without a big disaster? Well then you apparently want the maximum possible regulation, which is probably to just basically outlaw that activity. And if that doesn’t seem like the right level of regulation to you, well then maybe you should reconsider your ratchety regulation intuitions.

Hat tip to the News Junkie.


Ann Althouse chides the Washington Post: If you’re going to criticize the new social studies curriculum adopted by the Texas Board of Education, you’d better quote it or link it, not paraphrase it inaccurately.

02 Dec 2009

Obama Visits “the Enemy Camp” and Gets Horrible Reviews

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Even Chris Matthews recognizes that what West Point cadets are all about, Barack Obama is against. For Obama, the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York is “the enemy camp.”

Greta van Susteren has fun by feigning astonished incomprehension of Matthews’ remark, yet displays relish of the implicit sting as well.

I watched those cadets, they were young kids, men and women who are committed to serving their country professionally, it must be said, as officers, but I didn’t see much excitement. But among the older people there I saw, if not resentment, skepticism. I didn’t see a lot of warmth on that crowd out there that the president chose to address tonight. And I thought that was interesting. He went to maybe the enemy camp tonight to make his case. …I thought it was a strange venue.

1:33 video

Ouch! indeed.


Those West Point cadets didn’t like him. I saw several inconspicuously catching a nap in preference to listening to their commander in chief. Many cadets stared at Obama with looks of icy contempt.

The German news magazine Spiegel, on the other hand, really did not like him. I don’t know that I have ever read so scathing a review of a Presidential speech, not even in Southern newspapers commenting on remarks by Abraham Lincoln.

Never before has a speech by President Barack Obama felt as false as his Tuesday address announcing America’s new strategy for Afghanistan. …

The academy commanders did their best to ensure that Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama’s speech would be well-received.

Just minutes before the president took the stage inside Eisenhower Hall, the gathered cadets were asked to respond “enthusiastically” to the speech. But it didn’t help: The soldiers’ reception was cool.

One didn’t have to be a cadet on Tuesday to feel a bit of nausea upon hearing Obama’s speech. It was the least truthful address that he has ever held. He spoke of responsibility, but almost every sentence smelled of party tactics. He demanded sacrifice, but he was unable to say what it was for exactly.

An additional 30,000 US soldiers are to march into Afghanistan — and then they will march right back out again. America is going to war — and from there it will continue ahead to peace. It was the speech of a Nobel War Prize laureate. …

It was a dizzying combination of surge and withdrawal, of marching to and fro. The fast pace was reminiscent of plays about the French revolution: Troops enter from the right to loud cannon fire and then they exit to the left. And at the end, the dead are left on stage.

But in this case, the public was more disturbed than entertained. Indeed, one could see the phenomenon in a number of places in recent weeks: Obama’s magic no longer works. The allure of his words has grown weaker

Hat tip to the Barrister.

07 Dec 2008

Army Lost the Last Seven Times to Navy

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But enterprising West Point cadets exact some revenge by a daring daylight helicopter strike on Annapolis.

3:22 video

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