In the pages of the NY Times this morning, noted author and military expert Thomas Ricks urges the United States to reinstate conscription.
Unlike Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who called for a reintroduction of the draft at the Aspen "Ideas" Festival because "if a nation goes to war, it shouldn't be solely be represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population," Ricks doesn't approach conscription from the point-of-view of civil-military relations.
Instead, Ricks argues that compulsory service — "Let's Draft Our Kids," in the words of the headline — could save Uncle Sam billions of dollars…
"One reason our relatively small military is hugely expensive is that all of today's volunteer soldiers are paid well; they often have spouses and children who require housing and medical care.
"Unmarried conscripts don't need such a safety net. And much of the labor currently contracted out to the private sector could be performed by 18-year-olds for much less."
Okay, let's play this game: One reason our relatively small medical establishment is hugely expensive is that all of today's medical doctors are paid well; they have often spouses and children and country club memberships and massive student loan debts to pay off. Unmarried conscripts who have been sent to Upstairs Hollywood Medical College and Beauty School don't need such compensation. And much of the surgical labor currently contracted out to specialists with years of residency and fellowships behind them could be performed by lesser-qualified people for a quarter of the price.
Or, one reason bridges are so expensive is that all of today's civil engineers are paid well; they often have spent years studying for rigorous PE exams. Think of all the infrastructure we could build with a protractor and a team of 19 year-olds.
Besides the questionable savings associated with turning over tasks now done by experienced military professionals to teenage conscripts, there's also the issue that getting drafted for military or alternative service is almost as bad as being picked up by the Browns. And even if compulsory service could "save the government money," it would still be goddamned awful.
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Tags: Military, New York Times
Thomas Friedman is a New York Times columnist whose commentary is distinguished by the frequency with which it bears no resemblance to any kind of external reality.
There's the infamous Friedman Unit, or the F.U., a phrase coined to make light of Friedman's bi-annual contention that "the next six months is critical" to the American war effort in Iraq. And there's his insistence that a policy of placing stiff tariffs on fossil fuels and improving the quality of high-end train service between New York City and Washington, DC enjoys overwhelming support in the nation's heartland but is being squashed by the power of Democratic special interests, when in fact, the opposite is true.
So it was a shocking to see Friedman put himself on Jeopardy!, where unlike the op-ed pages of the Times, being wrong has a price…
By the end of the show, he had amassed a pitiful $1,000 placing him third behind CNN's Anderson Cooper and NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell…
With the category "21st Century Lingo," the answer was, "In 2011, BusinessWeek said European government bonds were this 'poisonous' kind of debt."
Friedman responded, "Sub-prime." I guess he missed the clue in quotation marks "poisonous."
The correct response of course was "toxic."
If only there was a call-a-friend option on Jeopardy!, Friedman could call up the cab drivers and seatmates on international flights who populate his columns and get the answers he needed. As it is, we're left to wonder if a game show humiliation will make Friedman a more careful political analyst.
The next six months will be critical.
Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Tags: Anderson Cooper, New York Times, Thomas Friedman
With debt and taxes continuing to dominate national politics for the second year in a row, you're probably familiar with rising GOP star Paul Ryan. But how much do we really know about him? Every now and then, he'll pop up on the news holding some big shiny budget proposal, but beyond that, he's kind of a cipher.
Until now. Thanks to two sprawling magazine profiles, one in New York, and the other in the New York Times, we now know a bit more about the mysterious young congressman from Wisconsin, including his predilection for choking catfish…
Representative Paul D. Ryan strolls the halls of Capitol Hill with the anarchist band Rage Against the Machine pounding through his earbuds.
At 6:30 every morning, he leads an adoring cast of young, conservative members of Congress through exercise sessions in front of a televised trainer barking out orders. For fun, Mr. Ryan noodles catfish, catching them barehanded with a fist down their throats.
He may be, as a friend described him, “a hunting-obsessed gym rat,” but Mr. Ryan, 42, of Wisconsin, has become perhaps the most influential policy maker in the Republican Party, its de facto head of economic policy, intent on a fundamental transformation of the federal government.
Of course, Ryan is totally qualified to be the GOP's head of economic policy because he holds a B.A. in economics. By that logic, he could also be the head of energy policy since he once pumped his car full of gas.
By the way, for those not familiar with the term, "noodling" — aka "catfisting" — is a form of bare-handed fishing practiced in the South in which the fisherman reaches his bare hand into a catfish hole. As much as we like to make fun of Mitt Romney for animal cruelty, at least he's never fisted another living creature. Not that we know of.
Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Tags: Animals, Budget, Economy, Music, New York Times, Paul Ryan, Wisconsin
If the next few editions of the New York Times are thinner than usual, there's a simple explanation. When the universe conspires to let New York journalists write about the grocery shopping habits of Brooklyn yuppies and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the very same article, there are bound to be casualties — few editors can survive the orgasm caused by that kind of confluence.
The story of the century, if you live in an alternative universe where health care reform isn't before the Supreme Court and security forces aren't cracking down on rebels in Syria, is last night's Park Slope Food Co-op vote on whether the grocery cooperative should have a separate vote to decide whether to boycott Israeli products by joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement…
The vote, conducted by paper ballot, came during the Brooklyn co-op's monthly general meeting, with 1,005 people voting against the motion to hold a referendum on a boycott, and 653 in favor…
Tensions at the co-op, on Union Street, had been climbing to a breaking point in recent weeks as the members, numbering about 16,300, weighed the matter. Reporters and television trucks had become a common site outside the co-op's doors. Advocates passed leaflets with increasing urgency. Politicians and pundits weighed in. And emotions, in at least one instance, spilled over into fisticuffs.
Prior to the vote, names of Co-op volunteers were drawn at random. Sadly, and despite the aforementioned brawl, the winners of the lottery would not be asked to engage in Hunger Games-style gladiatorial combat to secure organic, local, free-range produce for their families. Instead, they'd be allowed to speak and remind us why rising sea levels cannot come to Brooklyn soon enough…
Tags: Food, Israel, Jewish, New York, New York Times, Palestine
Rick Santorum — after making headlines for cursing at a New York Times reporter in Wisconsin –
"If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican is the way I look at it."
You see, the Republican Party has been opposed to the New York Times being allowed to do as it wishes ever since they found out it's often sometimes referred to as "The Old Gray Lady."
Tags: New York Times, Primaries, Quote Unquote, Republicans, Rick Santorum