I’m going to stop apologizing for our sporadic posting.  It’s summer, we have other crap to do.  Deal.

Friend of TLIH, Michele Catalano, has another article up at PJ, on adults providing minors with alcohol and the inevitable legal/judicial ramifications.  In the comments is the inevitable, “if someone is old enough to serve why are they not old enough to drink?”  I am soooo tired of that argument, so I took it up with Ted in IM:

HazelStone: can you tell me how military service and legally buying a drink are at all equivalent?
HazelStone: i am Tired of that stupid comparison
tedbronson: haha
tedbronson: I think it comes down the thougt that if a man can die but not drink, then we are sending children to fight our wars
HazelStone: not if they bloody well choose service for themselves
HazelStone: we ain’t DRAFTING them
tedbronson: all volunteer makes a diff, yes
tedbronson: however
tedbronson: in san diego and san antonio, kids can drink on post to keep them from going across to mexico
tedbronson: double standard
HazelStone: sigh
HazelStone: it’s weird
HazelStone: i recall my only ambition for a weekend when I was a teenager, was to get buzzed and get felt up by a cute guy
tedbronson: yup  (pretty sure he’s not agreeing to the “cute guy” part  -Ed.)
HazelStone: and now, it seems so very stupid
tedbronson: the question is, if you can trust a kid to drive a sixty ton tank
tedbronson: why cant you trust him to be responsible with a beer
HazelStone: different
HazelStone: not equivalent
HazelStone: driving a 60 ton tank doesn’t alter your perception, reflexes, motor skills
tedbronson: no
tedbronson: either he’s is a responsible adult or he isn’t
HazelStone: no, because even one beer adds alcohol to your system, alters the above
HazelStone: driving a tank just adds adrenaline
HazelStone: :)
tedbronson: I could make the argument that tank driver have limited vison etc
HazelStone: haha, but you know it isn’t equivalent
tedbronson: but an ‘adult’ isnt going to be driving a tank tanked either

I know you lot have an opinion on this.  Let’s hear it.


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27 Responses to “Conversations”

  1. Robb Allen Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    My 2 cents -

    Most people at 21 aren’t mature enough to be left alone with a pair of safety scissors and a pack of construction paper, much less a bottle of booze. Unfortunately, there are also 16 year olds who are plenty mature enough to be given a firearm, a car, and 2 infants, and you could trust they will get the babies to their destination safely.

    There is no way to make a generalized statement about who is and isn’t mature enough to do X, so we pick an average age where most people have had enough experience in life to make the right decisions. 21 is the agreed upon standard when it comes to drinking.

    Immature 18 year olds who join the military generally won’t be quite as immature once they’ve had a little bit of experience. Life comes at you a hell of a lot faster in the military than as a civilian. It is that process that makes the 18 year olds responsible, not just their age.

    So yes, you can fight and die for your country at 18, but that’s because you will receive training to do so. Couple that with the fact that the young men and women who join do so on their own accord, and you’ve already created a decent filter that illustrates that person has a little more maturity.

    Personally, military service is one of those things that I think should automatically grant a person the right to imbibe. 21 or Military ID Required seems valid to me. Just being 18 doesn’t mean you’re mature enough to drink (neither is 21, 46, or 103, but that’s besides the point).

    I’m writing this on 3 hours of sleep, so let me know if I’m not clear.

  2. aczarnowski Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    Sorry in advance; this one always gets me running above red line…

    There has to be a default or we’ll have a law for every action with moral implications. Pick a number when people are responsible for their actions and be done with it. 18? 21? Don’t care. Pick one and use it absolutely within government, and by extension, contract.

    Gov wants lots of strapping young citizens to sign on the dotted line? That’s an adult decision with moral implications. Adults decide to drink, smoke, buy very expensive things on credit, look at nudie pictures, vote and whether or not they want to travel the world and blow up small portions of it on command! There may be shades of adulthood in individuals, but gov works in the aggregate, well above individual assessments. Pick a default and be done with it.

    BTW: If 18 and 21 are such a sacred numbers, why are 12 year olds tried as “adults” and 16 year olds can get married? Hypocrisy too! Whee!

  3. Hazel Stone Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    @Robb Allen: Ah that’s the missing piece of the argument there…TRAINING. It’s not like we take kids, slap guns in their hands and tell them to go be cannon fodder.

  4. Hazel Stone Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    @aczarnowski: A logical notion. Ergo, doomed to failure. :)

  5. Robb Allen Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    It’s not like we take kids, slap guns in their hands and tell them to go be cannon fodder.

    Are you sure about that? Every thing I read in the papers makes it seem like not only do we slap a rifle in their hands, we do it without their permission.

    I mean, the media wouldn’t lie to me, would it?

    Tangent – The TBO (Tampa Bay Online) rag the other day had this weepy story about a mother who was upset her son was going in for his 3rd Iraq tour even though he was only supposed to be in for 2 years due to stop-loss. The entire story was from her perspective. Not once did it mention her son’s feelings on the matter nor did it go into the fact that when he signed on the dotted line, the contract specifically stated that the 2 years was a guesstimate and that it could be longer depending on the needs of the military.

    With that type of narrative going on, I can see why there’s confusion over the military and its enrollment practices.

  6. Madrocketscientist Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    It’s not like we take kids, slap guns in their hands and tell them to go be cannon fodder.

    Last time I checked, no one steps out of bootcamp and goes straight into combat anymore. Even guys going into infantry go through SOI or something similar, right?

  7. Mycroft Holmes Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    That’s an interesting idea: drinking license.

    You take a class, learn to booze it up, see what the big deal is, practice barfing without screwing up your upholstery or getting it in your hair, and take one of those closed-course driving tests to prove to yourself under controlled circumstances you can’t control a vehicle properly while blotto.

    If you want to drink between 18 and 21, you get the license. After 21, party on with or without.

    With a learner’s permit you can only drink O’Doul’s.

  8. Ted Bronson Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    I wish I had been able to give this more attention today, but I had clients in the office and spent a largish part of my day holding their hands and trying to get them to understand trigonometry…

    But now that I have time:

    I read a John D MacDonald book once where this kid was trying to buy a beer at a bar. When the keep asked him for ID, the kid just said, “They never asked for it in Da Nang.” Kid got his beer. I think that may be a reflection of this particular argument. As a country, we recognize certain dates as significant for certain events. But even the age of consent varies wildly. How can a 14 y.o. girl be old enough to marry but not old enough to drink? If she is ready to do one, why not the other? (On the other hand, my personal definition of age of consent when discussing my own daughter is one month after I am an exhibit at the local med school, but that’s another show.)

    Tangent closed, sorry.

    We take young men and women, tell them they are adults and old enough to make their own decisions, allow them to volunteer to DIE FOR THEIR COUNTRY, then tell them that we don’t think they are grown up enough to drink. I gotta throw a bullshit flag. Fifteen yard penalty. Loss of down. Our armed forces ask for, and for the most part get, youngsters who have decided, for whatever reason, that they will put their bodies between bullets and our flag. That may be the very first time in their lives they made an adult decision. But it was the one, above all others, that marks them as being “adults.” They have chosen to stand up in the most ancient and venerable tradition of ‘stalking goat’ or ‘sentry’ or ‘defender of the tribe’ or even the guy who guarded the communal fire from Og the Terrible, or a mother who dies protecting her baby. They have chosen the role of “human sacrifice” for the greater good of our nation. Even the Wapani Wu gave Joe a fine banquet before they threw him into the volcano.

    These young people either are adults or they are not. If they can legally enter the contract to serve, then they are adults. If they are not adults in any other fashion, that contract they signed is not worth the paper upon which it is written, because a non-adult cannot enter into a contract. You can’t have it both ways. Period.

    I told Hazel this morning that certain bases along our southern border will let enlisted ‘kids’ drink on base in order to keep them out of Mexico. This is not the extent. Lots of bars in San Diego would let me in with nothing more than a check to make sure the ID card was green. Same in Norfolk, Jax, Atlanta, Memphis, San Angelo, etc.etc.etc… In practice, the law is broken at least as often as it is enforced. In some cases it serves only as a handle on the behavior or underage service members: “Be cool guys, or I will call the Shore Patrol.” Technically, these practical anarchists were breaking the law to let us drink there: but I noticed that the ‘kids’ never got shitfaced drunk, because they wanted to be able to get back in. They never got into fights inside because they knew that the SP’s would blacklist the joint.

    Self-policing worked. The Buddy System worked. The Designated Driver System worked. Hell, fucking taxi cabs work.

    Sorry, tangent-ing again.

    I’ll shut up now.

  9. Jack of All Trades Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    @Robb Allen: Ah that’s the missing piece of the argument there…TRAINING. It’s not like we take kids, slap guns in their hands and tell them to go be cannon fodder.

    Eh…. I think they pretty much learn after going through training that if you do something stupid you’ll be maimed/killed or that will happen to someone else and you will be punished for it. Not drinking responsibly is doing something stupid. Result is a little obvious. That’s just me thinking. Could any military types confirm this?

  10. MadRocketScientist Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    When I was 19, Pendleton was a beer and wine cooler base (underage “kids” could by beer and wine at the E-Club). Technically, underage consumption of hard alcohol was not permitted. No one really cared unless someone got stupid. We had barracks parties where we were knocking back all manor of spirits and I got caught numerous time with something hard in my had when base security came by to see what all the ruckus was about at 0200. As long as we quieted down, they told us to be careful and went about their business.

    When I was on a 48 hour liberty at Pearl on the way back from deployment, I was 20 years old. I knew it, my mates knew it, hell, my DivO knew it. Did not stop any of them from buying me drinks at the E-club and having one last good time before we hit Pendleton. As long as I did not buy a drink, the bartender could care less. As long as I was a quiet drunk, the SPs could care less.

    The fact is, how much a base tolerates underage drinking is very dependant on the base commander.

    Jack: Every morning at muster we get read the safety report, where we hear about how someone in the Navy or the Corps got stupid and either got themselves hurt or dead. Every once in a while alcohol was related, but in my experience, the kind of stupid service men (and women) do when drunk generally involves unsafe sex.

    The kind of stupid we get into sober is far, far more dangerous.

  11. weambulance Says:
    June 18th, 2008

    You can’t pick an age, soldier or not, that someone can really be considered mature. I’m with aczarnowski. Pick an age and from then on, your actions are your own to suffer. 18 probably would have been great once upon a time, but in my experience people in my generation mature a lot slower, even soldiers. Then again, I know a lot of mid-20 year old teens in the Army. So just pick an age. 18 sounds good to me.

    By the way, several of my good friends got to my unit (we’re an Infantry company) four days before we deployed. They were in Mosul, Iraq running ops less than a month after they were sent to a real unit. Was it detrimental to them? Not really. The straight dope is this: the best training you can have for this kind of war is OJT. You have a team leader to take care of you, and if he’s worth a damn he will. I learned more about real MOUT in my first week running missions than I did in the 18 months up to that point I spent stateside training.

    As for combat maturing you… well… I don’t know about that. It’s very personal. The most dangerous time for a unit stateside is just after a deployment. No less than four of my close friends have had DWIs either on or off post since we got back stateside in December 07. One of my very close friends, a guy on my team in Iraq, killed himself on accident with a gun while drunk recently. Thought it was empty, shot himself in the head. This isn’t some PTSD shit either. It’s carelessness or stupidity.

    Now we all make mistakes. The hope is when we make them they don’t do lasting harm, and we’re smart enough to learn from them. Good example–when I was 17, I was watching TV and doing dry fire practice with my 870 at the same time. Well I finished up, loaded the shotgun, and put it down. Wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing because I was concentrating on the show, picked it up a few minutes later, and proceeded to blow a hole in the wall (good thing I was pointing it in a safe direction!). Lost some hearing in my left ear, but otherwise nothing came of it except to this day I’m super anal about checking my weapons before I even touch the trigger. I mean if my attention wavers one bit, I check it again JUST IN CASE even if it hasn’t left my hand.

    Personal responsibility. You own your actions. Just pick an age after which they become yours, and stick with that age. None of this positive exception bullshit. Now, I’m not going to say murder/rape/whatever should be excused because you’re not past the magic age. Just, there is no exception that you would find pleasing.

    Oh, and on border town bases–I’m stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX with 4 BCT 1 AD. As of this month, the post drinking age is 21. I guess the base commander got sick of all the incidents my brigade was inflicting on his blotter. Hell we can’t go to Mexico anyway, Juarez is in the middle of a drug war.

  12. PJ Says:
    June 19th, 2008

    “Not equivalent” is nearly always a correct comeback, but unfortunately it is also nearly always an unhelpful one.

    Yes, to be perfectly logical about it, an argument of the form “I am old enough to do A, therefore I must also be old enough to do B” is not a sound argument unless B is in some way a subset of A. In this case, drinking (legally!) is not a subset of serving one’s country in the military. Point taken.

    But I don’t think most people who make the argument at issue here falsely believe that the two things are equivalent, and I don’t think they even intend to be making an appeal to logic. I think they’re making an appeal to fairness.

    When we as a nation accept enlistments of 18-year-olds for military service, we are saying, among other things, that 18-year-olds can at least presumptively be trusted with the power to kill. Sure, we put them through training and all, but we wouldn’t even sign them up unless we thought most of them would have enough judgment and maturity to follow the training and otherwise act responsibly. We don’t keep all 18-year-olds out of the military just because a substantial number of them don’t yet have sufficient judgment and maturity. When it’s in our interest to treat 18-year olds as presumptive grownups (that is, grownups until established otherwise on an individual basis), that’s what we do.

    Many people think it’s in our interest as a society to apply an opposite presumption with respect to 18-year-olds when it comes to drinking. (Perhaps they look back on their own teenage misadventures with a measure of embarrassment.) We will presume that 18-year-olds lack the judgment and maturity to be trusted with intoxicating beverages. And it will be a conclusive presumption, since we will not permit individuals any opportunity to demonstrate that the presumption should not apply to them. (After all, if I wasn’t mature enough at 18, nobody could be!)

    To society, it may seem that there’s no logical imperative to apply the same presumption in both situations because they aren’t equivalent. To the 18-year-old, it may seem that society is a bunch of freaking self-interested hypocrites who presume you’re an adult when it suits them and presume you’re a child when that suits them, with high-sounding principles at the ready to defend each choice. Frankly, from a fairness point of view, I think the kids have the better of that argument.

  13. Robb Allen Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    but we wouldn’t even sign them up unless we thought most of them would have enough judgment and maturity to follow the training and otherwise act responsibly.

    Ah, but that’s assuming we take ALL 18 year olds. We don’t. We only take those who show the initiative in joining voluntarily, and then those are screened. Heck, with parental consent, you can join at 17.

    Then, they then get put through boot camp and must pass that. Again, the process of going through military training instills quite a bit of maturity that you didn’t have just a few months back. Not a ton, but enough.

    I think the problem is that you’re saying “At 18, we say kids are mature enough for military service but not drinking” when in reality, it’s “At 18, we say kids are mature enough to be trained in the military and if they complete it, THEN they’re considered old enough…”

    As far as the “I wasn’t mature enough, you can’t be” part, I’m afraid I don’t need to rely on my own experience to prove that’s not the case. Heck, I was at Parris Island when I was 19 so I can’t claim I was too immature at that age.

    What I can show is bajillions of statistics of 18 year olds making what society considers bad choices and, the same 18 year olds in the military making less of same. No need for projection.

    If there was training on drinking, I’d have no problem with a “learner’s permit” until you’re 21. ID, Military ID, or Drink Permit. Sounds good to me!

  14. MadRocketScientist Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    After all, if I wasn’t mature enough at 18, nobody could be!

    The thought that sits at the core of every Nanny Stater!

    Not that you are a Nanny Stater there PJ.

  15. PJ Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    Robb: I acknowledged that there’s training, and I acknowledged that for military purposes we only have a presumption of maturity and judgment that we will revoke if we acquire reason to believe it’s unwarranted. I didn’t mention that sometimes we acquire a reason during a screening process rather than after training has begun. But I still think there’s a presumption at work: “If you’re 18 we will presume that you have the judgment and maturity of an adult until we have reason to believe otherwise.” (I also agree with you, by the way, that there’s self-selection in play and that the initiative taken to volunteer should count for something. On the other hand, I don’t think there should be a conclusive presumption that an 18-year-old who doesn’t volunteer is too immature to be trusted with intoxicating beverages.) I think our schools provide plenty of training on the dangers of alcohol and other drugs already, and there would undoubtedly be, er, issues if they tried to go further and provide kids with some actual experience at intoxication. But if a way can be found over that hurdle, I’m all for the learner’s permit idea.

    Robb and MRS: The “After all” line was not an expression of my own opinion, but was intended as a comment on our fair hostess’s “and now, it seems so very stupid” line. Apologies for being obscure. I know Hazel’s main point was just to remark on the persuasiveness of a particular line of argument, but I was still a little surprised at how she seemed to make a nanny-style pitch there.

  16. Hazel Stone Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    Robb and MRS: The “After all” line was not an expression of my own opinion, but was intended as a comment on our fair hostess’s “and now, it seems so very stupid” line. Apologies for being obscure. I know Hazel’s main point was just to remark on the persuasiveness of a particular line of argument, but I was still a little surprised at how she seemed to make a nanny-style pitch there.

    You’re STILL being obscure. I know you’re new here but we say right up there at the top, “An anti-nanny state collective,” so perhaps you’d like to explain your reasoning in that statement.

  17. Captain Aaron Sheffield Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    The now ‘it seems so stupid’ line is about the getting boozed an felt up as a goal, ya? I think that may have been commentary on her grownup self looking back at her young self. I fail to see where that in any way serves as a ‘nanny’ pitch. I seems more like a ‘holy cow, glad I survived’ kind of thing to me.

    I got that you used the ‘after all’ line as an assumption of what the libs would say and think perhaps that statement is causing confusion simply due to how it looks in print. (tone of voice doesn’t come across well in print.)

  18. Drumwaster Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    (tone of voice doesn’t come across well in print.)

    Which is why you don’t see many chat rooms where the participants are “speaking” Mandarin Chinese…

    (/crawls back down his hole)

  19. Robb Allen Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    Drum, the sad thing is (a) I don’t speak Mandarin but (b) I know EXACTLY what you mean.

    My coworker who sits next to me speaks Mandarin. I can say good morning to her, but only because she had to correct my tone of voice a zillion times…

  20. PJ Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    Hazel: I’m new in the comments, but I’ve been reading for months and I know you’re the farthest thing possible from a nanny (hence my “a little surprised”). In the context of a discussion about the drinking age, your line about how your own teenage ambition seems so very stupid to you now looked like an appeal to your personal maturation process to justify a law that says nobody under 21 should be permitted to drink. That seemed like an uncharacteristic nanny-style pitch for a high legal drinking age, and that’s why I made my apparently failed attempt at a funny aside.

    PJ – Jokes that were never funny explained ’til they’re still not funny.

  21. Hazel Stone Says:
    June 20th, 2008


    You’ll pardon me for saying but that’s a stretch big enough to get you across the Grand Canyon. My statement was exactly what it said…my ambition to get drunk/to third base when I was a teenager seems stupid now. Taking that and making it into “an appeal to your personal maturation process to justify a law that says nobody under 21 should be permitted to drink” is seriously mind-boggling to me.

    If *that* in and of itself was supposed to be the joke, then you can still color me confused.

  22. PJ Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    Hazel: Apparently, I took a remark you meant as a personal aside to be meant as a substantive point. I’ll lurk some more in an effort to avoid similar misreadings in future. My bad, OK?

  23. Hazel Stone Says:
    June 20th, 2008


    While I do appreciate the perception that everything out of my mouth is *ahem* Intellectual GoldTM, that wasn’t even a nugget, it was just an opinion based on my own experiences. One that will, however, duly influence the rabid surveillance under which our children shall venture forth in their teens. And the lessons from Mom and Dad they will have in their brains well before they do so.

  24. Captain Aaron Sheffield Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    Aww hell, PJ. Don’t lurk. Hazel and Ted welcome a good discussion. They insist on clarity, though. Ain’t nobody here pissed off at ya. The thing is, ain’t nobody here gonna tolerate either personal attacks upon our hosts or guests (politicians, cops, criminals, or idiots coming here looking for a fight are the exceptions) and for whatever reason, that is what your line seemed like, a little. You can attack ideas, attack philosophies, even attack the spelling or grammar of posts or comments if you think it is justified. All anyone here is gonna ask is that you back up your argument with precision and fact. Truth be told, Ted almost kicked my ass off at one point but after he straightened me out, invited me to actually write a couple things for the “front page”. You got something to say, say it.

  25. MadRocketScientist Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    As with most things that have to do with maturity, we can all look toward parents on this.

    My folks always let me drink a beer or a glass of wine, or some scotch, or whatever while I was growing up. I knew I could get it whenever I wanted, and I also learned pretty quick I was not a big fan of overdoing it (I can count how many times in my life I’ve been drunk without taking off my shoes, and I turned 34 today). I’d also seen adults get drunk and make asses of themselves while I was a child and decided pretty quick that I had no desire to emulate them.

    All of this had been decided before I was 14, so when I was 16 and my friends wanted to get drunk (friends whose parents NEVER let their kids drink at home), I just decided to be the designated driver.

    Maybe Robb & PJ are right, a drinking permit is not a bad idea.

  26. PJ Says:
    June 20th, 2008

    May I assure one and all that no personal attack was intended, and I’m sorry to have disrupted a good conversation with what I (ironically) intended as an aside.

    And thanks for the encouragement, Captain.

  27. Gregg Says:
    June 21st, 2008

    Who would you trust to administer this “training”? Personally, I tend to thin this should be up to the parent. Then again a government that can not make money running a brothel is unlikely to be able to train my children to my standards.

    Personally, I agree with that if they are an adult at 18 then treat them as such.

    OTOH, I also believe that parents should be able to purchase alcohol for their children. It helps in the training. THe whole training them to be responsible adults.

    Personally, I worked on cruise ships when I was 19 and 20. That’s where I started drinking. It boggled my mind that I was mature enough to buy a drink in the Bahamas, but as soon as I got back to the “land of the free” I was no longer considered to be a mature adult.


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