Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

December 11, 2006

Rumsfeld’s Farewell

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:48 am

Citizen SMASH attended Secretary Rumsfeld’s last “Town Hall” meeting in the Pentagon — basically, Rumsfeld’s farewell to the Pentagon employees. Read it and weep. Selections:

Donald Rumsfeld is not universally loved in the Pentagon. I’m told that he can be a tough, stubborn, and demanding boss. Rumsfeld is infamous for firing off short memos — known colloquially as “snowflakes” — asking next-to-impossible-to-answer questions or demanding revolutionary changes. He came to the building in 2001, promising to transform the Department of Defense from a Cold War force to a more flexible, agile military, better prepared to face the challenges of the Twenty-first Century. Almost six years later, that transformation is well underway, but not yet complete. Along the way, Rumsfeld has stepped on many toes, and slaughtered many sacred cows. Inevitably, he made some enemies, especially among the senior officers and long-serving bureaucrats who were heavily invested in the “old way” of doing things.

But the troops, and a solid majority of the officers, love him. This is abundantly clear from the warm reception Rumsfeld receives as he walks up to the podium.

Another woman asks what was his worst day, and his best day. I expect him to say “September 11, 2001.” But he surprises me.

“Abu Ghraib.” He says, and a pall crosses over his face. Most men, having been faced with such a profound shame, wouldn’t bring it up voluntarily. But Rumsfeld isn’t most men. He seems genuinely, personally ashamed of what happened in that awful place. It has been reported that he submitted his resignation over the affair, but that the President prevailed upon him to remain.

“My best day?” He pauses. “How about a week from Monday?” A week from Monday, Robert Gates will be sworn in as the new SECDEF, and Rumsfeld will leave the building. He will be missed.

After the questions are done, there is a standing ovation. People in the auditorium crowd up to the aisle, in order to shake Rumsfeld’s hand as he passes.

I’m watching all this from the outside, on the monitor. And then the doors open, and he’s in the hallway. A bit smaller than I expected — I’m guessing about 5’8″ — and he looks really short next to General Pace, who is a giant of a man. But at 74, he’s a remarkably solid man, and he walks with strength and confidence. He proceeds slowly down the line of chairs, stopping to shake hands with several people.

He’s standing right in front of me. I offer my hand, and he shakes it. He looks me straight in the eye. “My goodness,” he exclaims. “Did all of you people stand out here for all this time?”

Read the whole thing.

November 2, 2006

The Troops’ Response to Kerry

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:24 am

I posted this as an update below, but I think it deserves a separate post.

Matt Drudge has this picture posted on his web site. I think this tells us what the troops think of all this:

The guys in the picture above are from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division (1/34th BCT), a unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

For the truth about how well-educated our troops are, see my previous post.

Heard on the radio: Kerry’s apology was, “I’m sorry all you people are too stupid to understand what I really meant.”

November 1, 2006

Why isn’t Kerry “stuck in Iraq”?

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:57 am

In case you’ve haven’t heard the news for the last 24 hours, John Kerry’s been at it again. Campaigning at Pasadena City College for the Phil Angelides, Democratic candidate for Governor of California, John Kerry said:

“You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

The clear implication of this is that if your in the military, it’s because you were too lazy or stupid to “do well.”

Kerry is “defending” himself in classic Kerry style, saying, “I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks.” It’s a despicable attack on Kerry indeed, to quote Kerry’s own words. Kerry is also defending himself on the grounds that he was not referring to the troops, but to President Bush — as claiming that Bush is stuck in Iraq because he didn’t study hard is some sort of a reasonable argument against the war.

It’s especially disingenuous because Kerry arguably didn’t study as hard as Bush — as this blog documented, Kerry and Bush both went to college at Yale, and Kerry’s Yale grades were worse than Bush’s.

The real scandal is that Kerry — perhaps like many liberals — thinks is a reasonable thing to say that “study[ing] hard, do[ing] your homework, … be[ing] smart” is somehow the opposite of being in the military. It’s as if the joining military is a punishment for doing poorly in school.

If that was ever true, it isn’t now. The military rejects people who don’t do well in school. It’s virtually impossible to enlist without a high school diploma, or with bad grades, or if you’ve gotten into trouble with the law. It’s hard to get promted to the senior enlisted ranks without a college degree — and the military will send you to college to get one. You can’t become an officer without a college degree, and you almost can’t get promoted beyond major without a master’s desgree, and you certainly can’t get promoted to General or Admiral without a master’s degree. Most Generals/Admirals have two masters degrees, and a substantial percentage have a doctorate.

I teach economics to senior military officers. They are studying for a master’s degree. For some it is their second. Not one of them is a “classroom dud” — they do all the readings, they work hard, they show up to class with good questions, they write well, and they are clearly interested in learning, even if at the beginning of the term they weren’t sure what economics had to do with their jobs. (They know now!) One of my fellow instructors is an Army Colonel with a master’s degree in management and Ph.D. in operations research (that’s a field of math, for you Kerry people!). I know a Marine Lieutenant General with an Ed.D and four (!) master’s degrees. I was once in a training session with a Marine Lieutenant Colonel who was a lawyer — he not only had a J.D. (the regular law degree), but an L.L.M., indicating a level of education higher than probably 90% of lawyers.

Study hard, John Kerry. You aren’t good enough to get “stuck in Iraq.”

UPDATE: (11/1/06 4:00pm) Matt Drudge has this picture posted on his web site. I think this tells us what the troops think of all this:

UPDATE: (11/2/06 2:05am) The guys in the picture above are from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division (1/34th BCT), a unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

October 31, 2006

The Nature of the Sacrifice

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 pm

By example: The story of 2LT Joshua L. Booth.

October 9, 2006

Nuclear Test, or Earthquake?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:33 am

Around 11:00pm Eastern (U.S.) Time on Sunday Oct. 8, the North Korean news agency reported that North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test. Stay with me for a second, and pay attention to the times.

According to the Associated Press report, the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. Monday Oct. 9 local time, which corresponds to 9:36 pm Sunday Eastern (U.S.) Time, or 01:36 Monday UTC (GMT). The AP report was stamped “11:25 PM US/Eastern,” or a bit less than two hours after the reported time of the test.

Now, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is reporting they detected an earthquake centered in North Korea, occuring at “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 10:35:27 AM” local time, or “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 01:35:27 (UTC)” — which is to say, and pretty much the exact same time as the reported nuclear test.

Incidentally, the AP quoted the North Korean news agency as saying, “there was no radioactive leakage from the site.”

Now I don’t know all that much about earthquakes, or all that much about underground nuclear weapons tests, but it seems to me that a good question to ask would be whether they look the same to seismographs (earthquake-detection equipment).

Now there has been a lot of speculation that the purported nuclear program of North Korea is all a bunch of lies, and according to this theory, the reason why Bush hasn’t attacked them (yet) is that he knows they are lies. So if we allow for that, there are three possibilities here:

  1. This was a nuclear test that “looked” like an earthquake and was detected as such.
  2. This was an earthquake, which the North Koreans opportunistically claimed to be a nuclear test.
  3. This was a nuclear test, and the U.S. is trying to make it look like an earthquake to buy time to figure out what to do.
  4. This one heckuva coincidence!

Now, the first possibility is unlikely if in fact there was no radioactive leakage. But so far we only have the work of the North Korean news agency on this, and I don’t trust them much. I’m pretty sure the U.S. and perhaps other governments can monitor radioactivity from a distance, and perhaps they’ll tell us what they find. Maybe. Because, ya’ know, an earthquake doesn’t have any readioactive leakage, either.

The third possibliity seems really unlikely — there would have to a contingency plan in advance to set something like that up, and if there’s a contingency plan, it would probably involve some more substantial response.

The second possibility seems more likely — I can actually believe that the North Korean regime would announce for several years that there is an imminent nuclear test, and wait for an earthquake they know the West will detect to claim to test occured. It is completely in character for them.

In fact, it’s even possible that the North Korean people charged with developing the nuclear weapon have done this to deceive their leader, Kim Jong Il. I’m imagining something like this: he orders them to build a nuclear weapon or be tortured to death, they either don’t know how to do it or don’t want to, so they decide the Dear Leader could be fooled by the next earthquake, so they wait for the next earthquake and tell him it’s the nuclear weapon.

The only trouble with this theory: According to the USGS “Historic Seismicity” map, most of the earthquakes in this region, at least since 1990, have been along a line that passes well to the east of the site detected today.

And oh yes, one other thing — the reported depth of the “earthquake” is “0 km” — which is pretty darn close to the surface for an earthquake, but well within the digging capabilities of North Korea.

October 1, 2006

Does the “anti-war” side have a plan for after we pull out of Iraq?

Opponents of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy are fond of accusing Bush of “not having a plan” for dealing with Iraq after the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This is, of course, just a self-righteous way of saying they didn’t like the plan Bush actually did have, and that the plan has not lead to perfect results immediately.

Nevertheless, it’s worth asking those who call for an immediate pullout from Iraq, or a timetable for a pullout within a specified short time frame, what their plan is for dealing with the situation that will result from a pullout.

Clayton Cramer has posed this question, and given some realistic answers. All of his answers are worse than the worst likely scenarios resulting from staying in Iraq. As he points out:

But if the American people decide that the cost is too high, what is the alternative strategy? Leaving Iraq alone right now will lead to full civil war, and probably the crowd that likes to torture people to death with power tools will be back in power–just like the way things were under Saddam Hussein. As the declassified Key Findings of the National Intelligence Estimate last week pointed out, if we lose in Iraq, it will embolden jihadists throughout the world. The reason isn’t hard to figure out: it will be perceived that like what happened in Somalia, Americans are weak, and lack the willingness to fight.

What are the options? Here’s Clayton’s list (I’m summarizing here, not quoting — for his more complete explanations click here):

  1. “Fortress America”: Lock down the U.S. at the border and within, and curtail civil rights in the pursuit of terrorists who are here. Of course, it only takes one terrorist to get through — either shipping a nuclear weapon with a long-period timer, or getting one single legal U.S. resident to cooperate. So we are probably looking at more 9/11-scale attacks. (Why is this less likely if we are in Iraq? Because so many jihadists are fighting us over there on their home turf. We don’t want them freed up to attack us at home.)
  2. Make the terrorists happy: Don’t just leave Iraq — forget about stopping the Al-Qaeda-backed genocide in Darfur, give them back Afghanistan, cut off aid to Israel and acquiese when Iran uses nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel. And this will only work until they decide it’s time for all of us to convert to Islam also and replace the Constitution with Shari’a law, at which point we will have to either acquiese to that, or go to war with a much stronger enemy.
  3. Here I’ll quote: “Treat Muslim nations the way they have treated every other nation. Invade them; occupy; convert their mosques into churches; send in troops with orders to kill anyone that gives them any lip; assess a special tax on Muslims; pass laws that give Muslims less legal rights than non-Muslims, not just in ways that matter (say, a ban on Muslims possessing anything more deadly than a butter knife), but in ways intended to degrade them, like the laws that Muslims nations had prohibiting non-Muslims from riding horses.” I don’t think we, as a society, are willing to do that. We still believe in religious freedom.
  4. Prove that Islam is not really as superior as it claims, by nuking Mecca. I don’t think we’re willing to do that, either.
  5. Nuke a lot of Muslims. I don’t think we’re willing to do that, either.

So next time someone tells you we should pull out of Iraq, ask them one question: What’s your plan for after that?

August 10, 2006

Hezbollah Making More Palestinian Refugees

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:54 pm

Apparently, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is trying to increase the number of Palestinian refugees — using the same technique other Arab leaders used in 1948: encouraging Palestinians to leave. Here’s the story:

Nasrallah Urges Arabs to Leave Haifa

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned all Israeli Arabs to leave the port city of Haifa so the militant group could step up attacks without fear of shedding the blood of fellow Muslims.

Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, has been the frequent target of Hezbollah’s rocket attacks.

“I have a special message to the Arabs of Haifa, to your martyrs and to your wounded. I call on you to leave this city. I hope you do this. … Please leave so we don’t shed your blood, which is our blood,” Nasrallah said.

This is the same thing that happened in 1948, when the British left, and Israel declared its independence, whereupon it was immediately invaded by five Arab armies. Arab leaders encouraged Arabs living in Israel to leave, so their armies could have free reign to kill anyone they saw, secure in the knowlege that they were killing only Jews. They promised a triumphant return after the Jews were “thrown into the sea.”

But then they lost, so they herded the Arabs into refugee camps, refused to allow them to return to their homes or to resettle in Arab countries, and renamed them “Palestinians” — and have used them and their descendants as political pawns every since.

Nasrallah obviously thinks he needs more pawns.

Note, by the way, that Israel has been dropping leaflets over the towns they are about to bomb — but in their case, it’s not the Jews they are urging to leave, but enemy civilians. Does anyone see the moral difference here?

August 3, 2006


Filed under: — Different River @ 10:48 pm

AP Reports:

Double Amputee Marine Mugged Outside Restaurant

POSTED: 1:22 pm EDT August 3, 2006
UPDATED: 1:28 pm EDT August 3, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An Iraq war veteran who lost an arm and leg in a roadside bombing was mugged during a night out from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, according to an Associated Press report.

Lance Cpl. Mark Beyers, 27, and his wife were attacked and robbed as they left a restaurant in Bethesda, Md. on July 22.

The Marine from western New York was dining out while finishing up rehabilitation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

As they left the restaurant, five men approached them and asked for a cigarette.

Denise Beyers told The Buffalo News they gave the men a cigarette — but then the men grabbed her purse, kicked her and knocked the couple to the ground.

The thieves made off with $500 just wired to them by a relative.

Mark Beyers expects to be back home in the Buffalo area this weekend.

His family is planning a fundraiser for him on Aug. 12.

July 28, 2006

More Evidence There Really Were WMDs in Iraq

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:08 pm

I noted previous poorly-publicized evidence of WMDs here and here.

Here is some more evidence:

Senator Rick Santorum … as announced a document ( ISGQ-2005-00022470 Title: “Information from a source about the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to Syria prior to the attack of the Coalition Forces on Iraq”) has been released by the “US Army Foreign Military Studies Office” that convoys consisting of 50 trucks carried an unknown cargo to Syria from Baghdad before the American invasion. The trucks were accompanied by Iraqi Intelligence. Upon arrivial at the Syria border, Syrian Inteligence took the trucks and emptied the cargo.

In the day of 10 Mouharam before the coalition forces started the war on Iraq, 50 trucks for land transportation entered Syria on an intermittent convoy. I met some of the drivers and they did not know what they carried in these trucks. These trucks were loaded from an unknown location in Baghdad and was brought to the drivers and the Iraqi Intelligence was with them. Each time they crossed a certain distance, the Iraqi Intelligence stopped them and asked them what are they carrying and their answer was we do not know. And when these trucks arrived to Syria in the area of Deir Al Zour the drivers were taken out of their trucks and the Syrian Intelligence ride instead. These trucks were entered into large warehouses and when these trucks were emptied it was given back to the Iraqi drivers. And they were given a reward worth of 200 dollars for the safety of arrival. One of the drivers mentioned to me that this was second time they carry these secrets loads and the first time was 1 Mouharam.

I have a friend in Syria who works in a Syrian company as partner with a Syrian merchant. This person is an Iraqi ex-Consul in the Iraqi embassies and he resigned from the diplomatic circle and he has strong connection with the Iraqi Embassy in Syria and he knows all the Iraqi Intelligence and those knows that I work for the Iraqi opposition in Syria. I was visiting him daily during this period to find out the important news. When the trucks entered Syria I went to him and told him that Iraqi Weapons entered Syria so he said to me who told you that and I said to him I knew from my sources, and he told me to keep this confidential and not tell anyone because it indeed entered.



Under translation and print

Moustafa Al Khaliye.

I’m sure now the Democrats will claim the Iraqis were lying about having WMDs.

(Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

June 22, 2006

Turns Out They Actually Did Find WMDs in Iraq

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:30 am

Well, waddaya know — it turns out there actually were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq!

WASHINGTON — The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: “Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”

You can read the recently-declassified document for yourself Howard Dean or Michael Moore to acknowledge this — they’ll keep on saying “Bush lied” about Iraq having chemical weapons, even though what he said was true.

Nor should we expect the pollsters that reported that most Americans are “ignorant” for believing tht Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to report that it was, instead, the pollsters who were ignorant.

May 23, 2006

Dismantle the Military!

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:03 pm

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering banning Junior ROTC from San Francisco high schools because they think the military is “discriminatory.” And oh, yes, for one other reason as well:

Supporters such as [sophmore student Timothy] Twyman say the program helps students develop self-confidence and prepare for the working world, while opponents counter that it’s just an easy way for the military to get a foothold in public schools and encourage teens to enlist after they graduate.

Oh, really? I’d never have guessed that the purpose of JROTC is to recruit! Imagine that! And the real scandal is, the Pentagon hides that information, by posting it on their web site:

Although JROTC is not considered a recruiting tool, defense officials say about 40 percent of high school graduates with more than 2 years in the program end up with some military affiliation or continue with community service. They may enlist on active duty or in a reserve component, or enter an officer precommissioning program.

And one Supervisor has an even more, um, interesting reason for wanted to get rid fo JROTC:

In February, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval appeared on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” show and said, “The United States should not have a military. All in all, we would be in much, much, much better shape.”

If Supervisor Sandoval thinks life would be better in a country without a military, perhaps he should move to one. I would recommend Somalia. Since they don’t have amilitary, it must be much more peaceful there … right?

(Hat tip: Thanks to reader “Bruce” for sending me the article link.)

April 26, 2006

Let the Iraqis Vote — on whether American Troops stay

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:50 pm

Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online has a brilliant idea:

Let’s let the Iraqi people vote on whether American troops should stay in Iraq.

President Bush has said that if a democratically elected government of Iraq asked us to leave, we would. I think Bush is sincere, but the truth is that no Iraqi government is going to ask U.S. troops to withdraw anytime soon, because American troops are the only thing holding the country together.

The Iraqi people understand this, too. In the town of Talafar, for example, American troops are keeping Iraqi factions from killing each other. Sheik Abdullah Al Yawar, a leading Sunni in the province, recently told The New Republic‘s Lawrence Kaplan that if U.S. soldiers withdraw, “there will be rivers of blood.” The Atlantic Monthly‘s Robert Kaplan (no relation) recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “My most recent searing, first-hand impression of Iraq, from last December, is this one: one town and village after another getting back on its feet, with residents telling American troops not to leave.”

This is the linchpin to my idea. Having Iraqis vote on the continued presence of American troops is not some starry-eyed affair. It depends as much on fear as it does on hope.

Right now, various factions within Iraq decry the “occupation” knowing full well that American troops aren’t going anywhere — and that Iraqis don’t want them to. This injects poison directly into the political climate. Politicians who take the reasonable and realistic position that American troops should stay can be outflanked by demagogues claiming to be the greater patriots and nationalists. Murderers pretend to be the authentic voice of Iraqis and Muslims, and the European and Arab press are keen to give this storyline a “fair” hearing.

Even here at home, critics of the war have come to paint Iraq as an entirely cynical and gloomy affair, launched on fraudulent rationales and continued out of hubris. Ted Kennedy calls it an “occupation,” and his crowd snickers at the idea that democracy has anything to do with the enterprise.

An Iraqi referendum would counter all of that. A national debate in Iraq over the continued presence of American troops would force many Iraqis to stop taking our protection for granted. Not everyone there craves democracy, but very few of them relish the idea of a civil war. Politicians, now invested in the survival of the political system, would be forced to take the responsible position if they wanted to keep their jobs. Indeed, rhetoric and interests would converge nicely for the first time in a while. Some would undoubtedly campaign for American withdrawal, but this would probably marginalize them and show the whole world where the hearts of Iraqis really lie.

But what if it failed? What if the Iraqis voted to kick us out? … I’d hate to see that happen. But I can’t think of a more honorable way for America to withdraw from Iraq and to prove it respects democracy. America won’t bow to bullets and bombs — but it will to ballots.

Brilliant all around — both on practical and principle grounds.

March 7, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Goes to Germany

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:05 am

From David Kaspar:

Cindy Sheehan will be in Germany this upcoming weekend (read her plans here) to spread her message of retreat and defeat as she marches from a church in Landstuhl (a town where wounded American soldiers are treated) to a location outside Ramstein Airbase where she plans to set up another “Camp Casey.”

But not everyone is planning to sit around and silently watch the German media fawn and drool over Ms. Sheehan. Several groups are organizing a peaceful counter demonstration to support American and Coalition soldiers and victory in Iraq. We strongly encourage all of our readers in Germany and surrounding areas to converge on Ramstein this Saturday to take part! Our website has already christened the demonstration site “Camp David.”

Of course, if she’s there to protest the occupation, she’s either 61 or 16 uears too late, depending on your point of view.

February 21, 2006

F-14 Retired

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:47 pm

Donald Sensing notes a historic day in naval aviation. The F-14 fighter has been retired after 32 years in service.

James Joyner has some more thoughts.

February 17, 2006

Special Forces Llamas

As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up:

New special forces vehicle kicks ass — the llama

Friday, February 17, 2006

TEL AVIV — Israel’s military has found the perfect vehicle for special operations forces — the llama.

After extensive tests, the uncomplaining work-horse animals were found to easily out-perform donkeys. What’s more, they need refuelling [sic] only every other day.

Military sources said the Israel Army plans to use llamas for reconnaissance and combat missions in enemy territory, Middle East Newsline reported. They described the llama as ideal for special operations missions in Lebanon against the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah.

“The llama is a quiet and disciplined animal that can carry huge loads,” a military source said. “Vehicles make noise and need roads and fuel. We’ve tried donkeys and they are not suitable for such missions.”

I’m sure the anti-Israel folks over at PETA will condemn the “conscription” of llamas.

Why do I call PETA “anti-Israel”? Because, three years ago, the Palestinians used loaded up a donkey with explosives, left the donkey by the side of a road, and detonated the explosives by remote control when a bus passed by. One bus passenger was injured, but the donkey was of course killed. And this, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk found worthy of a protest letter — in the form of a fawning, obsequious plea to Yasser Arafat to “please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?”

They didn’t have any objection, apparently, to the use of human beings — even mentally retarded boys — as suicide bombers. Nor do they object to the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians, tourists, and other visitors. As Kerry Dougherty put it in the Richmond Virginian-Pilot:

Perhaps Ms. Newkirk would prefer that the Palestinians used suicide bombers instead of burros. Oh, that’s right, they usually do.

Lisa Lange, PETA’s vice president of communications, told me yesterday that Newkirk’s letter was written after their offices had been bombarded with calls from PETA members who had learned of the donkey bomb.

Lange said it’s PETA’s philosophy that human cruelty often begins with animal cruelty.

The Washington Post this week [of Feb. 6, 2003 --DR] asked Ms. Newkirk if she had “considered asking Arafat to persuade those who listen to him to stop blowing up people as well” as animals.

Her response should be required reading for all would-be members of PETA:

“It’s not my business to inject myself into human wars,” Newkirk told the Post.

How does one respond to such moral ambiguity?

How about a body count of human bodies?

In January 2003 — the month in which the donkey died — 21 Israelis and eight foreign nationals were killed by terrorists in Israel, and 127 others were injured.

Yet PETA weeps for the a$$ .

February 3, 2006

Paul Krugman and VA Health Care

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:46 pm

Several blogging economists seem to have made a cottage industry debunking the New York Times columns of (formerly-respected?) economist Paul Krugman. Now, I guess it’s my turn. Krugman writes:

I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system’s success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn’t just pay the bills in this system — it runs the hospitals and clinics… our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate. … This high level of quality (which is also verified by objective measures of performance) was achieved without big budget increases. In fact, the veterans’ system has managed to avoid much of the huge cost surge that has plagued the rest of U.S. medicine.

The secret of its success is the fact that it’s a universal, integrated system.

Now the first paragraph has a grain of truth to it, but that last sentence is pure grandstanding. And what comes next is completely false:

Because it covers all veterans, the system doesn’t need to employ legions of administrative staff to check patients’ coverage and demand payment from their insurance companies.

This is completely false. It does not cover all veterans, and it does have “legions [pun intended?] of administrative staff to check patients’ coverage.” They have an entire web site devoted just to eligibility which states, in part “All Veterans are Potentially Eligible” (emphasis mine). There is an eight-level system of “priority” detailed here. It has categories like, “Veterans with service-connected disabilities rated 30% or 40% disabling” (priority 2) and “Veterans who agree to pay specified copay with income and/or net worth above VA Income Threshold and income below the Geographic Means Test Threshold” (priority 7 — which has FOUR “subpriorities,” only two of which are
currently in use).

Does Paul Krugman really believe they can determine eligibility under such complete rules with fewer administrative staff than it takes another health system just to look at someone’s ID card and take down their policy number?

In fact, the real “secret of its success” is the fact that, unlike other government health care systems, they get to pick their patients, and can limit the number of patients based on their budget. Contrary to popular belief — and Krugman’s statment — not every military veteran is in the VA system — the VA sets those eligibility requirements in order to make sure that the number of patients they have is limited to what thay can fit within their budget. In fact, only a minority of former military personnel are in the VA system.

Now, to be fair, Krugman does say one thing that is true and perhaps not so well-known:

Because it’s integrated, providing all forms of medical care, it has been able to take the lead in electronic record-keeping and other innovations that reduce costs, ensure effective treatment and help prevent medical errors.

They really do have a truly state-of-the art record-keeping system, and they actually do use it to save money. For example, if they get a deal on some drug (say, Nexium), they can switch nearly everyone on therapeutic equivalents (say, Protonix) within 90 days. All they do is send a message to every doctor who prescribed Protonix, given them a list of patients to whom they’ve prescribed it, and ask for approval to switch them to Nexium. It’s not mandatory, since everyone knows that two “therapeutic equivalents” are not really equivalent for ALL patients — but they say that about 95% of the patients switch.

Krugman also quotes someone who knows something true:

Moreover, the V.H.A., as Phillip Longman put it in The Washington Monthly, “has nearly a lifetime relationship with its patients.” As a result, it “actually has an incentive to invest in prevention and more effective disease management. When it does so, it isn’t just saving money for somebody else. It’s maximizing its own resources. … In short, it can do what the rest of the health care sector can’t seem to, which is to pursue quality systematically without threatening its own financial viability.”

In the private sector, the “churn” of people in and out of health insurance companies
makes it so that if an insurance company spends on preventative care, by the time the patient is around long enough to avoid a disease as a result, they are quite likely to be insured with another company. So you have a muted version of the classic “tragedy of the
commons” — you pay for preventative care, and some other company benefits from lower costs.

Think about it: If it weren’t for the “churn,” health insurance companies wouldn’t just cover preventative care — they’d require it. And they’d probably even require (say) blood tests to make sure you’re taking your preventive drugs (like blood pressure medicine). (Assuming preventative care is actually cost-effective, of course.)

(Hat tip: Tyler Cowen and Brad DeLong and Arnold Kling.)

December 21, 2005

Soldiers’ Conduct

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:46 pm

VariFrank has a story and some thoughts.

November 29, 2005

Bloggers Save Lives

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:44 pm

A couple of bloggers wound up saving not one, but two lives — based on a comment left on a military blog, and an amazing “coincidence.”

Iraqis Against U.S. Withdrawal

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:09 am

“Anti-war” activists in the U.S. repeatedly claim that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq because we have no right to “impose” our will on the Iraqi people. They should, perhaps, consider that they have no such right either — and that a U.S. withdrawal is opposed by the vast majority of Iraqis.

Here’s what Joe Lieberman — a Democratic Senator — has to say today:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood–unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq’s duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America’s commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November’s elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration’s recent use of the banner “clear, hold and build” accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

I cannot say enough about the U.S. Army and Marines who are carrying most of the fight for us in Iraq. They are courageous, smart, effective, innovative, very honorable and very proud. After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: “I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates.”

Some might object to Senator Lieberman’s comments on the grounds that despite being a Democrat, he supported the war, and not just in a “voted for it before I voted against it” fashion. However, Lieberman also ran for President in 2004 when Bush was the incumbent, and thus can hardly be considered a shill for the current administration.

Everyone who opposes the American presence in Iraq needs to take a serious look inside themselves and ask, “Whose benefit do I seek?” If you seek to benefit the peaceful citizens of Iraq and not the terrorists who seek to murder Iraqis and Americans alike, then you need to seriously re-think your position. If you seek the benefit of terrorists bent on murdering innocents, both Muslim and “infidel,” Iraqi and American and otherwise, in pursuit of jihad — then go right ahead and support an American withdrawal from Iraq.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

November 24, 2005

Sensing Thanks

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:45 pm

Donald Sensing has an inspiring Thanksgiving Day photo-essay.

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