warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Things I'm Thinking 08/07/13

Dan Morgan-Russell |
August 8, 2013 | 10:29 p.m. PDT

Guest Contributor

The drinking age should be lowered to 18. (russavia, Wikimedia Commons)
The drinking age should be lowered to 18. (russavia, Wikimedia Commons)
Editor's Note: "Things I'm Thinking 08/07/13" is part of Calum Hayes' summer opinion series, Things I'm Thinking.

1. I’ve been spending my summer in Ireland, and I love it out here. One of the biggest differences for me is the drinking age. I’m 19, so I’m legal to drink here, but not in the U.S. Why is it that in Europe you can drink at 18, but you can’t drink in the U.S. until you're 21?

For a long time, the drinking age in many U.S. states was 18. It only changed in the 1980s because the federal government pressured the states by threatening to withhold federal funds for interstates. Props to the federal government for being clever like that, but I still don’t understand the reason behind lowering the drinking age.

The official reason is that it reduces drunk driving deaths. Fair enough; public safety is an important exception. However, I’m not sure that argument is justified in this case. Drunk driving seems like a secondary consequence of the drinking age. Not everyone who drinks drives. If 18-year-olds are old enough to vote, serve in the military and make almost every other adult decision for themselves, they should be able to enjoy alcohol as well.

This may seem at odds with anyone who has read my previous work about guns. I think the argument for guns is different, because guns are designed to destroy and kill. Sure, guns can be used for skeet shooting or hunting, but even in those situations, the rounds sold for guns are lethal enough to kill someone. Violating the “liberty” of gun owners is vastly different from stopping an 18-year-old from having a drink.

Speaking of drinks, while I’ve been here in Ireland, I’ve been enjoying delicious strawberry lime cider. I know cider isn’t widespread in the U.S., but hopefully that will change by the time I’m old enough to legally purchase and consume alcohol in the states.

2. There has been a lot of hubbub lately about the “terrorist chatter” coming out of the Middle East, prompting the embassy closures in that region. It's understandable that the U.S. would want to be cautious in these dangerous times, especially after the killings of the U.S. ambassador and his staff in Libya last year, but closing the embassies is a double-edged sword.

David Kilcullen, in his book "The Accidental Guerilla," criticized U.S. counterinsurgency strategy for often putting troops too far away from civilians. In situations in which civilians of Middle Eastern countries felt no kinship to the U.S. troops, those civilians were significantly less likely to participate in U.S. interests or aid U.S. troops in finding terrorists. Closing the embassies seems similar, because it cuts off the ability of the U.S. ambassadors to garner goodwill within the local population.

This primarily becomes a problem because civilians that are not willing to work with the U.S. will be more likely to work with terrorists or insurgents. Instead, if the U.S. can convert a civilian, especially someone willing to work in security (police, military, etc.) then that simultaneously adds another “troop” to the U.S. or coalition effort and denies the terrorists or insurgents a potential fighter. It’s better for the U.S. to try to recruit local soldiers because it's less expensive (no housing cost, for example) and changes the balance of U.S. fighters to terrorist actors more quickly than simply inserting more U.S. troops.

I don’t want any more U.S. personnel to die, but the U.S. should really reopen the embassies soon to try to expand U.S. soft power interests.

3. I read a report the other day about how German financial futures are tied to the strength of the Eurozone economy. All I can say is, “duh.”

But Germany should reconsider how to heal the Eurozone. Germany, under Angela Merkel especially, has insisted on austerity measures to cut debt from the Eurozone. The problem with simply cutting services while not creating jobs is that it disproportionally affects the jobless in those societies. If you don’t have a job and then suddenly lose out on essential state services like health care, then you’re really going to have a hard time.

Instead, the European Union (EU) should think like FDR and deficit spend to create public works jobs. In the short term, this will generate debt (no doubt about it), but in the long term, this will create revenue that will circulate in the economy to create jobs. Furthermore, the EU could increase taxes to pay back some of that debt.

If the EU has to cut services while the economy is doing slightly better to reform some of those programs, it will hurt much less than cuts now. Don’t kick a man when he's down.

4. Egypt won’t be out of the news anytime soon. Ousting the first democratically elected president in decades was a bad move. It’s a turning point for the Arab Spring, signaling that democracy might have just been the flavor of the month in the Middle East. I hope that’s not the case.

5. Going back to soft power for a moment, why is Guantanamo Bay still open? It’s a stain on the American ideal of democracy, and an affront to half a dozen Constitutional Amendments. Plus, it’s expensive. Let’s close the prison and put these suspected terrorists on trial. Set them free or convict them, but don’t hold anyone in permanent detention.

In comparison, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who allegedly killed three and wounded hundreds in the Boston Marathon bombing, is being held in a U.S. jail awaiting trial. James Holmes, who shot 60 people in a theater in Aurora, is being held in a Colorado jail. Those two guys have probably done more damage and conducted more terrorist-like activities than half the population of Gitmo, but they are still getting fair trials and are being held in U.S. jails. Afford the same protections to international detainees.

6. ForeignPolicy.com just released a new subscription plan for $3 a month to increase access to their site. Love FP, just saying.

7. Shark Week is on, and unfortunately I’m not in the U.S. to watch it.

8. There are a lot of ads around here for "Smurfs 2." Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 13 percent. I feel like everyone and their mother saw that box office bomb coming.

9. Jay Z’s new album is supposed to be pretty good. It’s halfway to Platinum sales after one week. Good for you, Jay Z.

10. I really wanted to get to 10 things on this list, so that’s why I added the last couple of things. I’m thinking about Jay Z and all that, just not as much as those first political items.


Reach Guest Contributor Dan Morgan-Russell here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.