Smart Ideas: A Mess in the Mess Hall

AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills
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March 13, 2018, 8 p.m.

The military should lead the fight against obesity

Steve Barrons, writing for The Dallas Morning News

Contrary to popular belief, the military is not immune to America’s obesity epidemic. One out of every 13 U.S. troops is obese. Obesity costs the Pentagon “an estimated $1 billion per year in added health care costs,” and finding qualified candidates for the all-volunteer force “has become increasingly difficult due to the degenerating physical abilities of youth.” There’s no reason for this to continue. The U.S. military serves over “150 million meals per year” of largely carbohydrate-heavy foods, despite numerous studies showing that carb-laden diets are actually unhealthy. The military continues to swap “high-fat meats, egg yolks and whole milk” for more carb-heavy alternatives like “pasta and bread,” even though studies have shown that “the fat on your plate” doesn’t become “the fat in your body.” The military must bring its meal program up to date, or “the dangerous trajectory of less-healthy service members and unfit recruits will only get worse.”

Disorder in the Court

Tonja Jacobi and Matthew Sag, writing for Notre Dame Law Review

A new review of 55 years of Supreme Court oral arguments shows a marked shift that began in 1995 amidst the political polarization of the Clinton years. “The Court is asking no more questions of advocates; instead, the Justices are providing conclusions and rebutting their colleagues. In addition, the Justices direct more of their comments and questions to the side with whom they ultimately disagree.” Oral argument is a way for justices in the minority to have their say, but such activity “constitute[s] advocacy, rather than judging.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2013 AP Photo/Josh Reynolds

Carriers need more long-range aircraft

Jerry Hendrix, writing for National Review

The U.S. Navy first learned about the importance of long-range, carrier-based aircraft during World War II, when it lost several carriers “to Japanese bombs and kamikaze attacks” launched from beyond the horizon. Today, the short range of carrier-based aircraft kneecaps the Navy’s ability to conduct critical long-range A2AD, or anti-access/area denial. To remedy this, it should focus on creating an “unmanned, all-aspect stealth aircraft that is capable of operating from the carrier deck and hitting targets deep inside enemy territory.” Without it, the U.S. fleet could “lapse into strategic irrelevance.”

U.S. apprenticeship culture lacking

J.B. Wogan, writing for Governing

States have taken the lead on instituting apprenticeship programs in a variety of fields, but turning that into a mainstream nationwide model may be difficult. “Much of the inspiration for modern American apprenticeships comes from Germany and Switzerland, countries that have already fielded visits from Obama and Trump, as well as a handful of governors, including Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma.” Part of these nations’ support for apprenticeships is rooted in a strong trade-union culture that no longer exists in the U.S. The modern American cultural assumption is that going to college is preferable to learning a trade. Proponents of apprenticeships “trip over how to describe them,” whether they’re “part of someone’s eventual path to a four-year bachelor’s degree, or … a cost-effective substitute for college.”


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