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Thread: Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

  1. Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    Thanks to some of my colleagues in the navy band, I stumbled upon a series of articles that appeared in the washington post over the last month and a half or so. The articles are written by a journalist named Walter Pincus, and they basically discuss the legitimacy and necessity of military bands in relation to the department of defense budget cuts that are currently being proposed.

    I will post the articles in the order that they appeared, the first article appearing on August 24.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...l?nav=emailpage


    the second appeared on September 7
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...l?nav=emailpage


    the most recent appearing on September 14
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/...l?nav=emailpage


    I highly encourage you to read the following article which is basically a response by NPR to the articles that Mr. Pincus wrote. At the top of the page you can listen to the original audio as it appeared in NPR's radio program, "All Things Considered", in which they interview not only Mr. Pincus but (hold your breath) also Euphonium great and Marine band director, Col. Michael Colburn.
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/there...bands#morecelyn


    I will refrain from providing my own opinion on Mr. Pincus' articles and the ideas that he proposed, since I am more than a little bit biased. However, I will say that from my own professional experience as an active duty member of the navy band, his numbers occasionally appear to be poorly researched and often inflated or deflated to suit his argument.

    I would love to hear everyone's opinions on these articles, so please discuss, debate, argue, disagree, agree, etc...
    Gregory E. Lopes
    Euphonium player
    US Navy Band Great Lakes
    US Navy Music Program, 2009-Present

    Besson Prestige 2052

  2. #2

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    I wonder what Pincus feels his role is as a columnist? I don't read that paper, so I don't know. Is he just one of the random commentators that you find everywhere (like Andy Rooney without the big eyebrows)?

    I would guess Pincus is all for the government programs that help poor people in one way or another. Does he know how many public performance these bands give every year without charging admission? It's a wonderful opportunity for even a large family to hear excellent quality music without spending $20+ per ticket.

    But one could argue back and forth about the value of these groups, as one could with any government program. How much do you suppose we spend each year so members of Congress can run an American flag up the official flagpole so they can send it to some voter or other? My understanding is that these flags are running up and down the flagpole as fast as possible all day long to meet the requests. Is it a bad thing to give flags to U.S. citizens? Is it either more or less good if a Congress member is sending it to help get votes?

    President Obama, in a very recent backyard Q&A session, made light of budget earmarks (i.e. "pork"), saying they were only 1% of the budget. I seriously question that low figure, but let's accept it for a minute. What was the total of the two stimulus bills in recent years? Wasn't it about 1.5 trillion? So just in those two bills, by the President's figures, we had pork of about 15 billion - that's billion with a "B" - dollars. Just in two bills. How about looking at that before the military bands?

    Or an even better way is to look at what the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to spend money on. This would be the same Constitution that I swore an oath to support and defend as does every member of Congress, the President, etc. The military is an authorized area of expenditure. But how would our Founding Fathers have looked at spending on military bands? The Marine Band was officially formed and funded in 1790, around the same time the Constitution was ratified. Then let's look at President Jefferson, who was NOT a fan of letting the federal government go beyond their authorized scope. Jefferson was the man who first requested the Marine band to play for inaugurations, which started the tradition. Jefferson even had the Marine Band play for the church services that were at the time held in the U.S. Congress' chambers. It seems as though he believed that such military music was a valid expenditure.

    In comparing the federal money spent on military bands, and the following actual stimulus bill projects, where would Jefferson stand?

    - $30 million for a spring training baseball complex for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

    - $11 million for Microsoft to build a bridge connecting its two headquarter campuses in Redmond, Wash., which are separated by a highway.

    - $800,000 for the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pa., serving about 20 passengers per day, to build a backup runway.

    - $219,000 for Syracuse University to study the sex lives of freshmen women.

    - $2.3 million for the U.S. Forest Service to rear large numbers of arthropods, including the Asian longhorned beetle, the nun moth and the woolly adelgid.

    - $3.4 million for a 13-foot tunnel for turtles and other wildlife attempting to cross U.S. 27 in Lake Jackson, Fla.

    - $2.5 million in stimulus checks sent to the deceased.

    - $6 million for a snow-making facility in Duluth, Minn.

    - $173,834 to weatherize eight pickup trucks in Madison County, Ill.

    - $20,000 for a fish sperm freezer at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota.

    - $380,000 to spay and neuter pets in Wichita, Kan.

    - $300 apiece in federal stimulus money for thousands of signs at road construction sites across the country announcing that the projects are funded by stimulus money.

    - $356,000 for Indiana University to study childhood comprehension of foreign accents compared with native speech.

    (Thanks to the Washington Examiner for those figures)

    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  3. #3

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    According to the State Department's own website, the Foreign Service employs "about 11,500", not "about 6000" as Sec'y Gates alleges. That Mr. Pincus failed to spend the 30 seconds it would have taken to verify the presenting thesis of his editorial ("Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up.") should give an intelligent reader pause regarding the credibility of every subsequent claim in the series.

    Let's be honest, though: this is not primarily about Mr. Pincus. Mr. Pincus is merely the propaganda mouthpiece for someone in the Defense Dep't. hierarchy who's looking at the budget cuts mandated by Sec'y Gates and fighting to protect his own turf.

  4. #4

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    Originally posted by: fsung Let's be honest, though: this is not primarily about Mr. Pincus. Mr. Pincus is merely the propaganda mouthpiece for someone in the Defense Dep't. hierarchy who's looking at the budget cuts mandated by Sec'y Gates and fighting to protect his own turf.
    Bingo. Spot on. This is Beltway politics at its finest. isgust;

    U.S. Army, Retired (built mid-Fifties)
    Adams E2 Euph (built 2017)
    Boosey & Co. Imperial Euph (built 1941)
    Edwards B454 Bass Trombone (built 2012)
    Boosey & Hawkes Imperial Eb tuba (built 1958)
    Kanstul 33-T lBBb tuba (built 2010)
    Shen 3/4 upright bass (who cares?)

  5. #5

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    And for another point of view...

    On Bill Bennett's radio show yesterday they had interviewed Chip Cravaack, who is running against Congressman Jim Oberstar (MN8) this year. Dr. Bennett was relating some of this previous experience with Oberstar, when Bennett was Secretary of Education. He said:

    I remember my first hearing. I [Bennett] was chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and [Oberstar] wanted to give me a lot more money, and we were trying to cut the agency, even eliminate it... not an essential part of government. [Oberstar] said, "Do you realize we spend more on military bands than on the National Endowment for the Arts? And I [Bennett] said, 'And they do a whole lot more GOOD than the National Endowment for the Arts!' Who wants to get rid of military bands!? Gosh... those rousing songs...

    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  6. #6

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    There's also a thread on TubeNet on this subject.
    Frank Manola

    Pan American Eb, Meinl Weston 20, Wessex "Solo" EEb, King 2341 tubas
    Besson New Standard, TE 1150 compensating euphs
    Park Street Brass
    Old South UMC Brass & Organ, Reading MA
    Wakefield Retired Men's Club Band
    Windjammers Unlimited

  7. #7

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    That triggered another thought I have had several times in the past. What is the bands' role in military spending?

    Why do we have national defense in the first place? To protect our lives and way of life, I assume. As mentioned earlier in this thread, band music IS part of our culture and way of life. Starting from our very founding, it continued through U.S. Marine Band director John Philip Sousa around the turn of the last century and Air Force band director in WWII, Glenn Miller. And it continues today with countless free concerts, recordings, and broadcasts, not to mention the various educational outreach efforts by the different bands.

    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  8. #8

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    Anyone (particularly anyone in Congress!) who is considering reducing spending on military bands as a way to reduce wasteful defense spending might want to first take a look at articles like this one: Unnecessary extra fighter engine: $3 billion defense spending waste. The story starts out
    Congress will soon make a decision on whether to continue funding a defense program that our last two presidents have said they don't want, that our last two Secretaries of Defense have said is wasteful and unnecessary; that the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps oppose, and that the Senate voted 59-38 to end in 2009.
    I'm sure many more similar stories can be found. With situations like this in existence, it seems to me that people who look to military bands as a way of saving money are, as the Bible put it, straining out gnats and swallowing camels.
    Frank Manola

    Pan American Eb, Meinl Weston 20, Wessex "Solo" EEb, King 2341 tubas
    Besson New Standard, TE 1150 compensating euphs
    Park Street Brass
    Old South UMC Brass & Organ, Reading MA
    Wakefield Retired Men's Club Band
    Windjammers Unlimited

  9. #9

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    Given the calls for deficit reduction and cutting of programs across the board, it is only fair that the military band program be also questioned, especially given the sums involved.

    I believe in supporting military bands, both as a jobs program for professional musicians and because they have a long, historic role in the services. But before we criticize relatively small sums for seemingly dumb pork barrel projects, note that Pinkus estimates that the Pentagon spends close to $500 million dollars (.5 billion) a year on bands, the Army itself, close to $200 million, serious money, orders of magnitude higher than, say, "$20,000 for a fish sperm freezer at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota."

    Edited later by JTJ for stridency....

  10. #10

    Several articles in the Washington Post about the legitimacy and necessity of military bands...

    Give Mr. Pincus--a Defense and National Security commentator--long (40+ year) and distinguished record of materially and grossly UNDERSTATING the costs of military projects he supports and materially and grossly OVERSTATING the costs of military projects he opposes, until he provides details of the methodology by which he arrives at his estimates and there is independent, non-partisan confirmation for the numbers he throws out, I consider any and all claims advanced by Mr. Pincus to be no more credible than the claims of those who assert that there are invisible, immaterial unicorns on the moon.

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