Big Bear Observation Post
San Bernardino County hosts the military's most cherished clubhouse, Ft. Irwin, and several other bases, active and closed. The county population is rich in military denizens, their derelicts, offspring, misfits and buffs. With the consequent prevalence of the classic sociopathy found in these people, predation, exploitation, corruption and virtual tyranny have spread throughout our courts, law enforcement and government. Discuss the disgraceful prison and military industrial complexes here.
BARSTOW • When Sidney Tharpe exited the military after 20 years, he had to find something else to do.
So Tharpe headed for the classroom.
“I just like working with kids,” said the Apple Valley resident, who was stationed at Fort Irwin from 1996 to 2004, and is now in his third year of teaching elementary special education students.
Tharpe made the transition from the military to the classroom with the help of Troops to Teachers, a federal program run by the U.S. Department of Education, which is holding an informational sessions at Fort Irwin and the Marine Corps Logistics base on Wednesday.
Robert Bartron, military transition recruitment specialist with Troops to Teachers who will be at Wednesday’s session, said that education and the military share some similar qualities.
You will be successful in teaching if “you’re effective in a large bureaucratic association,” said Bartron.
“Not everybody in the military makes a good teacher. Those [who do] are who we’re seeking,” said Bartron.
The program also offers compensation of up to $10,000 for teachers who work in economically disadvantaged districts.
While about 85 percent people who express interest are retirees, Bartron said the program also aims to recruit active duty soldiers three or four years before they leave the military since the process to become a credentialed teacher can a few years.
Jim Ybarra, a teacher at Peary Middle School in Gardena, flew Apache and Black Hawk helicopters for 24 years before becoming a history and English teacher.
While his habit of early mornings and personnel management skills have translated directly to the classroom, Ybarra said he has to be more conventional with aspects like discipline.
“You can’t put everybody in a push-up position,” he said.
The program focuses on helping teachers get jobs in high demand subjects, such as math, science and special education, according to Bartron.
Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Troops to Teachers Information Session
Where: Education building at Fort Irwin, and McTureous Hall (Bldg. 218) at the Marine Corps Logistics Base.
When: Wednesday. One hour sessions start at 8 a.m. at Fort Irwin, and 2:30 p.m. at the MCLB.
Questions: Call Fort Irwin’s education office at (760) 380-4218, or the MCLB Education Services Office at (760) 577-6118.
February 16, 2009: The government has 45,000 troops and 5,000 police battling several thousand cartel gunmen in 18 states. But most of the action is in a few states along the U.S. border. Two years of violence have left over 8,000 dead. The drug cartels are not strong enough to defeat the government, but they are determined to keep fighting to preserve their lucrative drug business. It’s all about ambition, greed and no inhibitions when it comes to killing. You can’t make this stuff up. The government is apparently going to keep at it until the cartels are destroyed, or adopt a much more low profile way of operating.
February 14, 2009: For the past three months Mexican and U.S. security officials have openly discussed increased U.S. support for Mexico in its war against drug gangs. This is being called, “the Cartel War”. The U.S. is concerned about “spill-over” violence. Politicians in El Paso, Texas, are worried about it, and they are concerned for their Mexican neighbors in Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua state). Both Mexico and the U.S. are pushing “intelligence sharing” (intel on smuggling, drug gangs, weapons, finances, etc). One criticism from some sectors in Mexico is that intel sharing will likely lead to “American contractors” (meaning military or intelligence service companies). This is “contractors” used in a very negative sense, suggesting American mercenaries. Apparently the Mexican government thinks hiring expertise to support Mexican operations is a good option. Are joint operations by the U.S. and Mexico possible? Sure – but as both the U.S. government and Mexican government have stressed, such operations have to be very carefully planned and approved by both governments. At the moment Mexican-U.S. joint military operations are very unlikely, but it is a good bet that planning officers in Mexico and the U.S. are looking at “what can we do for each other” if cartels launch attacks in the U.S., or tried to create a situation where Mexican military units cross the border in the midst of a combat operation. Some joint operations well short of combat and “increased security presence” operations make a lot of sense. Joint communications operations are one example, and “joint liaison teams” manned by experienced military personnel from both countries another. You can bet any joint team will operate on both sides of the border. Political cover is one reason – Mexicans are sensitive to “affronts to sovereignty.” However, a “both sides” joint operation is also common sense since the violence and drug smuggling has transnational effects. Ad hoc arrangements and relationships already exist, but it appears both governments are interested in more formal and permanent cooperation.
February 10, 2009: At least 21 people died in a firefight in Chihuahua state (130 kilometers south of Ciudad Juarez) between Mexican soldiers and cartel gunmen. The confrontation began as a “stand-off” between soldiers and gang members who had kidnapped nine people. The gangsters executed six of the kidnap victims during the battle. Soldiers lost one of their own, and killed 14 gang members.
February 9, 2009: Troops took control of police headquarters in Cancun and arrested the local police commander and 36 policemen. The military announced that it believes the policemen are “connected” to the murder of retired Mexican Army Brigadier General Mauro Enrique Tello in Cancun.
February 5, 2009: Mexican soldiers and federal police participating in Joint Operation Chihuahua raided a drug warehouse in Ciudad Juarez. The police seized around two tons of marijuana.
February 4, 2009: A retired senior Mexican military officer, Brigadier General Mauro Enrique Tello, was murdered in Cancun in what authorities said was likely an assassination by a drug cartel hit team. Two bodyguards were killed along with the general. The murders were “execution-style”?the men were tortured then shot in the head. Tello had retired recently and after his retirement had take charge of a special counter-cartel security force authorized by the mayor of Cancun. Tello had also been in charge of operations in western Mexico in 1997 (Michoacan state) that amounted to a crackdown on drug traffickers and local gangsters – something of a “preview” of the Cartel War. The government is paying close attention to the murders, for several reasons. The Mexican Army plays a central role in the Cartel War – it is the government’s chief counter-cartel organization. Cancun is also an international tourist resort and a source of good jobs. Tourist revenues have declined since violence began increasing. So far the worst violence has been in northern Mexico, though the Acapulco region, which is also a tourist resort, has been plagued by inter-gang “turf wars” and shootouts between the police and drug gangs.
January 30, 2009: Demonstrators gathered in Mexico City to protest a government decision to “freeze” gasoline prices but not freeze prices for diesel. Most of the protestors were farmers who were complaining that the cost of farm machinery (most of the farm machines run on diesel) had increased prohibitively.
January 27, 2009: The government said 22 people were killed in northern Mexico over a 48 hour period. Four of the victims were killed at a PEMEX oil facility. They had “tape over their eyes” and they were shot in the head (more “execution-style” murders). Three more people were murdered in Chihuahua City.
January 24, 2009: The government reported thirteen people were slain in drug violence in the state of Chihuahua. Nine of the 13 were killed in the city of Ciudad Juarez (across the border from El Paso, Texas). A “semi-official” figure for murders in Chihuahua state during 2008 is now making the rounds: 2400. That means about 40 percent of the Cartel War deaths in 2008 occurred in Chihuahua state..
January 20, 2009: The U.S. Marine Corps is implementing new travel policies to Mexico for Marine Corps personnel. Marines stationed in Yuma, Arizona must get command permission before they cross the border (either on leave or off-duty pleasure travel). This is similar to the policies implemented by Ft Bliss, Texas, a U.S. Army post..The State Department has raised its “caution-level” for visiting Matamoros, Monterrey, Nogales, Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Juarez.
January 16, 2009: Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? The Zetas have roots in the Mexican military and have operated as a para-military force. Now Mexican Army troopers have arrested three drug cartel gang members in Tijuana. The military report said that the gang members had “uniforms” with a patch featuring a skull and crossed crutches. A “gang faction” in the area is run by a gang leader who has the nickname “Muletas” (crutches). The men arrested were identified as being part of the faction’s “special forces.” Uniforms for cartel gunmen isn’t new – police and soldiers have found real military uniforms and modified uniforms in arms caches. “Paramilitary gear” also crops up in news and government reports, and that can refer to clothing as well as tactical gear. But it looks like at least one gang really wants to “play soldier.”
January 15, 2009: The U.S. Homeland Security Department said that it would send Border Patrol SWAT teams and even military units if “drug gangs” (term used in the report) crossed the U.S.-Mexican border and confronted U.S. police. Homeland Security stressed that this is “a contingency plan” only – implying local authorities (police, sheriff, state police) are the first responders to such an incident. The head of Homeland Security repeated this – that this is a plan, not a prediction. A senior official said the contingency plan can be “scaled” to meet the emergency, meaning that if local authorities only needed “back-up” (support) that would be made available, but if the situation escalated a larger rapid reaction force could be organized and sent.
January 14, 2009: The military said it was sending 2000 more army soldiers to Ciudad Juarez.
A 16-year-old girl has died and another was in stable condition after they were found unresponsive Sunday in a barracks on Fort Lewis, Wash., according to a press release.
Emergency response personnel responded to a 911 call about 3:30 a.m. Sunday to a barracks on post. They found the girls, and one of them was pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor from Madigan Army Medical Center. The other girl was taken to Madigan for treatment and she was in stable condition as of Monday evening.
The circumstances and cause of the death are under investigation by Criminal Investigation Command special agents.
The names of the girls, who are civilians, were not released. Officials cited their age, their civilian status and the ongoing investigation as reasons for not identifying them.
Leaders at Fort Lewis are monitoring the investigation and a review of installation policies and procedures is already underway, according to the press release.
In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme.
“I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad,” said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.
In one case, auditors working for SIGIR discovered that $57.8m was sent in “pallet upon pallet of hundred-dollar bills” to the US comptroller for south-central Iraq, Robert J Stein Jr, who had himself photographed standing with the mound of money. He is among the few US officials who were in Iraq to be convicted of fraud and money-laundering.
Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown. One of the few visible signs of government work on Baghdad’s infrastructure is a tireless attention to planting palm trees and flowers in the centre strip between main roads. Those are then dug up and replanted a few months later.
Iraqi leaders are convinced that the theft or waste of huge sums of US and Iraqi government money could have happened only if senior US officials were themselves involved in the corruption. In 2004-05, the entire Iraq military procurement budget of $1.3bn was siphoned off from the Iraqi Defense Ministry in return for 28-year-old Soviet helicopters too obsolete to fly and armored cars easily penetrated by rifle bullets. Iraqi officials were blamed for the theft, but US military officials were largely in control of the Defense Ministry at the time and must have been either highly negligent or participants in the fraud.
American federal investigators are now starting an inquiry into the actions of senior US officers involved in the programmed to rebuild Iraq, according to The New York Times, which cites interviews with senior government officials and court documents. Court records reveal that, in January, investigators subpoenaed the bank records of Colonel Anthony B Bell, now retired from the US Army, but who was previously responsible for contracting for the reconstruction effort in 2003 and 2004. Two federal officials are cited by the paper as saying that investigators are also looking at the activities of Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald W Hirtle of the US Air Force, who was senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004. It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, who have both said they have nothing to hide.
The end of the Bush administration which launched the war may give fresh impetus to investigations into frauds in which tens of billions of dollars were spent on reconstruction with little being built that could be used. In the early days of the occupation, well-connected Republicans were awarded jobs in Iraq, regardless of experience. A 24-year-old from a Republican family was put in charge of the Baghdad stock exchange which had to close down because he allegedly forgot to renew the lease on its building.
In the expanded inquiry by federal agencies, the evidence of a small-time US businessman called Dale C Stoffel who was murdered after leaving the US base at Taiji north of Baghdad in 2004 is being re-examined. Before he was killed, Mr Stoffel, an arms dealer and contractor, was granted limited immunity from prosecution after he had provided information that a network of bribery – linking companies and US officials awarding contracts – existed within the US-run Green Zone in Baghdad. He said bribes of tens of thousands of dollars were regularly delivered in pizza boxes sent to US contracting officers.
So far, US officers who have been successfully prosecuted or unmasked have mostly been involved in small-scale corruption. Often sums paid out in cash were never recorded. In one case, an American soldier put in charge of reviving Iraqi boxing gambled away all the money but he could not be prosecuted because, although the money was certainly gone, nobody had recorded if it was $20,000 or $60,000.
Iraqi ministers admit the wholesale corruption of their government. Ali Allawi, the former finance minister, said Iraq was “becoming like Nigeria in the past when all the oil revenues were stolen”. But there has also been a strong suspicion among senior Iraqis that US officials must have been complicit or using Iraqi appointees as front-men in corrupt deals. Several Iraqi officials given important jobs at the urging of the US administration in Baghdad were inexperienced. For instance, the arms procurement chief at the centre of the Defense Ministry scandal, was a Polish-Iraqi, 27 years out of Iraq, who had run a pizza restaurant on the outskirts of Bonn in the 1990s.
In many cases, contractors never started or finished facilities they were supposedly building. As security deteriorated in Iraq from the summer of 2003 it was difficult to check if a contract had been completed. But the failure to provide electricity, water and sewage disposal during the US occupation was crucial in alienating Iraqis from the post-Saddam regime.
A Coast Guard chief will be arraigned Friday in Alameda, Calif., on charges of rape and assault of a female subordinate while on liberty in Golfito, Costa Rica.
Chief Yeoman Royce G. Clifton is being charged with five counts of rape and carnal knowledge, one count each of assault, cruelty and maltreatment, and failure to obey an order, said Lt. Dave Oney, Pacific Area spokesman.
Clifton was stationed on aboard the cutter Chase at the time of the alleged incident in January 2008. Coast Guard Investigative Service began investigating the incident in September, and Clifton was reassigned to Sector San Diego at that time, Oney said.
It is not clear whether alcohol was involved in the alleged attack. Also unclear is where the alleged attack is supposed to have occurred.
A general court-martial is scheduled for March 30 in Alameda, Oney said.
Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered a stand-down of the Army’s entire recruiting force and a review of almost every aspect of the job is underway in the wake of a wide-ranging investigation of four suicides in the Houston Recruiting Battalion.
Poor command climate, failing personal relationships and long, stressful work days were factors in the suicides, the investigation found. The investigating officer noted a “threatening” environment in the battalion and that leaders may have tried to influence statements from witnesses.
“There were some things found that are disturbing,” said Brig. Gen. Del Turner, deputy commanding general for Accessions Command and the officer who conducted the investigation.
While he declined to discuss what action might be taken, Turner has recommended disciplinary action against battalion- and brigade-level commanders. He declined to discuss what action might be taken.
The report was not made public, with officials citing extensive personal information contained in the report.
The four recruiters who killed themselves were all combat veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army did not identify them.
The Army Inspector General’s office has been asked to conduct a command-wide assessment of Recruiting Command to determine if conditions uncovered in Houston exist elsewhere.
The one-day stand-down of all 7,000 active Army and 1,400 Army Reserve recruiters will be Feb. 13.
The soldiers will receive training on leadership, a review of the expectations of Recruiting Command’s leaders, suicide prevention and resiliency training, coping skills and recruiter wellness, Turner said.
“It’s significant,” Turner said about the stand-down. “It is not routinely scheduled. It normally occurs after some sort of major event like this.”
Turner was appointed to conduct the investigation on Oct. 14 by Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general of Accessions Command. The investigation was sought by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who heard from soldiers and family members after the Houston Chronicle in 2008 reported the suicides.
“I think that when you have something like this happen that’s this serious and has such a huge impact on families and loved ones, of course people will ask what’s going on,” Freakley said.
Recruiters and soldiers who are going to be recruiters, their families and the public are going to want to know what’s happening and what’s being done, he said.
“We’re very aware of our soldiers’ concerns and we want to make it better,” Freakley said.
USAREC is a strong command with good leaders and exceptional soldiers, Freakley said.
“I do not believe for a minute that this is endemic of the entire command whatsoever, but I do believe that one [suicide] is too many, and we had four,” he said. “So let’s fix this and move forward and grow from this in a positive way. It’s hard work, but the whole Army has hard work right now.”
Turner’s investigation was completed Dec. 23, and Turner said his work revolved around the four suicides that occurred between January 2005 and September. Findings from the investigation were released Jan. 21.
“It’s a very tough and very tragic thing,” he said. “But I’m focused on what good can come out of this and that’s where our focus is right now.”
There were 17 suicides within Recruiting Command between fiscal years 2001 and 2008, said Col. Michael Negard, a Training and Doctrine Command spokesman.
There were more than 500 suicides by active-duty soldiers across the Army from Jan. 1, 2003, through Aug. 31, according to data from the Army G-1. Another 31 cases were pending final determination, as of Aug. 31.
The Army’s suicide rate increased from 12.4 for every 100,000 soldiers in 2003 to 18.1 in 2007, an all-time high for the service. Nationwide, the suicide rate for every 100,000 people was 19.5 in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gen. Pete Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, voiced his concern in a Jan. 23 interview with Army Times.
“We need to move out as quickly as we can to do those things that are going to lower the numbers,” Chiarelli said. “That’s the best we can do. We can’t eliminate suicide.”
“I believe there are certain things leaders can do in the short run to reverse the trend and I’m going to talk about those next week,” Chiarelli said.
Turner said he examined the four soldiers’ personal lives, from their financial and medical histories to their performance at work. He also studied organizational factors such as command climate, leadership within the battalion, brigade and Recruiting Command. He looked at screening soldiers for recruiting duty, the impact of assigning soldiers directly to that duty after they return from combat tours, the adequacy of the Army’s suicide prevention training, and soldiers’ access to mental health care.
Here is what Turner said he found:
• There was poor command climate in the recruiting battalion, one of 38 in the Army.
Morale was low among the unit’s 200-plus recruiters, who routinely worked 12- to 14-hour days. They had unpredictable work schedules, frequently working on weekends. There was a “threatening type of environment” established by certain leaders throughout the battalion’s chain of command.
Monthly missions assigned by USAREC were bumped up, violating Army regulations and adding stress. For example, in July 2008, the battalion’s 205 recruiters each had to recruit two new soldiers a month, even though the battalion’s mission was 360 contracts, which is roughly the equivalent of 1.5 or 1.6 new contracts each.
“I don’t think it was malicious necessarily,” Turner said, “but what that does is it artificially ups their work load.”
• All four soldiers who killed themselves suffered from “troubled” or “failing” personal relationships.
Turner said he did not find any common thread of significant financial stress among the four men and none had been diagnosed with PTSD.
At least seven months had passed between the time each man returned from combat to the U.S. and when they were assigned to USAREC.
• Regarding witness statements, Turner noted “inappropriate comments by leaders before investigations were done and before mine started.” He added: “It may have been construed by recruiters as attempts to influence their statements.”
Recruiters who felt their commanders may have been trying to influence their statements were given the opportunity to change their statements during Turner’s investigation.
• There were no inherent problems with assigning soldiers to recruiting duty after they returned from combat, but the assignment process must be improved.
Soldiers now can get approval from the first lieutenant colonel in their chain of command to waive the 90-day stabilization period required of them after returning from a deployment. Sometimes, problems stemming from a soldier’s experience in the war zone may not present themselves immediately, so the Army G-1 is reworking the waiver policy so that soldiers must now get approval from a general officer.
• Almost 50 percent of prospective recruiters were not fully vetted by their chain of command, as required by USAREC.
Soldiers who are nominated for recruiting duty must complete financial disclosure forms and statements declaring that they understand that recruiting is sensitive duty, they may be assigned to remote locations and they must be able to work independently.
They also must complete a mental health evaluation and be interviewed by their current battalion commander, command sergeant major and company commander, who must determine whether the soldier would be a successful recruiter. Input from this command team must include comments on the prospective recruiter’s leadership ability and potential, physical fitness, character, integrity, ability to perform in stressful situations and any incidents of abuse. All negative evaluations must include a full explanation.
Turner said he found that almost half the soldiers who went on to be recruiters did not have a complete nomination packet, and that soldiers were not taking a standardized mental health evaluation.
To correct that, HRC on Jan. 13 sent a message reinforcing the need for a complete nomination packet and instituted a policy that prohibits soldiers from being assigned to recruiting battalions until their completed packet has been reviewed, Turner said.
Also, the Army surgeon general, G-1 and USAREC are creating a mental health evaluation form specific to recruiters, Turner said, and officials are working on a catalog to track the adequacy of medical and mental health care and the access soldiers have, regardless of where they are stationed, to that care.
Turner said “the Army is moving in a very quick way in taking concrete action” and to “improve the climate and leadership inside that battalion and other organizational, institutional factors that will improve recruiting operations.”
Freakley said the Army is listening to Turner’s advice and taking immediate and long-term steps to correct any problems.
“I want to ensure we have a climate where our recruiters know how important they are, are well led in a positive command climate, are well supported by the systems that we put in place to help them in their very important mission of recruiting an all-volunteer force … and that we learn and really grow from this experience,” he said.
Recruiting is a very stressful job, said Bret Moore, a former captain and clinical psychologist who served twice in Iraq.
“I know that recruiting duty is one of the most stressful jobs, alongside drill sergeants,” he said. “They have quotas to meet and there’s a lot of pressure.”
Turner, who briefed the four soldiers’ families and Cornyn before releasing the findings of his investigation, said “all these [deaths] are tragic, but the one thing the Army does extremely well is learn from itself,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general of USAREC, will send a team to Houston this summer to conduct a follow-on assessment of the command, Turner said.
There also is a move to balance suicide prevention training with resiliency training and coping skills, he said.
“[Instead] of trying to recognize that [a soldier] is exhibiting risk factors, this is more toward helping [a soldier] cope with the stresses in his life,” he said.
Bostick is calling for a review of the current USAREC policies on duty hours for each of the five recruiting brigades and their 38 battalions.
For example, the Houston battalion’s policy called for a maximum work day of 13 hours, and recruiters had to seek approval from their chain of command if they worked beyond that, Turner said. However, the 13-hour maximum was interpreted as the expected norm, and the policy could have been written more clearly, Turner said.
Bostick also is directing a review of how missions are assigned to recruiters, so what happened in Houston, where commanders were assigning a higher mission to recruiters, would not be repeated, Turner said.
What is critical in all of this is leadership, Turner said.
“It requires compassionate leaders caring for their soldiers, hitting that sweet spot between accomplishing the mission and caring for soldiers.”
Two years ago, McCardell started an organization called Choose Responsibility, which waged a national campaign to lower the drinking age to 18. The soft-spoken scholar soon found that many other campus executives felt the same way. In early 2008 he started the Amethyst Initiative, a collective of college presidents urging a public discussion about the drinking age. At press time, the Amethyst Initiative had 130 signatories, including the presidents of Duke, Tufts, Dartmouth, and Johns Hopkins.
Senior Editor Radley Balko spoke with McCardell in October.
Q: Why lower the drinking age?
A: We’ve had a law on the books for 24 years now. You don’t need an advanced degree to see that the law has utterly failed. Seventy-five percent of high school seniors have consumed alcohol. Sixty-six percent of high school sophomores have.
The law abridges the age of majority. It hasn’t reduced consumption but has only made it riskier. Finally, it has disenfranchised parents and removed any opportunity for adults to educate or to model responsible behavior about alcohol.
Q: Do you favor setting the federal drinking age at 18 or removing federal involvement altogether?
A: I would defer to the Constitution, which gives the federal government no authority to set a national federal drinking age at all. It’s clearly supposed to be left to the states. So the first thing we need to do is cut out the 10 percent penalty [in federal highway funds to states that refuse to adopt the minimum age of 21], then let the states make their own policies.
Q: Supporters of the law say it has led to a reduction in highway fatalities.
A: If you look at the graphs for about 30 seconds, you might draw that conclusion. There has been a decline in traffic fatalities. But it began in 1982, two years before the law changed. It has basically been flat or inching upward for the last decade.
More interestingly, the decline has come in every age group, not just people between 18 and 21. And if you look at Canada, where the minimum drinking age is 18 or 19 [depending on the province], the trend in highway fatalities has almost exactly paralleled ours. It’s far more likely that the reduction in deaths is due to seat belt use, airbags, and safer cars.
Q: How has Mothers Against Drunk Driving responded to the Amethyst Initiative?
A: MADD’s response has been disappointing and is unbecoming for an organization as revered as they are. They spammed the email boxes of college presidents, called them “shirkers,” and encouraged parents not to send their kids to those colleges. All this for nothing more than a call for discussion. If this question is as settled as they say it is, why such an exaggerated response?
I think their tactics backfired. MADD tried to bully these presidents into removing their names. We lost three presidents as a result, but we gained 20 more. And I think it actually strengthened the resolve of the presidents who stayed on.
Q: MADD and other opponents of your objectives say the college presidents are just trying to pass on their own responsibility to enforce the minimum drinking age. But is it really a college president’s responsibility to enforce criminal law?
A: That’s a great point. It’s about as logical as asking a couple of state troopers to come onto campus to teach calculus.