~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I O 93 93/93 I O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Location: LaGrange, Kentucky, United States

The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mark Finelli hungers for the draft

Writing in yesterday's Newsweek, 9/11-survivor-turned-Marine-volunteer, CPL Mark Finelli continues his crusade to activate the selective service. "Why We Need a Draft: A Marine’s Lament" In this rambling, scatter-shot screed he rails against equipment shortages, (and how that represents a departure from the "basic tenet of capitalism"), and class warfare between those who serve and the "wealthiest Americans" who somehow shirk their duty without a return of the draft.

The real failure of this war, the mistake that has led to all the malaise of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the failure to not reinstitute the draft on Sept. 12, 2001—something I certainly believed would happen after running down 61 flights of the South Tower, dodging the carnage as I made my way to the Hudson River [I worked at the World Trade Center as an investment adviser for Morgan Stanley at the time].

[Brackets original] - and it's a dramatic story in itself. Read it here.

I have several problems with Finelli's prescription of the draft as the answer to all our Iraq War woes. CPL Finelli is, of course, entitled to his opinions... but I find it frustrating that he offers up several assertions as facts when they're demonstrably false. First are these:

But President Bush was determined to keep the lives of nonuniformed America—the wealthiest Americans, like himself—uninterrupted by the war. Consequently, we have a severe talent deficiency in the military, which the draft would remedy immediately. While America’s bravest are in the military, America’s brightest are not.

I don't know where he gets off claiming that President Bush, his Commander-in-Chief (and mine), himself a volunteer veteran of the Texas Air National Guard, is somehow "uninterrupted" by the war, yet even worse, Mark goes on to bash a "severe talent deficiency" in our all-volunteer forces? It's simply not so, Mark. Today's all-volunteer forces are, on average, better educated than the U.S. population as a whole. [PDF] Check it out:

"Heritage Foundation analysis of DOD enlistment data for 1999 and 2003 shows that, contrary to some claims, voluntary military recruits are better educated than the general population and were more likely to come from higher-income areas after 9/11."

A study which, to my way of thinking, should flatter a brave, educated, post-9/11 volunteer such as Finelli.

Later in the piece, Mark will advocate for a "fair draft" without deferment provisions, but if what he wants is a smarter, brighter military, why is he pining for a decline in the miltary's already higher-than-average demographics? But Mark's next sentence I find bordering on offensive:

Allow me to build a squad of the five brightest students from MIT and Caltech and promise them patrols on the highways connecting Baghdad and Fallujah, and I’ll bet that in six months they could render IED’s about as effective as a “Just Say No” campaign at a Grateful Dead show.

Um, Mark? This isn't Saddam's old Iraq. This is America. Ah-MER-eee-kaaaa, Mark! Here we don't force our top scientists into military service and demand instant tech solutions under threat of hazardous duty or death. Sheesh! Even allowing for Mark's obvious rhetorical flourishes, I'd hope that a guy as bright and brave as Mark would know the basic differences between the culture of US forces, and the culture driving Saddam's forces we were deployed against.

Mark's been on about the draft for a while now, appearing in NRO, and on MSNBC and other programs and publications. He has a book in the works, which I promise to read and review here as soon as it becomes available.

By all means, read it all. Though our experiences differ in many regards, there are many similarities, too. Mark and I are both 31 years of age, both of us volunteered for 8 year enlistment contracts, both of us have served in Iraq, both of us are understandably proud of our service.

But Mark favors a return of the draft, while I oppose it. Why? Because while Mark references some legitimate problems with our emerging warrior class, this recent piece in the WaPo addresses those difficulties much better:

Their War

...But the brightest national spotlight is reserved for killers who are war criminals, such as the alleged perpetrators of the Haditha massacre, or heroes who are victims, such as prisoners of war. American civilians no longer seem comfortable labeling a soldier as both a killer and a hero.

In fact, they're not particularly comfortable with the military in general.


Never mind that 92 percent of military leaders still insist their civilian masters should have the final say on whether to use military force. And while nearly two-thirds of military leaders believe they share the same values as the American people, only about one-third of their civilian counter-parts agree. The vast majority of civilians believe service members are intolerant, stingy, rigid and lacking in creativity.


Studies by organizations ranging from the University of Maryland's Center for Research on Military Organization to think tanks to the Department of Defense indicate that members of the military are actually better educated on average than their peers. As many as 98 percent earned a high school diploma or equivalency degree, compared with 75 percent to 84 percent of young civilians.

Where Mark sees a "blue collar fraternity" where America's elite are underrepresented, I see America's elite, period.

Read both.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

FairTax Smackdown

Writing in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Bruce Bartlett lowered the boom on the Fair Tax proposal, an idea that, until now at least, had intrigued me. I'll quote a bit of his piece below, in bullet format.

- The FairTax rate is not 23% as advertised.

"If a product costs $1 at retail, the FairTax adds 30%, for a total of $1.30. Since the 30-cent tax is 23% of $1.30, FairTax supporters say the rate is 23% rather than 30%."

- FairTax by design will drive up health care costs.

"State sales taxes have long exempted all but a few services because of the enormous difficulty in taxing intangibles. But the FairTax would apply to 100% of services, including medical care, thus increasing their cost by 30%. No state comes close to taxing services so broadly."

- Your home? Yep, that too will cost more

"Consumers would also find themselves taxed on newly constructed homes. Imagine paying 30% to the federal government on top of the purchase price of your next house."

There's much more at the link, but I have to say that those three alone are enough to give me pause.

UPDATE: Ramesh noted Bartlett's piece as well, and FairTax.org is objecting to that first point.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

A fine line

Bryan's running down this film art video. I think it's actually quite good.

There's a fine line between gimicky art and gimicky art that works. I think this qualifies as the latter. The recursive bookends ("artist as subject, see artist preparing stage") are a tad too close to crossing that fine line, in my opinion. But overall it's well executed, and I liked it very much.

Reminds me of this:

Which is just straight gimicky art. Period. Doesn't have that extra something that makes it work. Noah's a good looking kid and pretty people just aren't as interesting. Hell! Paris Hilton manages to do the same bit unconsciously. So there you go.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Do it for the children!

I've chastised ad campaigns in the past for exploiting the emotional appeal of children.

I'm making an exception for this banner ad, which is directly related to the goal of caring for children! Unlike the other products, life insurance has but one purpose: providing income replacement for the sake of the living, most notably, children. And so in this context, the use of "angryboy_160x600.gif" (actual file name of the graphic below) is entirely warranted.

And so, for highlighting the converse of my life-long pet peeve, Accuquote gets some free advertising space from me, today.

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