Sunday, August 10, 2008

Catching Up

This was prompted by a comment left nearly a month ago by SSG K. The Sacramento Bee had published a story about the prevalence of people who commit crimes in the military to have had some sort of criminal background.

I've dealt with the "soldier quality" issue for over two years. I've even manged to spot errors missed by people who get large amounts of money to do that very thing. By the way, I never have received another word from any of the parties involved in that.

I read, re-read, and re-re-read the article. My main concern was their methodology. Basically, they selected 250 names, some of the off of some list of recruits, the others were servicemembers who were known to have committed some crime either in or out of the military. The Sac Bee does not reveal how many were randomly selected and how many were not. The result is that, of the 250, 120 had some sort of criminal background. According to the lead reporter, Russell Carollo, none of those were just one traffic ticket so I'm going to assume they were all either charged with, or found guilty of, some crime of minor non-traffic or greater. So, basically, out of 250 mostly random people, 120 of them, over a decade-plus time frame, had some sort of run-in with a law enforcement agency.

Honestly, if the Sac Bee had reported that the Army had ignored 120 people with criminal backgrounds who went on to commit some sort of crime in while in a war zone, I'd have been impressed with their devotion to providing news for the public. However they did not.

One of the Soldier's highlighted in the Sac Bee's story is SPC Mario Lozano. SPC Lozano was the Soldier who fired the fatal shot in the shooting of an Italian Army officer involved in paying the ransom for an Italian journalist who was kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq in 2005. SPC Lozano's criminal history involves him making threats against a man who was reposessing his car in 1994, and then his wife calling the police in 1998 after he slapped her when she admitted to an affair, and owing child-support. Not exactly the sort of criminal background which would lead one to worry he'd be the cause of an international incident.

While I highlight the background on SPC Lozano, his is not unique. The Sac Bee's reporting leaves a lot to be desired. It's scattershot and haphazard, jumping from incident to incident without any attempt to link the past behavior and behavior in Iraq. It's sensationalism and totally devoid of context. It's a great concept poorly executed and then poorly defended with claims of "The Pentagon researches it too!".

*UPDATE 20080811*

Zack reminded me of something which I forgot to mention. One of the people the Sac Bee highlist gets multiple paragraphs because he was a felon. They even get a gotcha quote from the local sheriff asking how the guy can carry a weapon. His crime? Stole something worth under $500. My question is, how the hell is someone considered a felon, and stripped of basic rights like owning a firearm and voting, because they stole something under $500 in value. I guess that's an issue for another expose from the Sac Bee.


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