Monday, January 13, 2020

Too young to die for the country


I work in a store to pay my bills.  One of the things we sell are cigarettes.  Recently, the age to buy them was raised from 18 to 21.  This has upset a few people.  Oddly, the people upset seem to all be in the thirties who proudly announce that they are non-smokers. 

The common argument seems to be “If they’re old enough to fight in a war, they should be old enough to buy cigarettes.” And, they have a point.  It does seem odd that people that can get shot at or watch their friend get turned inside out by a roadside bomb shouldn’t buy cigarettes because they’re dangerous. 

Ignoring the idea that the human brain apparently doesn’t fully mature until we are in our mid-20s, which is why – from some vaguely remembered article I read years ago – some people argue that the age for buying beer and cigarettes should be older.  It’s far easier to damage younger brains.

But ignoring that, I wondered what if we switched things up.  What if we didn’t send people to war until they were 21?  People could still join the military at 18, go through all their training, but then get stationed either within the US, or in some safe allied nation, like Germany.  Only older troops would be sent to possibly hostile areas, like Iraq.

Wouldn’t that hinder our capabilities in a war? you ask.  Well, the way around that is that whenever Congress votes on a bill declaring war, they’d just stick in an amendment saying that the age restrictions would be lifted for the conflict. 

The biggest problem, that I can see, would be unit cohesion.  Right now a unit has people of various ages in it and you can’t just send 20% of a unit overseas because everyone else is under 21.  Of course, if this was a direction we went in, there would be ways to work around the problem.  It’s almost funny that – at one point – the ancient Romans had almost the opposite set up.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Random Electoral College fix


In the last few days I’ve seen a lot of … “discussion” over the Electoral College.  Some are demanding doing away with it, while others are shocked at the mere suggestion of doing such a thing.  My opinion is that the Electoral College is a flawed system.  My experience has been that many of the supporters of the college either flat out ignore these flaws, or take the nihilistic view that any attempt to fix these flaws would just create new flaws so why bother.

In this atmosphere, I’ve come up with an alternate plan to “fix” the Electoral College by making it random.  By this I mean that three months before the election, the various election officials will get together and pick five states at random.  So let’s say that in August of 2020 they select Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, New Mexico, and Florida.  And there would also be an alternate selection, say Ohio.  What would happen is those five states would decide who is President.  The other states would have elections for other offices, but they wouldn’t vote for President.  The people in the selected states would vote in November and their Electoral Votes would be decided as normal.  The point of the alternate, would be to cast a tie-breaking vote if needed.  Then in August of 2024, five other states would be selected.  Selected states would be held out of the pool for two elections, so the people in New Mexico might be selected again in 2032 to decide the Presidency.

Now, if you find that idea offensive because vast swaths of the country would have no voice in deciding who the President is, I would hope that you also oppose the Electoral College.  Because that is what happens.  Actually, what happens in reality is worse than in my system.  Most states already have their Electoral Votes locked in: we all know that California will go for the Democrat.  The Presidency is not decided by We The People of the United States, but by the people who live in a handful of swing states.  My system would at least change these swing states every election.

So what do you think?

Monday, January 7, 2019

An alternative to a border wall


There is a lot of hoopla over Trump’s border wall.  Personally, I don’t support it.  Even if Mexico was paying for it, I’d still say it was a waste of money.  Mainly because walls just drive people to find ways to go over, under, around, or through them.  I think even during the campaign there was a point where Trump admitted that ladders could be used to get over his wall.  Hell, a couple of weeks ago I saw a video on Facebook of some Mexican politician who climbed a section of the existing wall and just sat on top of it.  A wall is just an obstacle to be overcome. 

The other night I was thinking about this, and I wondered if there was a better solution.  What I came up with was barbed wire.  Now this isn’t the kind you see keeping cows in pastures, but the kind they used in World War 1.  They used a deep, mass thicket of wire.  (Here’s a YouTube video talking about it.) Putting up a twenty yard deep tangle of barbed wire would probably be cheaper and faster than building a wall.

The way the armies got through the wire in World War 1 were prolonged artillery barrages and tanks; two things people running through the desert don’t have.  Yes, people could use wire cutters, but if you make the thing dense and wide enough, there’s no way they could get through it without being discovered by drones or regular patrols.  Also, a bomb powerful enough to put a hole in a wall large enough for a person to slip through would do nothing to a tangle of barbed wire.

Now in World War 1 the wire was often used to funnel people into spots where they could be mowed down with machine guns.  And while there are some people who would be okay with that on the border, especially if they are serious with the “invasion” language they often use, I’d say don’t make a funnel, just have a solid defense. 

So, if a tangle of barbed wire would be cheaper, faster, more resilient, and more of a deterrent, why does Trump have his heart set on a wall?