July 15th, 2007

me at star

Low water but still much fun

I just got back a little while ago from my church's annual Battenkill River canoe trip. The Battenkill was running pretty low this time, and I spent most of the trip in a kayak that I suspect wasn't quite big enough for someone of my poundage - so I ran aground an inordinate number of times in the shallow, rocky stretches. Worse, many times I couldn't push off against the rocks; I had to get out of the boat, walk it downstream a ways and get back in. Of course, this wasn't one of those "sit-on-top" kayaks; it was a whitewater boat that is not particularly easy to get into or out of. So there was a lot more in the way of aerobic and anaerobic exercise on this trip than I'd expected.

I also managed to run my car battery flat; I'd been powering my CPAP machine via an inverter off the cigarette lighter both Friday and Saturday nights, and didn't run the car on Saturday to recharge after Friday night. Good thing I keep a set of jumper cables in the car.

Despite those frustrations, however, it was a good time. The Friday night sky in particular was wonderfully clear, and we could easily see the Milky Way (a frustratingly rare sight in the Boston suburbs). Saturday was just about perfect - warm, low humidity, and sunny for most of the day. The traditional Saturday evening cookout was its usual success, even if we did run low on hamburger buns and had to substitute hot-dog rolls.

And I managed to get all packed up before the first thunderstorms rolled in Sunday morning ...
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This year, more than one in nine Army recruits has a criminal record

I saw this story as I was packing for my canoe trip, and decided not to write about it then because it was too depressing. As Bryan Bender wrote in Friday's Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Nearly 12 percent of Army recruits who entered basic training this year needed a special waiver for those with criminal records, a dramatic increase over last year and 2 1/2 times the percentage four years ago, according to new Army statistics obtained by the Globe.

With less than three months left in the fiscal year, 11.6 percent of new active-duty and Army Reserve troops in 2007 have received a so-called "moral waiver," up from 7.9 percent in fiscal year 2006, according to figures from the US Army Recruiting Command. In fiscal 2003 and 2004, soldiers granted waivers accounted for 4.6 percent of new recruits; in 2005, it was 6.2 percent.

Army officials acknowledge privately that the increase in moral waivers reflects the difficulty of signing up sufficient numbers of recruits to sustain an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq; the Army fell short of its monthly recruiting goals in May and June.

Since Oct. 1, 2006, when the fiscal year began, more than 8,000 of the roughly 69,000 recruits have been granted waivers for offenses ranging in seriousness from misdemeanors such as vandalism to felonies such as burglary and aggravated assault.
That's more than one recruit of every nine coming in with a criminal record - and not just parking tickets, or kids given the choice between enlisting or jail time. These are people with either multiple misdemeanor convictions, or a single "less serious" felony conviction:
Moral waivers must be approved by an officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher and are required when an Army applicant has been found guilty of committing four or more minor offenses such as littering or disorderly conduct -- or two to four misdemeanors such as larcency, trespassing, or vandalism.

Applicants who have committed a single felony such as arson, burglary, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, or marijuana possession must also receive a moral waiver to join. Applicants with more than one felony -- or with a single conviction for a more serious crime such as homicide, sexual violence, or drug trafficking -- are not eligible.
That high a percentage of folks with criminal records is going to leave a legacy of disciplinary problems for years to come. Then, there are the Aryan Nations types that are joining up for the training (and leaving graffiti in the streets of Baghdad).

Oh, well. Just another example of how the current Administration is doing its best to break the armed forces, I suppose.