Universal Conscription?

Some people have argued for a “universal conscription” in the US for various reasons.  The reasons may be to teach people a “work ethic”, to give them a sense of duty, or to give us all some common experience to bring us together as a people.

Most of those reasons are balderdash.  While there can be advantages to having the entire citizenry trained to arms most of the reasons people cite are not reasonable expectations to get from universal conscription.

And that’s leaving aside my main objection:  the general immorality of forced servitude of any type.

But, let’s presume somebody manages to convince Washington to do just that–to manage to pass (and get past the courts!) a universal conscription requiring everyone to serve for a set period of time when they come of age.  What would that entail?

Well, in 2017, the birth rate in the US was 11.8 live births per thousand population.  The population was 325.7 million.  Doing the numbers that works out to 3,843,260 babies born in the year or just over 10,500 every day.  So we would expect, with our universal conscription that we would have about that many entering into service every day.

Let’s use the shortest of the service branches basic military training as a standard here and figure out how many people would be in that training at any given time.  That would be the Air Force with one week of in-processing followed by eight weeks of training. (Hm.  It was only six when I went in.) Assuming a very low “recycle” rate (meaning someone screws up and has to repeat part of training) 10,500 people entering a day would mean 661,500 trainees at any given time.  That’s a minimum.  Longer training times mean more people in training.  That’s about half the size of the combined forces of the United States Military as it exists today.  And that’s just those in basic military training.

If these trainees draw base pay at current E-1 rates, that works out to just over $13.3 billion every year.  Just to pay the trainees at the lowest military pay scale.  They would also need to be equipped, clothed, housed.  Oh, and they’ll need medical care, transportation to and from training activities, and a host of other “logistics” issues.  Plus leadership to manage and coordinate all that activity.  More money.

We would also need instructors.  When I was in we had a “Flight” of about 50 with 3 instructors, plus we would also go to classes taught by other specialty instructors.  So, let’s call it one instructor for every ten trainees.  66,150 instructors in the NCO ranks.  How much they’ll cost is a bit harder to calculate since they different ranks and experience levels accrue different pay rates.  But by and large it will of an additional $2 billion every year just to pay the instructors.  And, again, they’ll need to be equipped, clothed, and housed.

So we could send all of each new adult through the most basic of military training for the low, low cost of about $15 billion per year, that is after paying the upfront cost of building 100 new military bases the size of Lackland Air Force Base, the much beloved site of Air Force Basic Military Training (among other things).  That’s enough to put two in every State.  How much does it cost to build a military base from scratch?  I have no idea, but I bet it’s a bunch.

That, however, just looks at the cost if we take the people, put them through a brief military training, and then send them home.  If we want to actually do anything with them?

Well, the first cut is simple.  We use the same daily figures:  10,500 and multiply it by the time we’re keeping them in service.  Let’s say a mere 18 months.  That’s still pretty short.  There are career fields in the military where one wouldn’t even be finishing technical training at that point.  But let’s use it.  That would mean our military would have about 5.7 million privates, about 4 1/3 times as large as all our current military combined.  And, to manage that many “new guys” we’d need a correspondingly larger cadre then our current military has, a total military of 7-8 million, and on the order of a thousand new military bases, all the size of Lackland.

How much that would cost is left as an exercise for the student.

The simple truth is, however appealing “universal military service” is to a certain segment of the population, it’s just not practical at all.

And that’s without even getting into the moral question of slave armies.


Where the DC Movies went Wrong: A Blast from the Past

This is going to be a bit of a ramble.

Lately there have been two battling Superhero franchises:  The Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever mess DC has been putting out lately.

That wording should tell you what fandom camp I fall into.  And what makes that ironic is that I grew up on DC comics.  While I was fond enough of Marvel Comics, it was DC that was my true superheroic love.  Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Teen Titans, Green Lantern, yes, even Aquaman.  I couldn’t even pretend to be a collector because I would read and re-read them until they were falling apart.  No “mint” copies in my collection.

Then Frank Miller did the Mini-Series “The Dark Knight Returns.”  It was a good story.  It was a great story, as a story.  As a stand alone, as one particular take on Batman and his future, it was marvelous.  But it was not the Batman I’d grown up on.  And when DC started making the Darknight Detective more “Dark” and less “Knight” let alone “Detective”, well, that was the beginning of a downhill slide for me.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.  For a while there he was almost a split personality.  A more well-rounded, sane individual when working with the pre-Crisis Jason Todd (back when Todd was, like Dick Grayson, a circus performer whose parents were murdered–as one letter writer said “Where else are you going to find a young man with that kind of acrobatic training?”), then a completely different and far darker individual when working on the West Coast with the group he formed the “Outsiders.”  Gradually the cowled psychopath would take over the character.

Meanwhile, over in the Superman Comics, Superman was still the Big Blue Boyscout.  And I loved it.

Then came the movie “Superman”.  Oh, wow.  Christopher Reevesnailed it.  As Reeves said in a interview (quoted here among other places):

“What sets Superman apart is that he has the wisdom to use his powers for good. He has all these powers, but he’s got the mind of maturity – or he’s got the innocence, really – to look at the world very, very simply. And that makes him so different.

When he says, ‘I’m here to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way,’ everyone goes: *snicker* *cough* *ahem*.

But he’s not kidding.”

Reeves totally got it.  The movies may have been over the top silly in parts but Reeves understood the character and was true to him.

Well, years passed and we had Keaton’s Batman.  Very Milleresque, but as a stand alone “different take” it was pretty good.  Kilmer’s wasn’t too bad.  And the less said about Clooney’s the better.  There was the Brandon Routh version of Superman in Superman Returns that fell like a dud.

Then there was Nolan’s version of Batman.  This one actually lightened up a bit on Batman himself.  Okay, I think he was wrong in The Dark Knight.  Gotham could have handled that, given what had happened to him, Dent had gone nuts there at the end.  Batman as a heroic figure  would have had more value than was lost in seeing that their idolize DA had human failings.

Then along came Zack Snyder to direct the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel”.  Okay, look, I’ve heard arguments on both sides regarding the collateral damage from the fight in Metropolis and the killing of Zod and how Superman “had no real choice.” This may be true, Superman had no choice.  But that was Snyder’s choice.  In the comics, Superman has killed, yes.  However, that falls into two different categories.  One is the very early development of the character when the writers and editors were still figuring out what the character was going to be.  Then, once they did that and we had the iconic “Big Blue Boy Scout” those rare instances were where he was forced at extremis to kill, and gain their dramatic power because he is deeply committed to preserving life, not taking it.

Snyder’s Superman, as portrayed by Henry Cavil, does not have that.  One could argue that they’re returning to the roots of Superman, the very first stories where he was a bit more casual about things like that, but that Superman was far less powerful, far less of a god among mortals.  “Faster than an express train” “Nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin” “Leap an eighth of a mile”. Compare that with any of the modern versions. The more “relaxed” attitude toward use of lethal force, combined with the far greater powers of the modern Superman is not, IMO, a good combination and breaks the character.

What we end up with is an invulnerable, super strong, super fast bull in a china shop.  Those people (you know like Luthor–or Bruce Wayne for that matter) concerned about what this incredibly powerful alien is going to do are right to be concerned.  He has given them no reason to allay their fears.

They worry that he’s a threat for the very good reason that he acts like a threat.

And this is not just a matter of putting Superman into a difficult spot that he’s going to have to dig his way out of and show that despite how things look he’s really that Boy Scout.  This is a different, darker, interpretation of the character.  As indicated by Snyder’s complaint that people don’t like this version:

“The thing I was surprised about in response to Superman was how everyone clings to the Christopher Reeve version of Superman,” he told Forbes. “How tightly they cling to those ideas, not really the comic book version, but more the movie version. … If you really analyze the comic book version of Superman, he’s killed, he’s done all the things. I guess the rules that people associate with Superman in the movie world are not the rules that really apply to him in the comic book world because those rules are different. He’s done all the things and more that we’ve shown him doing, right?”

First off, he shows here that he does not understand the comic book version.  Yes, Superman has done “those things”.  But they were exceptional things, not, frankly, the only things we’ve seen from the character.  When the first thing we see about how the character deals with a difficult challenge is killing the challenger we don’t have “this is something he was forced to in extremis”.  We have “this is how the character deals with challenges”.

I don’t think he “analyzed” the comic books.  He went through cherry picking what he wanted to do, the character he wanted to make, regardless of whether it was actually true to the iconic character or not.

Even the outfit.  Superman’s costume was inspired by circus costumes.  The muted colors are just plain wrong on the Man of Tomorrow.

The people who are complaining are fans of the comic books.  They generally have read the comic books, probably a lot more thoroughly than Snyder ever did.

Look, I’m the last person to say that nothing can be dark. “If you want to paint pictures like that, you need to use some dark colors.” But it can’t be all dark.  And in a comic book superhero world of all places–especially when it comes to characters like Superman of all things–the purpose of dark is to make the light seem all the brighter.  When all you have is dark, you just have a muddy, bleak landscape, what some folk call “gray goo”.  I know that appeals to some people, but those people generally aren’t Superman fans.

And, so far, with the new DC movies, that’s really all I’m seeing:  unremitting dark with nary a bright spot to be seen, as far as the eye can see.

Since I wrote that I’ve seen one DC movie.  I’ve only been inclined to see one DC movie.  That was “Wonder Woman.” I loved it.  Some people complain about setting it in WWI rather than WWII but I could let that slide.  The original was set in WWII because that was what was going on at the time.  Without that “current events” aspect there’s nothing particular about WWII which ties the character to it and there’s a certain logic to changing it what with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Captain America’s WWII connection.

Still, nothing else from the movie DCU has looked like something I want to watch.  The magic, the joy, the Heroes Writ Large that I grew up on and loved just don’t seem to be there.  Wonder Woman was the exception. And although there have been some eyerolls and some things I’ve skipped, I’ve largely found it in the MCU.

The thing is, I want to enjoy these movies.  But I also want to avoid the crushing disappointment that available evidence indicates I’ll find.

So there we are.  What DC did wrong, and what–despite the hint of possibly fixing it in Wonder Woman–what they seem to have continued to do.

And it makes me sad.

Again with the revolution thing.

Saw on facebook this:


And when I was trying to find that (because of course when I went looking for it, FaceBook was perversely hiding it) I also came across this:


On seeing these things, the first thing I would suggest is that if the people presenting them are really serious then they need to take a good, long look in the mirror.   After all, the people posting them aren’t “stacking bodies”.  There’s a decided lack of pro-liberty armed insurrection in the US.  So if the people posting aren’t in revolt then the question to ask is, if they really think it’s time and past time to do so, why aren’t they?  I could assume that it’s simple cowardice, but I’d prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt.  There must be some reason why they are staying their hand, not picking up arms, and going after tyrants and those serving the ends of tyranny.

And if they have reasons that seem good to them, then perhaps they might consider that those reasons apply to others as well.

I have made my own views on armed rebellion known elsewhere in this blog.  But let’s take a look at why, despite growing unrest, many are deciding “Not yet.  Now is not the time.”

First one thing people often forget, if they ever knew, was that the build up to revolution in the United States was far from quick.  People laughed at Sarah Palin commenting that “it’s not time to party like it’s 1773” (because “everyone knows that the Revolution was in 1776”) forgetting, if they ever knew, that the Boston Tea Party was in 1773.  The Stamp Act which many think of as setting things off was passed in 1765.  But things started even further back.  The English Civil War followed by the Restoration and then the Glorious Revolution had their echoes in the early colonies, particularly New England.  Some of these echoes included the revocation of the Royal Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1684.  The various religious upheavals in England created definite friction with the strongly Puritan colony and setting a tone that would grow over the next century.  So, it’s no surprise that it takes time before people come to the conclusion that overthrowing a government that tramples upon rather than protecting their rights and liberties is appropriate.

But, specifics.

In a revolution some individual or small group has to be first.  If the time and tenor of the country is right, they’ll be joined in a great ground swell of support.  If not…they end up no more than criminals.  The right time and place and you’re Captain Parker.  A little early and you’re John Brown and the best you can hope for is martyrdom to inspire others.  More likely, if you survive, you’re Thomas Cary. (Many of you are saying “who?” That’s the point.)

Another aspect is that many folk see revolution given the current mood of the country as…not leading to a good result.  Indeed, what scares me is that when asked “And then what?” what some said revolution (presuming they “win), make me think that the only problem they have with Robespierre and The Terror is that they didn’t go far enough.  A revolution not to end tyranny but to put the “right” (as they see it) tyrants in power.  No thank you.  So, before a revolution can possibly produce a “free society” the culture war must first be won.  It’s a decidedly different thing for an overwhelming majority or even “a nation of thirds” (as was once common wisdom, in the American Colonies, about 1/3 favored independence, 1/3 favored reconciliation, and the remaining 1/3 were ambivalent) than when the majority is on the other side.

Now, some think that we have a majority in the population but that the combination of the entertainment and media being held by the “other side” and fraud in the polls to keep that other side in office where they would not in fair elections.  In this case, what they can be waiting for is alternate media to break the chokehold of the conventional media and make the fraud so clear that no one can legitimately doubt, in which case it becomes a case of the overwhelming majority ousting a minority held in power by illegitimate means which means the “and then what” is answered–we simply hold fair elections and the problem solves itself.  But that time is not yet.

And some are hoping, praying, that if there is an armed revolt, the other side will start it.  There’s a lot less moral quandary about defending oneself and ones peers from armed revolt than in initiating one, particularly if it’s the defenders who are on the side of individual liberty and the rights of humanity.  Indeed, that could well be the response of the other side to losing their chokehold on the media and the mask coming off of the fraud.  Force, then becomes the only way they can retain power.

To be just, armed revolt must, meet the criteria of just war like any other armed conflict (leaving aside “competent authority” in this specific case):  Just cause, comparative justice, right intention, probability of success, last resort, and proportionality (no raising revolt because you think a $10 fine for jaywalking is too high). Intention alone is not enough.

I think most people, on an unconscious level, look at the situation and see that we don’t meet the criteria for “just war”, at least not yet.  And I don’t think either Washington or Jefferson, given the specific situation we’re in right now, would be “stacking bodies” yet either.  Too many things are different from the situation they faced.

So, no, a revolution now would not be a “just war”. That situation, as always, is subject to change.  But until then “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

In the American colonies, that “disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable” was close to a century from the first stirring of discontent to the “shot heard round the world.”

But in the end:

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Civilians, Police, and Active Shooters.

Looking through FaceBook “Memories” today, I saw one from last year  in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting.  Many people have been pointing out that places like Utah have had apparent success with allowing school staff and faculty who so choose, and who are licensed to carry concealed in the State of Utah, to do so at school.  None of the horror stories about what would happen if that were permitted. (Really?  A teacher upset at student misbehavior would draw a gun and start shooting?  A teacher would be so careless as to leave the gun where a student could get it?  Basically, teachers are stupid with poor impulse control?  If you’re serious about those arguments, then I need my kids out of those teachers’ hands right now–guns or no guns.)

Someone made the “counter argument” as follows:

“How would you like to be a black armed teacher at a shooting when the police show up?”

Excuse me?  Can we count the things wrong with that?

First, the police are late of course.  They weren’t there when it began.  This is implicit in “when the police show up”. Statistics show that the sooner armed resistance to an active shooter–a “spree killer”–shows up, the fewer casualties.  Armed resistance already there vs. armed resistance showing up later.  The FBI’s own studies (which I have talked about before) show that when an armed civilian is present when a spree killer starts his rampage, 75% of the time, the armed civilian totally stops the attack.  In another 19-20 percent of the time (depending on rounding) they at least slow the spree killer down reducing the number of casualties.  So, 94-95% of the time, having someone on. the. scene. armed and ready to respond saves lives.

As opposed to police arriving later.  Okay, there’s that additional 5-6% where they don’t seem to help (and which will be trumpeted to the skies by the anti-gun folk, as though it never goes any other way).  Well, nothing’s perfect, but I’ll take that 94-94% chance of improving the situation over zero percent–which is what you get with no armed citizens present.

Second, the police in the given scenario are incompetent.  They may have a point here.  There have been cases of police coming late to the party and shooting the armed civilian who had just stopped the active shooter.  So, yeah, I’m willing to acknowledge a problem of police incompetence.  I mean, sure, they could notice which one is pointing his weapon toward innocents and which has the innocents behind him, defending them.  They could see which one obeys a verbal order to put down the weapon.  They could do an actual threat assessment and judge who is the threat and who is defending against the threat.  But so long as police are trained and act as though anyone armed who’s not a cop is “a threat” we can only expect them to act like it.

But, I’d argue that we really need to take a second look at just who needs to be disarmed in that case.  Hint:  It’s not the armed civilian who just stopped an active shooter.

Third, why did they have to say “black teacher”? Oh, right.  They’re assuming that the police are racist.  They’ll automatically assume the black guy is the bad guy, regardless of circumstances.

And, again, I’d argue that we need to take a third look at just who needs to be disarmed.  Hint:  once again, it’s not the armed civilian who just stopped an active shooter.

The person apparently thought they were making a “Mic drop” argument against armed civilians but, really, if anything, they were making a pretty good argument for disarming the police and arming civilians instead.

But I won’t go that far.  I’ll merely suggest that the problem can, and should, be dealt with by proper training of police and weeding out those incapable or unwilling to engage in proper threat assessment, to determine who’s the bad guy and who’s not, to see who complies with orders and who doesn’t. (Hint:  if one guy puts down his gun when told to do so and the other turns to start shooting at you, the latter guy is the one you can shoot.  And if they both put down their guns?  Fine.  Great.  Cuff them both and sort it out later.)

But disarm the citizens so that incompetent, racist police can arrive late? (Hey, I wasn’t the one making that case.  I was just responding to it.)

I’ll pass.

“The 2nd Amendment only Applies to Muskets”

And so, depart ye from this Web Electric and hie ye to the village square, there to step upon a soapbox and harangue all who pass by to your heart’s content.  Or perhaps dip your sharpened goose quill in a well of ink and scribe your thoughts on paper to be carried one to another upon horseback.  Or if ye must, set forth your thoughts in lead and antimony type, roll ink upon it and squeeze paper to it with a hand-cranked press which ye can then distribute from town to town in carts drawn by oxen.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But if the 2nd only applies to the technology available in the late eighteenth century, then the other rights (like those of the first, pastiched here) would also be so limited.

The idea that the 2nd Amendment only applies to muskets is as ridiculous as the claim that it only allows the government to arm its own troops.  The Bill of Rights forbids the government from infringing on certain rights (which exist irrespective of what government might say, indeed, they must in order to be rights at all) as concepts, not the specific implementation of those rights.

Indeed, time and again the courts have ruled that the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights were not limited to just the methods, means, and technologies available to those who first wrote them.  As the late Justice Scalia wrote in the Heller Decision:

Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment . We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997) , and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 35–36 (2001) , the Second Amendment extends, prima facie,to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.

Then there’s the flip side.  The folk who say the 2nd only applies to Muskets (which we’ll take as shorthand to mean those arms available in the 1780’s–which include various forms of rifle, cannon (which, yes, were privately owned), and so forth–don’t really mean it.  Ask them, then, if they’re okay with anyone who wishes carrying a brace of pistols like these:

dueling pistols

around Manhattan Island, or in Downtown Los Angeles?  Or Washington DC?  Would the law in any of the cities or states with the strictest gun control allow the carrying of pistols like that?  Have any of the “reasonable gun control” (which always mean “more restrictions than we have now, for any given now) groups lobbied for those places which forbid the carrying of handguns without onerous and difficult to obtain permits, to allow people to carry these per the 2nd Amendment (which, they claim, does protect muskets)?

Spoiler:  they haven’t.

No, these people making that argument know it’s false.  And they don’t mean even that much.  No, they only make that argument in the hope that it will convince you that they don’t need to follow the correct procedure to change the Constitution or any of its Amendments:  the Amendment process.  Because thy know they wouldn’t be able to get any such amendment passed:  2/3 of the House, and 2/3 of the Senate (or a convention called by 2/3 of the States) to officially propose an Amendment, and then 3/4 of the State Legislatures to ratify it.

If they can convince you that they don’t have to do that, then they can ban things to their heart’s content, requiring only a simple majority vote and Presidential signature for Federal law, or whatever each individual State or city requires to pass state and municipal laws.

Don’t be fooled.  The Bill of Rights guarantees rights not technologies.

How about some Goth(ish) Love Songs?

I’m going to say a little bit more here than I usually do on a “Musical Interlude.”  Generally, I just let the music speak for itself but here some explanation is called for.

There’s a lot more out there than I would have realized.  A lot, as one might imagine, deal with death and loss.  And while I’ve used a bit of filter here, some of them are, nevertheless, beyond dark.

Still, it’s been said that one always sees goths in couples, serious long term relationships.  (Okay, generally.  Not always…dammit.) Maybe this acceptance and even ennobling of the darker aspects of love has more value that might at first appear.  After all, if you don’t expect everything to be sweetness and bliss, then when reality clubs you upside the head with problems and gloom it’s not a shock and you’re better able to deal.

Not all of these are strictly “goth” but for me they tend to hit the same kind of emotional resonances in my head.  So first, a little “documentary” on the idea of goth’s in couples.

Now on with the music.


Somewhat different from the usual version:

There’s a lot more but I’ll stop here.


“The American Dream is Dead.”

I thought long and hard about posting this.  While I’m pretty much an “open book” here and on my FaceBook account, some parts of this were perhaps a little to “raw” for comfort.  Relatively short, but trust me, every word is from the heart.

On a friend’s blog yesterday there was a reference to a claim of some people that “the American Dream is dead if it ever existed in the first place”.

Well, I was a tad…annoyed. (Not at Sarah, of course, but at the people making such a ridiculous claim.) Actually “through the roof” is an apt descriptor.
When it comes right down to it, I’ve done pretty well on my own personal “American Dream”. I started from poverty, “broken home”, abusive stepfather (although the worst of his abuses were not directed against me), more poverty to the point where I was literally homeless over the summer of 1991.  Yet, somehow, I managed to rise to a nice, good paying, professional/technical job, the stereotypical house in the suburbs with a two car garage (and I even have two cars in it–although the Miata needs work before it gets on the road again). And I’ve got this wonderful daughter with whom I have a wonderful relationship (We’ve had to…you and me against the world, baby. Yep, I’m the mom in that Helen Reddy song.)
There’ve been “misses” of course. I don’t have a loving companion (wife or other). In retrospect, I never have–thought I did for a while but…time proved that to be a mistake–and expect I never will. And no, my “big dream” of traveling in space and walking on other worlds will likely never happen except through fiction writing.  Still, all told, I think I’ve done pretty well on the “American Dream” front.  “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness” that’s what the American Dream is all about as far as I’m concerned.  The chance, the opportunity, to make something of oneself, and when you fall to dust yourself off and try again.  I’ve written on those topics before.  They remain applicable here.

I just wish people would stop trying to kill the dream (and it’s the people claiming it’s dead who are doing their damndest to try to kill it).