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Re: OT: sponge burning!

Sorry for the delay, I was away for a couple days there.

and wooooo! look what I started! I knew it was bad when there were
some 400 mails in the debian inbox. heh heh. 

On Sat, Feb 24, 2007 at 05:51:46PM -0500, Roberto C. Sanchez wrote:
> On Sat, Feb 24, 2007 at 01:52:56PM -0800, Andrew Sackville-West wrote:
> > 
> > I'm a very wildly-liberal guy and I'm all in favor of the draft. Why?
> > couple of reasons. 1) it spreads the load throughout the population --
> > barring corruption, the Bush twins have just as much chance as any
> > body else of ending up in the military.

Let me start off by saying, apologetically, that I mis-spoke myself. I
am *not* in favor of the draft as it is commonly understood or was
used in this country. What I am in favor of is mandatory service. And
I think there is an important distinction here. The draft makes it
random (in theory) that one get's thrown in the mud with a
rifle. Mandatory service takes the randomness out of it. Its not bad
luck that you're here in the trench, its just your turn. And when
your turn is up, you will make a measured thoughtful decision whether
to support a move to war at any particular moment or not.

Okay, so I believe that we shouldn't have a military at all, but I
understand that is not a realistic situation. Since we have to have a
military, I say, make everyone put in their time. And I say this as
someone who didn't serve and regrets it -- not because I want to go!
fight! kill! but because I feel I missed an opportunity to serve
others and to understand a part of this society. And I missed an
opportunity to understand what a soldier does and goes through. All my
understanding of that comes indirectly from others I've known who have
served (a large portion of my family).

> Wow.  You are so off-base I hardly know where to begin.  First of all,
> in today's US military, the draft is bad.  My father served in the Army
> in Vietnam as a draftee.  I've heard his stories.  Go an speak with any
> Vietnam vet about how poor morale was among draftees (even excepting the
> domestic US politcal climate surrounding the war).

Of course morale was low. You had people being randomly chosen to go
get shot at, you had some people trying any measure available to avoid
that, you had judges sentencing felons to time in Vietnam instead of
going to jail. It was a mess. As I said above, I mis-stated myself. I
agree the draft is bad. But I am in favor of mandatory
service. Someone else mentioned Heinlein's Starship Troopers bit too,
that's an interesting idea. 

>  Now, do you *really*
> wan't people with crappy morale maintaining and responsible for
> multi-*million* dollar systems?  Because that is what today's tanks,
> Bradley fighting vehicles, APCs and airplanes cost.
> Not only that, but the training required for people today is far more
> than it was in the past.  This is true of civilians as well.  We are a
> much more technical society.  Today, the B.S. is the new high school
> diploma and the M.S. is the new B.S.  Drafting high school graduates for
> a 1 or two year stint makes practically no sense since many jobs in the
> military now require six months or more of training.

good. train our people. Sure its expensive, but if you're going to
spend a bunch of money on the military, lets get a bunch of skilled
people coming out of the military as a side-effect. That is in effect
what we have already -- people coming out of the military are highly
trained in various skill-sets and that's great. So lets put more
people in there and train 'em up. So make them put in 3 years. Or
raise the levels of education across the board so this is less of an
issue (see how I stick that liberal agenda item in there? ;-)
My point is that if we can have a military that spends more time
training people for a war they don't fight, instead of spending time
fighting wars, that's a good thing. Or here's another take on that. If
you have mandatory service, the reality is that you'll likely end up
with a bunch of people you don't need. So train them up as basic
infantry, put them in some sort of reserve type situation and save the
expensive hardware for those who commit to longer terms.

> However, I get it.  You are a liberal and so you are all about "equity"
> at gun point.

no you don't get it. I am a liberal. that's one statement. I also
happen to believe that if one is pointing guns, point them at
everybody and not just "those over there."

> > 2) we end up with a true
> > citizen's army. This means we get better diversity in the military and
> > frankly, since most of the current US military comes from the largely
> > uneducated, desperate for a job crowd (no offense intended, but it is
> > reality -- look at recruiting numbers and lowering standards), getting
> > a broader cross-section is good.
> I'll pick one branch of the service: the US Air Force.
> As far as diversity, please check these two sources:
>  Air Force Personnel Center [0]
>  US Census Bureau (page 3, PDF warning) [1]
> Now, let's perform a little comparison.  According to the US Census of
> 2000, here is what the Race and Ethnicity looks like:
>  RACE 
>     Total population........................... 100.0 
>  One race.........................................  97.6 
>     White............................................. 75.1 
>     Black or African American......................... 12.3 
>     American Indian and Alaska Native.................  0.9 
>     Asian.............................................  3.6 
>     Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander........  0.1 
>     Some other race...................................  5.5 
>  Two or more races................................   2.4 
>     Total population.............................. 100.0 
>     Hispanic or Latino................................. 12.5 
>     Not Hispanic or Latino............................. 87.5 

okay, these a very useful figures for 2000. Now instead of the USAF
demographics for 2006 below, lets look at us army stats for 2000
-- a more valid comparison.


shows that in 2000 24% of recruits were african/american. What? that's
roughly *twice* the share!? And that was in the midst of a long-term
decline in AA recruitment beginning in the late 80's -early 90's. That
decline took a precipitous drop when we went to war. So why were their
so many more AA's in the army? and why did they stop coming? I think
its because of simple demographics -- AA's have a lower median income,
higher unemployment, lower educational levels and generally poorer
prospects for continuing education and economic success in the us. The
result? join the military. Especially in a time when we are mostly
involved in minor skirmishes -- the risk factor is low. You have a
large population that have joined the military, not because they are
necessarily "military" people, but because it represents an
opportunity. THis is further borne out by the decreasing recruitment
rates in the AA population as the risk factor has increased
(Iraq). This is not a reflection on the bravery or patriotism of AA's,
BTW. It is a reflection on the reasons why people choose to join or not join.

> The US Air Force demographics for 2006:
> - 0.6 percent reported their race to be American Indian or Alaska Native
> - 2.3 percent reported their race to be Asian
> - 14.8 percent reported their race to be Black or African American
> - 0.8 percent reported their race to be Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
> - 74.3 percent reported their race to be White
> - 1.6 percent reported their race to be more than one of the categories
> - 5.6 percent declined to report their race

this reflects a pretty good match to overall us demographics in
2006. That makes sense. We've been at war for 4 years now. The only
people left signing up are those that want to go to war and not those
that join the military for other reasons. Seems reasonable to me that
there is a pretty good spread across the population of people in that

This is somewhat supported in my link above.

Under the heading "Less Likely to Be in the Reserves Than in
Active-Duty Forces" there are statements to the effect that AA"s are
in the military primarily in support roles, not combat roles. Part of
this is because there is a high proportion of women. I think the rest
of it is because the recruits joined the military for reason's other
than, or beyond just, a desire to be a soldier. 

There is an article out there which is highly circulated:
http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/cda05-08.cfm talking
about the misperception of the "poor-man's army". Reading that
article, there are a number of flaws about the methodology (I am no
statistician, but even I can see some of the problem). They are
discussed here: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/03/15/171542.php
which looks, from the name of the website, to be fairly biased, but
seems to be fairly balanced in its points. Essentially, there is a
confluence of factors at the lower end of the middle class/upper end
of the lower-class that results in dis-proportionately high
representation from that group.

> Ethnicity
> - 9 percent of airmen call themselves "Hispanic/Latino"
> - 87.9 percent "not Hispanic/Latino"
> - 3.1 percent declined to respond 

I'm not sure how this works. Is the hispanic/latino population
considered a subset of the white population above? If so, that makes
sense, if not, there's something funny here.

> Holy Crap!  Quick, let's institute a draft so that the military can
> become more diverse!  Now, by my (admittedly poor) math, it looks like
> minority groups have more representation than whites.  Looks pretty
> diverse to me.

Well, as I said above, that was a mis-statement on my part -- the
draft thing. I conflated those issues and I apologise for that. 

As to the diversity, sure there is recial diversity and even,
historically racial "over-diversity" if there is such a thing (there
isn't IMO). But there is not socio-economic diversity and that is the heart
of the matter for me. Until recently, our volunteer army, in a state
of pretty low levels of combat risk, has had more economic and
probably political diversity than it does now. By having the military
shift to a better representation of racial diversity, we've got a
military with less economic and idealogical diversity. Granted that
has come from the outside influence of protracted combat overseas.

> OK.  Now, let's tackle education.  For that one, you will need to check
> [2] (Excel spreadsheet warning).

[snipped stats showing higher education levels in the USAF versus
population overall]


Well,  I was clearly wrong on aspects of the education thing. The
military *requires* higher education standards. Does that mean they
are necessarily *attracting* those with higher education? or are those
just the ones they accept? What percentage of potential recruits are
turned away for lack of education? I don't know and haven't looked into that.

However, there are some interesting points here in regards to
that confluence of factors mentioned above. By having higher education
standards, the military is self selecting from a more specific group
of people. They are eliminating from consideration a portion of the
population that would probably join for economic reasons but can't for
educational reasons. So what we get is the poorest army we can get
away with, and I would venture that if the educational standards were
lowered (as they are now doing, see the army bit here --
http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/genjoin/a/asvabminimum.htm hardly an
authoritative source, but there it is) then the income levels would
lower as well as a result.
> Please just admit that you have absolutely *no idea* what you are
> talking about.

Well, what I am talking about are my thoughts and opinions on the
issue, and I can think of no-one more qualified to discuss my thoughts
than me. I won't deny that some of those thoughts are based on flawed
thinking or mis-information, but as to *no idea*, well, whatever.

> > 3) we end up with a true citizen's
> > army which means more and more of the folks who end up in power have
> > more at stake in a war situation -- either they've been there and
> > understand or they know their kids might go. 
> > 
> Here is an idea.  Why don't voters just make it a point to only elect
> military vets or retirees to federal public office?

okay. I don't really have a problem with that.

> > I'm a pacifist and the best thing I can think of to promote peace is
> > to make war hurt *everybody* and not just a certain slice of the
> > population. Notice how few of the folks in the current war-hungy US
> > administration actually have any military experience (drinking beer
> > while hanging out in the guard stateside doesn't count).
> > 
> Yes.  Some of the people in the current and past war-hungry
> administrations without military service:
> Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, William Cohen, Sandy Berger,
> Terry McAuliffe, Mary Bono, Steny Hoyer, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, Bill
> Nelson, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, John Edwards, Chuck Schumer, Dianne
> Feinstein, and the list goes on.  Ooh, all those nasty people who pushed
> for war and yet have no military service.

you are reinforcing my point. People without military service history,
or at a minimum a decent family exposure to the dangers of military
service, should not be making these decisions. 

So after all my rambling responses above...

My whole point is this. With a politically controlled military, I
think it is important for the politicians to have served. I think its
important for the political body (people in general) to have
served. THe decision to go to war should be a *true* last resort
without lip service or sleight. That is the only way to avoid
unneccessary conflict. Having an electorate and the elected with a
fundamental understanding of the realities of military service and a
direct personal risk involved in the decision is the best way *I* see
to avoid war.

And again, sorry for the draft confusion there.

> Regards,



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