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February 28, 2006

Comments

Hilzoy- This sentence: "The first is that there's nothing that says that politicians have to lie." doesn't seem supportable, at least I don't believe it. Maybe you could say 'This lie is unnecissary, or egregious, but not I think that politicians can ply their trade without lying.

On the same day he asks the governors for more support for the National Guard. Does he not get that people might put those two dots together and encounter some degree of dissonance?

"Maybe you could say 'This lie is unnecissary, or egregious, but not I think that politicians can ply their trade without lying."

Are you saying that George Washington was a liar?

:-)

But, seriously, good luck trying to prove that negative.

Gary- I don't think I have to prove anything. I don't care to argue with you, but I suppose if Hilzy thinks that she can prove politicians don't need to lie, or that there has been one who hasn't, I'd be glad to discuss that with her further.

Pooh: On the same day he asks the governors for more support for the National Guard. Does he not get that people might put those two dots together and encounter some degree of dissonance?

Given what Bush's "service" in the National Guard consisted of, somehow I doubt he sees any dissonance.

Meantime, oh various words that the posting rules won't let me actually use, the spending cuts on VA have already had a realworld impact on real veterans of the Iraq war: as a National Guardsman I know who came back from Iraq with a back problem and PTSD. The VA accept that the PTSD was caused by military service, and is therefore treatable under their rules, but are still arguing (last time I got an earful about it) that the back problem could have been caused by doing non-military things in Iraq and is therefore not treatable. "First prove that you definitely got this back problem because of something the army ordered you to do" yeah, right. Unsurprisingly, and despite getting offered enough money to sort out a lot of financial problems - some of which were directly caused by spending a year in Iraq, none of which the army is offering any help with - my friend has refused all offers to re-up: once this term of service as a National Guardsman is done, that's it.

I'm a fairly strong libertarian, but even I see the need for national defense -- and, since I reject the draft, this means we also need a volunteer army.

The best way to get a volunteer army is, well... anything but cutting their benefits. Of all the many, many things I'd consider cutting from the budget, this would be at or near the bottom of the list.

"I don't care to argue with you, but I suppose if Hilzy thinks that she can prove politicians don't need to lie, or that there has been one who hasn't, I'd be glad to discuss that with her further."

Which lie of Abe Lincoln's do you have in mind? Which of Washington's? Which of Russ Feingold's?

Jason: The best way to get a volunteer army is, well... anything but cutting their benefits. Of all the many, many things I'd consider cutting from the budget, this would be at or near the bottom of the list.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? It's one of the most extraordinary examples of the Bush administration's failure to practice joined-up thinking. True, VA provides free health care to people on low incomes, which is an automatic bad to most Republicans, but on the other hand, you could argue that so far from being "free", the health care has been paid for in advance by services rendered. If Bush wants to make a habit of starting wars with other countries, you would think that it would occur to him that to do this he needs a volunteer army, and to get a volunteer army, you give the volunteers good reason to want to join up. Treating National Guardsmen badly while they're in Iraq, and shabbily when they return, is not going to spur them on to re-up or to encourage others to join up.

I can only conclude that to the Bush administration, the tax cuts matter more than anything else. As Slacktivist points out, there's an obvious reason for this: they benefit.

I think they are mainly lying about the budget. But I also think that they are intending to not provide as many services at the VA.

After all, "supporting the troops" doesnt mean "supporting the former troops."

I think the Veterans have been giving the Republicans a relatively free pass because of the impression that the Democrats have traditionally not supported them as much. I hope that changes.

but are still arguing (last time I got an earful about it) that the back problem could have been caused by doing non-military things in Iraq and is therefore not treatable. "First prove that you definitely got this back problem because of something the army ordered you to do" yeah, right.

That's ludicrous. To draw a parrallel, in a typical worker's comp case, if you are sent to a 'remote location' every injury is assumed to be work related and the burden is strongly on the employer to prove otherwise. Cheap, tin-eared, nickle and dime horseflop, that is.

Agree with the post. Have to ask just who is being facetious here; because, I'm that dim at 2am. George Washington, etc.? Hwaah? Is anybody really infallible where power is concerned? Not attempting to apologize for anyone or promote a particular point of view with that comment.

O.K., so I'm drunk the night before my first day off in a week. Meh. So sorry. Didn't mean to trivialize radically unsatisfactory conditions and career-enhancing regulations imposed on long-term, dedicated military personnel.

I'd rather worry about my President's views on 'is' than about his redefining 'veteran', or 'rebuild New Orleans', or 'checks and balances', or 'imminent threat'.

Hear hear!

In what could conceivably be a coincidence but is looking less and less like one all the time, the hematology clinic at the local VA has had a series of leukemia/lymphoma cases in very young veterans returning from Iraq. Not that lymphomas and leukemias don't occur relatively frequently in young people (although not all of the types we're seeing are usually diseases of the young), but the numbers are getting frightening. Naturally, Bush would decide that this is a good time to cut the VA's budget: his war is making vets sick.

"but are still arguing (last time I got an earful about it) that the back problem could have been caused by doing non-military things in Iraq and is therefore not treatable"

What the...? Back when I did physicals for the VA (in the mid 1990s aka the precambrian), any condition that had its onset during the time when a vet was in the military was considered service connected and therefore eligible for free treatment at a VA. It didn't matter whether the condition happened because of something the patient was ordered to do or even had anything to do with his having been in the military at all. For example, if a person serving in the military developed diabetes while in the service then the diabetes was service connected even though he probably would have developed it whether he was in the military or not. When did this rule change? (I have a guess about when the change might have happened, but it's only a guess: I might be misjudging Bush...)

Republicans hate the VA system. It has moved from one of the poorest health care systems in this country to one of the best. At lowerr cost.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2005/0501.longman.html

The VA is also threatening to be as subversive as the net which replaced private and limited networks with one developed by the government. The VA has offered their often innovative software as open source which means that any medical group or hospital can use it. This threatens private companies.

So yes the VA must be destroyed. It must be reduced to it's former incompetence.

The VA really seems to be doing some interesting, innovative things. Maybe Angela has a point.

Continuing Sectarian Violence Kills 68 in Iraq
This is getting scary

Continuing Sectarian Violence Kills 68 in Iraq

i read stuff like this and i wonder... if my country had been invaded and re-governmented, and three years later, a good day was one where nobody was killed in "sectarian violence", how long would i expect my well-armed friends to sit around grumbling until they formed an organization that promised to Turn Things Around... ?

I think the Veterans have been giving the Republicans a relatively free pass because of the impression that the Democrats have traditionally not supported them as much. I hope that changes.

Apparently some of them are getting the idea, Will.

Two points:

1) Veterans are more likely than almost any other group to consistently vote Republican. It seems clear to me therefore that Veterans do not really value Vereran Benefits. So I don't see why anyone get all weapy eyed over them.

2) We cannot afford them anyway.

Well Ken, I would argue that we owe the soldiers regardless of what their voting preference is. Besides, they're not the only ones who vote Republican completely ignorant of the fact that Republicans are at the same time undermining veterans benefits. For many it's an obscure issue that requires reading a little bit about budget numbers and an unfamiliar VA system, so most people get tired-head when you try to talk to them about it. But I think given five minutes you can get most reasonable people wondering what the hell is up with our unwillingness to support veterans, and especially ones suffering directly from our decision to send them to war.

Why do we owe then any more than what they want?

If they want government veteran benefits they would not vote for people who do not believe in providing government benefits.

Besides, we cannot afford them. We are borrowing too much money right now.

Also, it serves a useful social purpose to have veterans suffer a bit for their having served in the military. The military has a far too glamorous veneer that has proven useful in recruiting. Disabled veterans, unable to get any medical care, is a far better argument against militarization than any other I could offer.

Ken,
Cute argumentative tactic, but speaking for myself, the idea itself is pretty abhorrent. It also speaks to a classist argument, in that the majority of the military is drawn from the lower middle class, I think.

liberal japonicus, what I find morally abhorant are those who ask me to saddle my child with paying the debt for the medical care of someone who would not himself vote to support my childs education.

If it were just me I would find a way in my heart to be more generous. But I have to think of my child and by extension the health of the nation I leave him with. I do not believe any of us with children owe any obligation to those whose electorial choices have always been antithical to our childrens interests.

Well, there's an interesting ethical problem there, but unless I were quite certain that I did everything in my power to stop the course this admin took, I could not advocate that.

This is not directed at you specifically, but I found this post at IsThatLegal to speak to me quite strongly. As always, ymmv.

ken: Veterans are more likely than almost any other group to consistently vote Republican. It seems clear to me therefore that Veterans do not really value Vereran Benefits. So I don't see why anyone get all weepy eyed over them.

I'd agree with those above that regardless of their demographics, veterans deserve free medical care. (Of course, I'd argue everyone deserves free medical care. But to have a government deny medical care to a veteran shows ingratitude, not just heartlessness.) I say this as a convinced pacifist, mind you; as with the betrayal of Valerie Plame, it's not that I like them, it's just that I get mad at such blatant betrayal.

But if you want a demographic reason? I'd say that the Bush administration's clearcut support for tax cuts over VA is what could turn many veterans off the Republican party. (The National Guardsman referenced above went to Iraq an independent and came back an extreme Anyone-But-Bush Democrat.)

"Overall, Bock said the 2007 budget request from the White House appears to be an improvement over previous years when VA health care suffered due to inaccurate patient-demand projections, faulty assumptions, budgets offset by nebulous "management efficiencies" and unattainable third-party collections. "

http://www.legion.org/?section=pub_relations&subsection=pr_listreleases&content=pr_press_release&id=336

Oh well - don't let the facts get in the way of a fun patisan rant.

"I'd say that the Bush administration's clearcut support for tax cuts over VA is what could turn many veterans off the Republican party."

Too little too late. To argue that because people who once voted against my, and my childs interests, now deserve my vote to provide benefits to them because now they may vote along with me is not convincing. We cannot afford such fair weather friends.

Why should you or any liberal vote to saddle our children with an increased debt load in order to benefit people who never voted to support their (our childrens) needs?

If money just grew on trees then this angle would not be relevant. But with debt mounting up faster than any time in human history the future is going to be difficult for our children. We have a moral obligation to not burdem them any more than is absolutely necessary. Since we have to draw the line somewhere I say draw it right here. If people never voted to support the extension of government services to others, they do not deserve my vote when they are in need of government service themselves.

Ken, not every veteran voted Republican. Let's assume that 67% did and 33% voted Democrat. And IMHO that my be inflated toward the Republican side.

What you are suggesting is that we desert the 33% who voted the way you would like.

In regards to the deficit, hilzoy made quite clear that there are other ways to get rid of the deficit, such as increase revenues. One way would be to rescind the tax break on the top 1% who have benefited the most from living in this country.

john miller, what I would support would be to eliminate the Veterans Department altogether and provide Medicare benefits immediately upon discharge instead.

The cost of the Veterans Administration beauracracy could be directed straight into health care that would benefit all Americans equally.

The Veterans hospitals can either be sold off to help pay down the debt. Some of the properties, like the one one Los Angeles, are top prime real estate. Or they could be operated as Medicare hospitals, open to all.

This would align the republican veterans interests along with my interests. As I, nor my child (I hope), will ever qualify for Veteran Benefits, but we will eventually qualify for Medicare, it makes sense to make sure we all have a vested interest in a sound Medicare system.

OT:To understand why I hate the man, not the policies, not the ideology, but the man himself in himself I despise without reservation.

ABC Bush Interview ...via Atrios

"BUSH: You know, it's interesting, you said that one of the things that we love doing is to invite our buddies up from Texas. And I think about the time we had Jones, Procter and Selee [sic]. These are guys we grew up with in Midland, Texas. They are down to earth, you know, they have no agenda, except being with their friends Laura and George.

VARGAS: They call you George?

BUSH: No, they call me Mr. President.

VARGAS: I was going to say…

BUSH: They probably don't want to call me Mr. President, but they do call me Mr. President. And we sit up there in the White House. First of all, it's a great joy to see their joy about being here. It's a fantastic experience for people to be able to come here."

Weren't the Caesars required to have someone behind them at triumphs saying:"You are only a man"?

Relative to bob's comment above.

There was a press conference well over a year ago where a reporter started a question by saying "sir". Bush interrupted him and asked him: "Who are you talking to?". Then the reported started his question with "Mr. President" and Bush answered.

Gary, I do not have a cite and I do not have the time to search at this time, but I believe the quotes are accurate, but I will place a disclaimer that the wording, though not the meaning, may be slightly different.

"Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal."

Remember: any moral decision is correct if it's made "for the children."

Whenever in doubt as to how to persuade anyone of anything, just add "for my/your/our child[ren]" to a sentence.

Alternatively: always subtract those words and see how an argument looks then.

a,

Your link doesn't work, but the Legion's http://www.legion.org/index.php?monthyear=February%2C2006&section=pub_relations&subsection=pr_listreleases&content=pr_listreleases&submit=go>February's press releases are here. The one I think you quoted from was http://www.legion.org/includes/printable_version.php?content=pr_press_release&id=336>February 7th's. Here are the first 3 paragraphs:

INDIANAPOLIS, February 07, 2006 - President Bush’s VA budget request for 2007 has been hailed for adding nearly $3 billion in real appropriations for veterans health care, compared to 2006. “That,” said American Legion National Commander Thomas L. Bock, “is the good.”

However, he added, it’s a budget request built on charging new annual enrollment fees for VA care, nearly doubling drug co-payments and driving 1.2 million veterans out of the system created specifically for them. “That,” Bock explained, “is the bad.”

Bock added that the budget request still relies on $1.1 billion in cost-saving “efficiencies” - the subject of a Government Accountability Office report released last week that criticized past VA health-care projections from the president’s Office of Management and Budget - and also how realistic it is for the president to expect dramatic improvements in VA’s ability to collect payments from insurance companies, especially since VA is prohibited by Congress to bill Medicare.

“Those are some of the foggy parts,” Bock said.


On the subject of one sided rants, I'll offer Bock's http://www.legion.org/?section=pub_relations&subsection=pr_listreleases&content=pr_press_release&id=337>next press release. Very well timed trip, beautifully parsed statement. The Feb. 28th release isn't a new http://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache:5QPz5aaWM6kJ:www.legion.org/word/aclu2.rtf+site:www.legion.org&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=4>theme either. The Legion does good work on quite a few fronts, but its leadership selection process does an excellent job of weeding out the more humble vets (proud to serve, contribute, work funerals, etc) in favor of the enthusiastic parade leaders. IMHO, YMMV.

Actually, Ken, married people with children are themselves a demographic that tilts to the right. I don't see why your kids deserve one cent of my tax dollars when people like you have voted in a way that endangered my student loans and threatened to get me drafted. I'm not too worried about whether your kids get hurt; when they become young adults, I'm sure they'll vote Democratic anyway for cultural reasons.

Ken:
Also, it serves a useful social purpose to have veterans suffer a bit for their having served in the military.

Wow. Even though that and the rest of your posts are some of the most abhorrent statements I’ve ever seen posted to a blog (and that is saying a lot) – I’ll still say that I hope you and your child never need the protection of the military, and never need to be rescued from the midst of a natural disaster by the Guard.

If people never voted to support the extension of government services to others, they do not deserve my vote when they are in need of government service themselves.

The point you seem to be missing is that there is a contract between the government and the veteran, and the government does indeed owe the disabled veteran healthcare. Its partial payment for services rendered. It is not just another government entitlement program. Exactly why are you owed an “extension of government services”?

Exactly why is the government responsible for your child’s needs? If I apply your logic – why should my wife and I as a childless couple have to pay school taxes to provide an education for your child or anybody else’s?

I have paid tens of thousands of dollars in school taxes in my lifetime. Tell you what – from a veteran - you can consider all that money as paying for your child’s education as I have no children that ever benefited from a single dime of that money.

Gary, what is your point? Do you disagree that a person has a moral obligation to their children? Not a legal obligation, but a moral obligation?

If an argument premised on this obligation is not 'persuasive' to you I would challenge your moral compass, not the elements of your counter-argument.

Also you must realize that we are in an era in which every additional dollar spent by our government will be paid three times over by our children.

If the burden where not being put on them then my argument from morality would not be relevant.

I still would hold that we would be better off as a nation to eliminate the VA altogether however and provide benefits to the veterans the same way we provide benefits to everyone else. This would put our interests in alignment regardless of party affiliation.

Veteran voting, 2004:

-A Rasmussen Reports survey shows that military veterans prefer George W. Bush over John Kerry by a 58% to 35% margin. Those with no military service favor Kerry by ten percentage points, 51% to 41%.

[...]

Overall, 47% of voters believe that Bush would make a better Commander-in-Chief than John Kerry. Forty-five percent (45%) take the opposite view and say Kerry would do a better job. This closely reflects the overall voter preference in the race for the White House (on the nights of this survey, Kerry attracted 48% of the total vote to 45% for Bush).

Another. Another. These are all somewhat dated, do note.

What's not dated is, of course, today's Zogby Poll that everyone is talking about.

U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

* Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
* While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
* Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
* Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
* Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
* Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment

An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.

[...]

The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

“Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there,” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).

The "85% said the U.S. mission is mainly 'to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,'" part is a bit disturbing, of course, since, of course, Saddam had no role whatever in the 9/11 attacks.

"Gary, what is your point?"

Point.

Being Helen Lovejoy is the last cliche of a...?

Nor was there any al Qaeda in Iraq for Saddam to protect as the only group was Zarqawi's in the Kurdish areas.

Gary,

"Being Helen Lovejoy is the last cliche of a...?"

Is that better or worse than being Luna Lovegood with respect to a cliche?

ocsteve,

Do you know what a 'sacred cow' is? To many people, anything military is akin to the 'sacred cow' that must be protected at all costs even to the detriment of themselves and their families. I don't know is the stories are true or just apocraphal but I remmember hearing about people literally starving to death in India while herds of cows grazed lazily alongside the road.

Take off your blinders and examine the situation rationally.

1) Any 'contract' obligation our government has with veterans is not legal but moral. Whatever legal obligation that may exist because of law can be changed by law. Whatever the health benefit 'obligations' are can be fulfilled by providing them with the same benefits every one else gets through Medicare.

2) Everyone is responsible for the decisions they make in life. If someone serves in the military I do not see why they should be excused from the consequences of that decision.

3) The military/industrial complex has interests that are not, repeat not, in line with Americas interests.

4) I support any solution to the problems suffered by veterans that are 1) not exclusive, and 2) bring their interest more closely in line with Americas interests.

5) Veterans should not be entitled to any benefits qua veterans. The benefits they are entitled to are those we are all entitled to as Americans.

Gary, do you have a point?

Gary, do you have a point?

I think his point was you were making an emotionalist argument.

Ken, you are categorically wrong here. People should be punished because they voted against your interests? People who chose to serve their country, cut off?

In theory, our elected representatives represent all of us. The fact that one side of the aisle doesn't even give lip service to that idea anymore is a pretty poor reason to abandon it ourselves.

sparticus, are you saying that gary's position that all discusions regarding morality are 'emotionalsts arguments'?

Is he denying there exists a moral obligation to our children? Or is he just saying that even if the obligation exists it is not relevant to the discusion?

I don't get all the pseudo intellectualism that seems to dominate a large part of the discussion on this site.

Hilzoy has personal experience with change in health programs costing one.
The inoculations for the Gulf War were stabilized in an iodine preservative that passed through the blood/brain barrier and caused grief - I know; that's disputed. Another question that comes to mind is the safety of "grouped" inoculations. Special and unusual combinations are not certainly safe : not even for schoolkids.
Point is, even before troops hit the Middle East, they were undergoing unique experiences because of their service. To think they might have group needs which do not fall into the experience of the larger demographic is naive.
There should be loyalty owed these people : their asses were literally "on the line". I don't say that about other civil servants with special tax breaks, allowances and pensions.
Training is no small expense. If retention goes down I see no saving, even if it were justified.

Ken:
Any 'contract' obligation our government has with veterans is not legal but moral.

It is legal as well, but as a moral contract it is even more compelling.


Whatever the health benefit 'obligations' are can be fulfilled by providing them with the same benefits every one else gets through Medicare.

Some could. Many could not. Military doctors gain experience in treating wounds, amputees, PTSD, etc. that may not be available at the local hospital. Try getting reimbursed for PTSD treatment from your insurance company…

If someone serves in the military I do not see why they should be excused from the consequences of that decision.

But at the same time, you have no responsibility to care for and educate your child – that is the government’s responsibility. Veterans are responsible to pay the bill to treat their wounds because they were foolish enough to enlist.

How about the cop or the fireman wounded on the job. They should pay for that right? After all, they knew it was a dangerous job when they signed up…

The military/industrial complex has interests that are not, repeat not, in line with Americas interests.

Nuthin. I got nuthin. So far out there I can’t even get my mind around it.

I support any solution to the problems suffered by veterans that are 1) not exclusive, and 2) bring their interest more closely in line with Americas interests.

I touched on the exclusive part above. As far as veterans interest not being
“in line with Americas interests” – again – Wow. You slander the best among us.

We’re on different planets here – this is a waste of keystrokes and bandwidth.

pooh, it is not punishment, it is reality.

We cannot afford to pay special benefits, higher than what is justified, to an army of injured soldiers and at the same time take care of our obligations to our families. That is just the reality of the situation. Choices need to be made.

If money were not a concern then by all means, give them a pony, give them whatever they want.

ken, serious question. What do you mean by "higher than what is justified"?

john miller, It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'veteran' and thereby entitled to special benefits.

All their needs can be met by Medicare. The VA is a legacy expense that is draining funds needed to provide medical care.

Also, if we eliminate their special status we make sure their interests are then aligned with the interests of the rest of us.

Someone else argued that they have unique injuries that only military trained doctors can handle or that private medical insurance will not cover PTSD. Easy. Make it all covered by Medicare. The doctors will not lose their special skills nor will the veterans lose acces to these doctors.

And the greatest benefit will be that those who once voted against our interests will now have a reason to vote along with our shared interests.

"sparticus, are you saying that gary's position that all discusions regarding morality are 'emotionalsts arguments'?"

Unlikely, since I, of course, said no such thing; nice making up of a straw position, though.

The military/industrial complex has interests that are not, repeat not, in line with Americas interests.

Nuthin. I got nuthin. So far out there I can’t even get my mind around it.

Without taking up any of the other arguments or points "Ken" is making (I put the name in quote marks only because a number of "Ken"'s have been known to comment here), which part of this do you have trouble wrapping your mind around? How was the speaker so "far out there"? Because of his well-known extreme leftism?

ken: "We cannot afford to pay special benefits, higher than what is justified, to an army of injured soldiers and at the same time take care of our obligations to our families. That is just the reality of the situation."

One could equally declare that "we cannot afford to pay [X], and at the same time take care of our obligations to our families. That is just the reality of the situation."

The latter sentence is content-free. The former sentence is simply an unsupported assertion, in which "X" can arbitrarily be anything the writer disapproves of. Logically, anything in this form is equally true or untrue. Are you familiar with basic logic?

John Miller: "ken, serious question. What do you mean by 'higher than what is justified'?"

ken's response: "john miller, It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'veteran' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

Thus, ken explains that it is his position that he holds that position. That should prove that he is correct quite nicely, shouldn't it?

His argument that all government medical aid be channeled through Medicare is not utterly without merit -- though there are endless unaddressed issues involved, including how to handle Medicaid, and how to handle the larger issues of the uninsured, and of health care policy in the U.S. in general -- but possibly one might want someone else on one's debate team to discuss these points. Paraphrases of "this is correct because it is my opinion" aren't terribly persuasive, and not noticing that this is the form of one's argument isn't a helpful stimulus to making a better argument. Though we can always choose to be optimistic about the future.

Additionally on this: "ken's response: "john miller, It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'veteran' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

Anyone could equally declare, with equal justification and support (i.e., pure personal opinion) that "it is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as 'children' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

"It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'married people' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

"It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'senior citizen' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

"It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'disabled person' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

"It is my position that we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'citizen' and thereby entitled to special benefits."

This is another form in which anything can be inserted into the "special class of person known as a '[X],'" and it will be equally true or untrue, since it's purely an unsupported expresion of arbitrary opion. Again: not very persuasive as an argument. It's of equal value to "my favorite color is green." So, obviously, you should all also hold green to be your favorite color, and also all see no reason for a given special category of person that I see no reason for. After all, it's my opinion; so therefore it's objectively true. That is just the reality of the situation. Choices need to be made.

gary, do you fancy yourself a logician?

miller was asking for clarification not justification. He was asking me what I meant by a phrase I used.

He was not asking for evidence of the full statements truth.

You need to employ your reading skills before you employ your massive intellect to taking apart an argument I never made.

However,ken, you still didn't say what you meant by "Higher" than justified. Justified by what?

Clarification of a statement is not done by saying I meant it is higher than justified because I don't think it is justified.

We do have to have a sense of what is justified treatment to figure out what higher than justified is.

"His argument that all government medical aid be channeled through Medicare is not utterly without merit -- though there are endless unaddressed issues involved, including how to handle Medicaid, and how to handle the larger issues of the uninsured, and of health care policy in the U.S. in general -- but possibly one might want someone else on one's debate team to discuss these points."

gary you really are tiresome. I believe my strongest argument for this elimination of special veteran benefits and folding them into the Medicare (not Medicade) system is that it would bring us closer to having shared interests in the solvency of a system that provides benefits to all of us.

I provided that argument. That you choose to ignore it is strange on your part. You know better.

ken: sheesh.

First of all, the VA is not costly and inefficient. From one of the best articles on it:

"The system runs circles around Medicare in both cost and quality. Unlike Medicare, it's allowed by law to negotiate for deep drug discounts, and does. Unlike Medicare, it provides long-term nursing home care. And it demonstrably delivers some of the best, if not the best, quality health care in the United States with amazing efficiency. Between 1999 and 2003, the number of patients enrolled in the VHA system increased by 70 percent, yet funding (not adjusted for inflation) increased by only 41 percent. So the VHA has not only become the health care industry's best quality performer, it has done so while spending less and less on each patient. Decreasing cost and improving quality go hand and hand in industries like autos and computers—but in health care, such a relationship virtually unheard of. The more people we can get into the VHA, the more efficient and effective the American health-care system will be."

Second, I think we absolutely owe a debt to veterans. And as other people have said, we can afford to pay it, and could do so even if the VA was not a model of efficiency in health care. There are loads of things I'd do first to balance the deficit: eliminate Bush's tax cuts, kill farm subsidies, etc., etc.

So what if, as the polls suggest, they voted Republican in greater proportions than the rest of the country? It's a democracy. That's their right. It's not an excuse for us to welsh on an obligation we owe them, especially since we didn't inform them that their conformity to our political views was a condition for veterans' benefits when they enlisted.

And when you say that "we can no longer justify having a special class of person known as a 'veteran' and thereby entitled to special benefits", I'm not sure what you mean. As long as there is an army, there will be veterans. Whether we choose to "know them" by some different name won't change that. And as long as there are the people we now call 'veterans', we will owe them a debt for being willing to put their lives on the line to defend us. The fact that many of them are currently doing so in a war I disapprove of isn't their fault; it's Bush's, and the citizenry's. I can't imagine why we should take it out on them.

garymiller, I see that I did not explain what I meant fully enough. I should have put more emphasis on the cost and the means of providing the benefits. I did not mean the actual medical treatement itself.

For example:

A veteran recieving physical thearapy paid for by Medicare is in the same situation as is the rest of us.

A veteran recieving the same treatment through an exclusive government agency, on the other hand, is not only getting a somewhat 'higher' in the sense of exclusive benefit (for what its worth) but also a more costly benefit. The extra cost is in the huge VA beuaracracy that goes into providing the benefit.

Business have learned long ago that by eliminating duplication of administrative functions that costs can be reduced. I would argue that instead of just reducing overall spending this cost savings should be utilized to provide benefits.

A veteran recieving the same treatment through an exclusive government agency, on the other hand, is not only getting a somewhat 'higher' in the sense of exclusive benefit (for what its worth) but also a more costly benefit.

Do you have any statistics that say equivalent physical therapy provided by the VA is more expensive than provided elsewhere?

As for economy...perhaps Medicare should be folded into the VA?

Just a thought....

You're ignoring the political dimension of your plan, Ken. The people formerly known as veterans will hate you, your party, and anyone associated with it for, basically, forever. They will trash the next part of your proposal, preferring to hold out for the next batch of politicians, who have meanwhile been condemning your proposals and promising to return services to veterans.

"Sheesh" is exactly what I was thinking, but I didn't have anything to add. Fortunately, we have hilzoy.

Do you have any statistics that say equivalent physical therapy provided by the VA is more expensive than provided elsewhere?

Actually Ken said the [alleged] extra cost of the VA stemmed from the existence of a separate bureaucracy. So I'll withdraw the question.

hilzoy,

First your argument falls into the category of military related issues being 'sacred cows' I disagree.

You have a legacy attitude formed at a time when we had to raise an army from civilian populations to fight, become disabled or die, for an immediate national need. After the need was met the soldiers returned to civilian life. They answered the call from their country, disrupted their lives, served, and those who came back injured deserved to be be treated differently.

That romantic notion of military service no longer holds. The military today is mostly just another industry and those employed by it are no longer special cases. They are more and more just employees, like any other. OK perhaps more like firemen or police officers than like sanitation workers, but still. Essentially it is just a job, or a career, depending on what the person wants to make of it. Over 90% of them never fight in any traditional sense of that word.

Secondly, in some areas the VA may be better than Medicare like in being able to negotiate lower drug costs. But that is exactly why it should be folding into one system. If we had the votes of veterans along with the rest of us to improve Medicare it would be as efficient as you say the VA is.


Having done a little research I can add a minor fact: a big factor in the VA's efficiency is their intelligent use of automation. They have made their software publicly available and it is highly regarded.

Oops -- I see angela already mentioned this.

ken: I'm all for providing universal health care coverage by expanding the VA to the entire population. Fine by me. In the interim, I'm in favor of retaining the VA. I do not see why calling this view 'romantic' in any way challenges it. Especially since access to the VA was part of the deal when people signed up.

So all we're debating is bureaucratic reorganization? What a pointless thread.

Actually, I think Ken has it completely backwards. The VA is the best large scale medical system in the country. Closing it and turning the assets over to Medicare would be a big mistake. In a head to head comparison publishe in the NEJM, the VA provided better care in all measured areas.

A much better idea would be to open the underutilized facilities (that would otherwise be closed) and allow non-veterans to use them on a trial basis, with payment via medicare or insurance. The medical-industrial-insurance complex in this country could use some real competition.

As Diane pointed out, closing the VA system was an option propsed by the Republicans in the early 90s because they considered it to be a useless bureaucracy. Since then, with competent leadership, it has developed into the best large scale system in the country.

As for veterans and politics, I saw one estimate that upwards of 27 million voters are veterans and their families. Right now, perhaps a third vote Democrat. That percentage could increase if Republicans can be shown to have mishandled defense and veterans issues, which should not be hard to do under current circumstances, to put it mildly. Do you really want to just hand these votes back to the Republicans? This is a wedge issue that can be used to fracture part of the Republican coallition. It would be unwise to pursue a policy that would cement them back in place.

Donald


"So all we're debating is bureaucratic reorganization? What a pointless thread."

There is an important political and economic dimension as well.

By eliminating the 'special interest' of veterans and providing for their need just as we provide for our own we have a shared interest in the overall solvency of the system that benefits us all. It would no longer be a zero sum game. More of us then would be the same side politically.

It would be unwise to pursue a policy that would cement them back in place.

I'd prefer to see this sort of concern have low weighting as compared with concerns that are more along the line of whether a given course of action is right and just.

Ken said
"You have a legacy attitude formed at a time when we had to raise an army from civilian populations to fight, become disabled or die, for an immediate national need. After the need was met the soldiers returned to civilian life. They answered the call from their country, disrupted their lives, served, and those who came back injured deserved to be be treated differently.

That romantic notion of military service no longer holds. The military today is mostly just another industry and those employed by it are no longer special cases. They are more and more just employees, like any other. OK perhaps more like firemen or police officers than like sanitation workers, but still. Essentially it is just a job, or a career, depending on what the person wants to make of it. Over 90% of them never fight in any traditional sense of that word."

Ken, you might have had a point before Iraq, but your description of the military is now obsolete as well. Just look at the hundreds of thousands of reservists who are being called up. Their civilian lives were certainbly disrupted.

As for more than 90% not seeing combat, that might be true in a conventional war, but in one where any base camp can get mortared it isn't true anymore. IEDs really don't make that frontline or rear echelon distinction very well.

Slartbartifast
It would be unwise to pursue a policy that would cement them back in place.

"I'd prefer to see this sort of concern have low weighting as compared with concerns that are more along the line of whether a given course of action is right and just."

I agree, but I was trying for an argument that I thought Ken would appreciate.

Donald Clarke


Exactly why is the government responsible for your child’s needs? If I apply your logic – why should my wife and I as a childless couple have to pay school taxes to provide an education for your child or anybody else’s?

Avoiding for the moment the moral and philosophical questions concerning taxation generally and progressive tax structures less generally, if you do not see the benefit to you and your wife from having an educated populace (with all its attendant implications for the economy, for crime, and for culture) and from not having hordes of bored adolescents on the streets at all hours, you are a deeply, deeply shortsighted person.

Phil,
in defense of OCSteve, I think he was attempting a reductio ad absurdum or ken's argument.

Donald Clarke, I really don't think my point is any less valid after the War on Iraq began. We have over one million men in women in uniform. Only about 160,000 at the peak were serving in Iraq. Even an all out effort on the part of our military is just chump change to the overall military complex. That they were 'stretched' by such an overwhelming committment of an average around 10% of personal is telling. Most of the people serving active duty are just doing a daily job like any other. They get up, go to work, go on breaks, go to lunch, go on breaks and go home.

This is not mobilization. It is a shirking of responsibility by those already in uniform onto the poor chumps who wanted nothing more than a few weekends away from home once in a while.

Yet that huge army of non-combatant 'heroes' expect the same level of veteran benefits once they get out. This is materially different than true mobilizations for national defense that took place in the past where real civilians gave up there lives to answer the call to service. They are the ones the VA benefits were designed for. We don't have people like that any more. We have just a special interest block of people whose interests are not the same as ours.

That is why I say the romantic notion of a military composed of citizen soldiers answering the call to service does not apply to todays military.

ken, there's a thing called "rotation".

Approximately 130,000 U.S. combat troops will leave Iraq in the next four months after deployments of up to one year. They will be replaced by some 110,000 fresh soldiers and marines, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Feb. 2, 2004

lj, perhaps, and if so I'll let him speak up for himself, but I don't think he was. As a (1) childless (2) libertarian, not only have I heard that argument trotted out with great sincerity before, a younger me has made it before.

Let me try putting it another way. We have an all-volunteer military. People choose to join because of tangible and intangible rewards. Among the tangible rewards are pay below what they could achieve in the private sector and certain promises about things like retirement and healthcare. Not too long ago, the government was sued sucessfully that a group of veterans was indeed recruited on the basis of a promise of lifetime healthcare.

As for the proportion seeing combat, ral hit it on the head. Unless we are going to keep the same soldiers in Iraq indefinitely, we have to rotate. In addition, the one million personnel you cite are not identical. It would be almost as silly to put the 5,000 man crew of a carrier into Falluja expecting them to pacify it as it would be to place the same number of infantry on the carrier and expect them to operate it. Each service has its mission, and the Army can't go anywhere without the Navy and Air Force. Indeed, your view of contemporary military life is probably closest to the Air Force, but that's another story.

For Iraq, the two most relevant services are the Army and the Marines. Most of them are either in Iraq, getting ready to go to Iraq, or just coming back from Iraq. That is in addition to trying to maintain all of our other military responsibilities.

I suppose we could try to keep the troops in theater for the duration, as we did in WW2. That war was different though, since it had a clearly defined end point and was an existencial struggle for survival. Since this isn't true for Iraq, we need to rotate troops.

Also, as you point out, there is a relatively high logistics tail associated with the combatants. This is a side-effect of modern war. I suppose if this displeases you, we could go back to civil war technology; but I don't think you would appreciate the resulting heavy casualties.

Donald Clarke

"A veteran recieving physical thearapy paid for by Medicare is in the same situation as is the rest of us."

Just out of curiosity, Ken, and setting aside your assertion that "it serves a useful social purpose to have veterans suffer a bit for their having served in the military," and that "Disabled veterans, unable to get any medical care, is a far better argument against militarization than any other I could offer" -- have you, though, changed your mind in a few hours that you favor this? -- I'm curious as to your switch just a few hours later to "what I would support would be to eliminate the Veterans Department altogether and provide Medicare benefits immediately upon discharge instead."

Just to check: who is it that is currently eligible, in your understanding, for Medicare, and since you believe veterans shouldn't even get the same care as any other citizen, but that they should specifically be deprived of medical care so as to have them "suffer a bit for their having served in the military," who is it, exactly, that you would prefer to see eligible for Medicare and not eligible for Medicare? How would your preferred policy, whatever it might be, relate to Medicaid, and to the currently uninsured?

I do like the way you went from "So I don't see why anyone get all weapy eyed over them" [veterans] at 10:18 PM last night to "If it were just me I would find a way in my heart to be more generous. But I have to think of my child and by extension the health of the nation I leave him with. I do not believe any of us with children owe any obligation to those whose electorial choices have always been antithical to our childrens interests" at 2:04 a.m., only four hours later. Why not just make Republicans ineligible for governmental medical care, and indeed, any governmental benefits at all? Wouldn't that more efficiently fulfill your goals of seeing that people "would not vote for people who do not believe in providing government benefits" and dealing with the problem that "with debt mounting up faster than any time in human history the future is going to be difficult for our children. We have a moral obligation to not burdem them any more than is absolutely necessary"?

I look forward to your "clarification."

For extra credit, since you believe that "The military has a far too glamorous veneer that has proven useful in recruiting. Disabled veterans, unable to get any medical care, is a far better argument against militarization than any other I could offer," what would your preferred military policy be as regards how large the U.S. military should be, and how its personnel should be supplied?

"By eliminating the 'special interest' of veterans and providing for their need just as we provide for our own we have a shared interest in the overall solvency of the system that benefits us all. It would no longer be a zero sum game."

Could you explain what it is you are referring to here as a zero-sum game, please? Specifically.

Donald Clarke, you don't have to add your name to the bottom of your comments when your name is, in fact, already at the bottom of your comments.

ken: "We have just a special interest block of people whose interests are not the same as ours."

And yet are subject to an entirely different legal regime, and subject to being ordered to their death at any time, and have voluntarily submitted to this regime.

Clearly, that makes them just the same as everyone else, and is an unimportant detail.

Or maybe not. (Incidentally, the word is "bloc," not "block.")

"That is why I say the romantic notion of a military composed of citizen soldiers answering the call to service does not apply to todays military."

What's your understanding, by the way, of a few major historical ratios of military logistical tail-to-point? Which point in U.S. history would you point to as ideal, and as a model for today?

ral: "ken, there's a thing called 'rotation'."

Quite so, but you only mentioned 2 of its 3 parts, you know.

Donald Clarke, yes it called an all 'volunteer' military but I don't think that word adequately describes the vast majority of people in uniform any more than it describes the vast majority of teachers, or accountants, carpenters, or landscapers.

The military today is just another sector of the economy. It is an industry. The men and women in uniform have jobs or careers in it.

There are some legacy aspects to the military industry that are left over from when it was truly a volunteer organization made up of citizens responding to a national need. Those legacy aspects get romanticized and have a far greater influence on peoples opinion of the military than is warranted by the facts. 'Volunteer' is one of them.

It would be more accurate if the newly recruited were called 'new hires' and all the military workers called employees. (They might even be called 'associates' a'la WalMart)

That some of these retired associates from the military industry are suing to retain benefits is not something that sets them apart from retirees from any other industry. Look at what is happening to retired airline pilots or to retired GM workers.

Some people like to call them all 'heroes' (like the old soviet union did for all their veterans). Under cover of this rubric the issue takes on a whole different flaver. A few of them may be actual heroes but most of them are plain old workers just doing a job. Besides, we have heroes in every walk of life, don't we?

As to your point of military specialization. I understand that but as a taxpayer what is the the good of spending billions upon untold billions of dollars to support a vast gizmo glutted empire of fat ass military bench warmers when what we need are people who can and will fight? As much as I disagree with Rumsfield on his approach to many issues on this one I agree with him. The military needs to be shaken up from the top to the bottom. It is mostly useless, as the facts you have sited have proven.

Ken's argument is so peculiar I can't make head or tail of it.

He seems to be saying that the vast majority of military servicepeople are just employees like anyone else, and therefore deserve no special consideration - and that veterans wounded in service are chumps for letting their non-wounded colleagues get away with shirking combat duty onto them, so sucks boo to them, too. He also seems to be saying that anyone who volunteers for a dangerous job deserves what they get. "Don't come crying to me when an IED takes off your legs; I didn't tell you to go to Iraq!"

I have no idea what kind of political philosophy that thinking is part of. SFAIK, even Libertarians believe taking care of military personnel - including, emphatically, veterans wounded in combat - is a legitimate task of the government.

Maybe Ken's a Randian? Selfish Objectivism is about the only philosophy I know of that believes in no social contract whatsoever, that elevates predation to the highest good.

"Donald Clarke, yes it called an all 'volunteer' military but I don't think that word adequately describes the vast majority of people in uniform any more than it describes the vast majority of teachers, or accountants, carpenters, or landscapers."

Are you contending that any of these people are not volunteers?

"The military today is just another sector of the economy. It is an industry. The men and women in uniform have jobs or careers in it."

Suggestion: repetition does not add either clarity or persuasiveness to an assertion. I'd suggest using facts and cites, rather than assertion and repetition; if you continue merely using the latter, people are apt to stop responding after a while.

"It would be more accurate if the newly recruited were called 'new hires' and all the military workers called employees. (They might even be called 'associates' a'la WalMart)"

Sure, and as soon as we can court-martial Wal-Mart and similar commericial employees for desertion, that would be reasonable. I'm sure Wal-Mart would be pleased, at the least.

"Some people like to call them all 'heroes' (like the old soviet union did for all their veterans)."

Some people might suggest that it's more useful to respond either with cites of people you are responding to, or to specific people otherwise. Some people might think that use of "some people" as a rhetorical trope is a way of either utilizing a straw man, or of putting one's own beliefs in the guise of "some people."

Incidentally, this: "like the old soviet union did for all their veterans" is factually wrong. "Hero of the Soviet Union" was an honor, not a label applied to all veterans.

"As to your point of military specialization. I understand that but as a taxpayer what is the the good of spending billions upon untold billions of dollars to support a vast gizmo glutted empire of fat ass military bench warmers when what we need are people who can and will fight?"

Here's another suggestion: try, as an exercise, writing your attempts at argument without the crutch of adjectives. Because, you know, adjectives don't actually add to an argument.

If one attempts to reduce the above 'graph to actual content, there's not much left. It boils down to something like "all military personnel should fight." Which is very Starship Troopers of you, but not terribly useful as a statement of possible policy here in reality. Who do you think should do maintenence on vehicles, artillery, equipment in the field, what should sailors in the Navy do, who should do intelligence analysis, who should work in field kitchens, and, well, I don't know if you've noticed that your military policy prescriptions, although extremely repetitive and full of adjectives, are more than a tad vague; let's be specific: which MOS do you advocate eliminating, specifically? Presumably it must be a very long list. Why not list fifty or so? For extra credit, explain how you'll obtain civilians to do the same jobs in the field.

No one here is, after all, talking about this "romanticizing" you keep referring to; let's be hardnosed and specific, and name the specialties.

On a separate front, when you engage in statements such as "You have a legacy attitude," you are engaging in mind-reading. But, you know, you can't actually mind-read. You don't actually know what someone else's attitude is. So you can't declare what someone else's attitude is. It's not a legitimate argument, and it's an unpleasant form of arrogance that you aren't entitled to. You might wish to keep this in mind in future when you consider using that form again.

SFAIK, even Libertarians believe taking care of military personnel

What strikes me about ken's reasoning is that, while it doesn't partake of Libertarian beliefs (as CaseyL notes, it is quite the opposite), it mirrors the argumentation strategy of some people who claim/have claimed to be libertarian (whether they are or are not is a completely separate matter, but as a fragmentary proof, I point out that Malkin started out as a libertarian, and I believe that Instapundit still claims this). It is really hard to tell if the argument is heartfelt or if it is simply a stalking horse, and I find it interesting, if depressing, to note the possibility of stalking from either side. At any rate, as a liberal, I strongly disagree with ken's argument and hope it won't be cited as proof of the liberal leanings of the commentariat of this site.

gary, glad to see your reading comprehension has improved. You are right that my argument is not well laid out. Not that I care that much, I was typing out loud so to speak.

But as to the first:

If the choice is between cutting veteran benefits and borrowing more money (ie saddling my child with the debt) my choice would be to cut the benefits.

The reasons I would make this choice and argue for others to join me in it are:

1) Most veterans vote against my and my families interest. As much as I like to think that we are all one nation acting in concert for the common good, the facts are that we are split into varying interest groups competing over limited resources.

2) The military industrial complex is not aligned with my families nor with Americas interests.

3) It would serve all our interest, even the most conservative republican veterans, if our interests can be brought more in line.

4) Eliminating veterans benefits qua veterans benefits and replacing them with benefits such as Medicare which are (or will be upon reaching a certain age) available to all Americans qua Americans, brings our interest more in alignment.

5) We simply cannot afford to have a sacred cow group of people entitled to special benefits. Also It is immoral to saddle my child with that obligation.

Do you not know who is currently eligible for Medicare, or are you being cute? I think that offering discharged service men and women the same benefits available to Medicare recipients would probably improve Medicare. We would all then benefit. No?

I will declain your generous offer to provide me with extra credit for answering your question regarding military size and supplies. I don't see it as relevant.

As to the second:

It is a zero sum game in that every dollar spent in one area of the economy is a dollar that cannot be spent in another erea of the economy. I don't think this is controverial.

"Ken's argument is so peculiar I can't make head or tail of it. "

casey, start with a clean slate and think outside the box.

Try to get your mind around this idea. As a nation we are going broke. As a nation we are borrowing money for the benefit of a few among us today and will leave the obligation to pay that debt to our children.

Now think of the military in all its attendent ramifications as one big special interests. They are sucking up and wasting resources that we need elsewhere today and to provide for our future.

How can we change this?

We need to confront them head on. Attack their strength with the truth. It is different. It is new. It may even be unsettling to some. But it is necesary if we are going to have a future.

"If the choice is between cutting veteran benefits and borrowing more money (ie saddling my child with the debt) my choice would be to cut the benefits. "

Nobody said it was the only choice, and in
fact other choices have been presented.

The problem is that this administration likes to present that as the only choice.

gary farber, I didn't know you disliked adjetives. I liked the aliteration in 'spending billions upon untold billions of dollars to support a vast gizmo glutted empire of fat ass military bench warmers' so much I left it in. May I suggest you lighten up. I appreciate your comments when they are useful to the discussion but man do you nitpick over the most trivial stuff. It is hard to read some of your stuff because it is like being dragged into the tall grass and then beaten. If you are going attack me then do so without taking things all out of context. Please. And you know what? You can save your lecture on how to participate in a debate. I don't think it is offered in a spirit of good will but rather in a spirit of scoring some weirdly incomprehensible points in an arena only you understand. Sorry for all the adjetives. I've noticed your discussions with others around here has been on such 'meta' issues as well, but man that kind of stuff is out of my league, so spare me.

That bastard will steal anything not nailed down.

"gary farber, I didn't know you disliked adjetives."

I like adjectives just fine. I assume you mean "adjectives" when you repeatedly refer to "adjetives."

Adjectives, used appropriately, are delightful, and invigorating, and lend flavor and color.

I like them when they are well-chosen, and apposite; they are, however, no substitute for an argument, nor are they replacements for facts.

"If you are going attack me then do so without taking things all out of context."

I don't know you; I've said not a word about you. Neither have I taken any "things all out of context." Nor have, so far as I'm aware, changed the meaning of anything you've written that I've quoted by quoting with insufficient context.

Moreover, your words are right here on this thread, in context, for all to see. But if you feel I've distorted your meaning in any way, by all means, clarify away. Point out how I've changed your meaning, and point out which words of context I've neglected to include. Go right ahead. Please.

"I don't think it is offered in a spirit of good will but rather in a spirit of scoring some weirdly incomprehensible points in an arena only you understand."

No, really, such suggestions are offered in good will, and in hopes they will aid you in communicating in writing with others, and in making convincing arguments. If you were to simply continue repeating yourself, and repeating fallacious non-arguments, I'd certainly, myself, lose interest in responding to you.

Although the range of reading skill varies amongst frequent participants in ObWi threads, I'm quite sure that my points are not "incomprehensible" to most; if they are to you, alas, and alack.

"...but man that kind of stuff is out of my league, so spare me...."

I'll try not to be mean, certainly; however, you are choosing to make arguments, or to attempt to, at least; if you wish people to read your arguments, and to consider them, and to respond to them, you have to expect people to, yes, respond to them. If you feel you're not up to making convincing arguments, or to writing clear English, or to mastering facts and citations in support of an argument, well, we all have our strengths and weaknesses; there are a zillion things I'm not good at, myself. But it would be unreasonable for you to attempt to make a good argument, to fail badly at it, and to expect everyone to instead pretend you did a fine and convincing and comprehensible job.

In any case, I made a number of substantive points in regard to what you've written, and asked you some substantive questions; if you'd like to continue the discussion, I assume you'll address them; if not, not. Meanwhile, I'll give you the respect of presuming you are capable of writing coherently, logically, and convincingly.

gary, two question just out of curiosity

1) what is one of the substantive points you made about what I wrote? ok give me two or three if you want but keep them on topic, and short.

2) what questions did you ask that are are topic that I did not answer?

Before you answer let me make a suggestion to you. When you nitpick on spelling and off topic side issues you lose peoples interest. You have an enourmous intellect but it is often wasted on matters of no importance like the form of an argument instead of the substance of the argument. I use the term argument losely here, this is not a forum for rigorous argument staying within a narrow deductive framework. This is a discussion forum among people trying to communicate ideas. If you were to spend a just a small amount of effort trying to understand the ideas instead of trying to find flaws in how they are presented it could be of great help.

Ken,

Where do I start?

"It would be more accurate if the newly recruited were called 'new hires' and all the military workers called employees. (They might even be called 'associates' a'la WalMart)"

When Walmart (or any other private sector employer) can legally order its associates to do things that will probably kill them; then I will start to consider soldiers as "employees" or "associates".

"Some people like to call them all 'heroes' (like the old soviet union did for all their veterans)."

To echo Gary, "Hero of the Soviet Union" was their equivalent of the Medal of Honor, and no, everybody didn't get it.

"As to your point of military specialization. I understand that but as a taxpayer what is the the good of spending billions upon untold billions of dollars to support a vast gizmo glutted empire of fat ass military bench warmers when what we need are people who can and will fight? As much as I disagree with Rumsfield on his approach to many issues on this one I agree with him. The military needs to be shaken up from the top to the bottom. It is mostly useless, as the facts you have sited have proven."

If you want a military where everybody fights, it is easy enough to arrange. Lets revert to midieval technology. Our military can then go pick a fight with Mexico and get wiped out. We can all then blog in Spanish. Less facetiously, the only way to get everyone in the military to fight is if the fighting happens here. We have not had significant combat in the US since the Civil War. We have not had a foreign invasion since 1815. I, personally, would like to keep it that way, even if it means that we need to have portions of the military that do not see combat that often.

For example, the US Navy has not had many sea battles since WW2. That is because it can defeat all opponents (it doesn't fight because it has scared off all competitors). We could decide to scrap it due to its lack of usefulness. I hope everyone will be comfortable with doing what ever the new leading naval power wants, since they will have a stranglehold around this country's foreign trade, including such useless items as oil.

Donald Clarke, you are right that military employess can be ordered into life endangering situations and employees of most other industries cannot. That is one difference, and for those so ordered it is a big difference. But for the vast majority of military employees this is not a risk they will ever face. So in that regard the differnce fades a bit and the similarities become more apparent.

I do not want to stretch the analogy beyond all recognition I just want to use it to emphasise that todays military is closer to a huge industrial enterprise than it is to the image we have of the military of yore composed of citizen soldiers walking away from home and hearth to answer the nations call to service.

It might help if we thought of the military as one of those old industrial enterprises that used to control every aspect of their employees lives. Not an exact anology perhaps, but closer. They are still employees.

The main point I am making here is that we can no longer equate the romantic notion of the military with the actual military of today.

As to the second point regarding the makup on the military being primarily consisting of a "vast gizmo glutted empire of fat ass military bench warmers" I stand with Donald Rumsfield on this. I do not know exactly how our military needs to change but I do know that it is way too big and most of it is totally useless to meet todays security needs. The enemies it was create to fight no longer exist.

If it is true, and I have no reason to know one way or another, that the military is convinced that 160,000 troops was the maximum needed to meet the mission for the war on Iraq then what the hell are we paying for the almost 800,000 other people in uniform to do. They are standing guard against an enemy that left the scene long ago.

We need a navy. Every country needs a navy. The question is do we need the most expensive navy money can buy? How much is enough? Our navy like the rest of our military was created to confront an enemy that no longer exists. What are we doing keeping such an expensive fleet afloat?

We can at least cancell all new warship construction without lowering our effectiveness one bit, and we'd save a ton of money as well.

Money I might add that my child will not have to pay back.

"2) what questions did you ask that are are topic that I did not answer?"

1)

Just out of curiosity, Ken, and setting aside your assertion that "it serves a useful social purpose to have veterans suffer a bit for their having served in the military," and that "Disabled veterans, unable to get any medical care, is a far better argument against militarization than any other I could offer" -- have you, though, changed your mind in a few hours that you favor this?
2)
who is it, exactly, that you would prefer to see eligible for Medicare and not eligible for Medicare? How would your preferred policy, whatever it might be, relate to Medicaid, and to the currently uninsured?
3)
Why not just make Republicans ineligible for governmental medical care, and indeed, any governmental benefits at all? Wouldn't that more efficiently fulfill your goals of seeing that people "would not vote for people who do not believe in providing government benefits" and dealing with the problem that "with debt mounting up faster than any time in human history the future is going to be difficult for our children. We have a moral obligation to not burdem them any more than is absolutely necessary"?
4)
since you believe that "The military has a far too glamorous veneer that has proven useful in recruiting. Disabled veterans, unable to get any medical care, is a far better argument against militarization than any other I could offer," what would your preferred military policy be as regards how large the U.S. military should be, and how its personnel should be supplied?
5)
What's your understanding, by the way, of a few major historical ratios of military logistical tail-to-point? Which point in U.S. history would you point to as ideal, and as a model for today?
6)
"Donald Clarke, yes it called an all 'volunteer' military but I don't think that word adequately describes the vast majority of people in uniform any more than it describes the vast majority of teachers, or accountants, carpenters, or landscapers."

Are you contending that any of these people are not volunteers?

7)
Who do you think should do maintenence on vehicles, artillery, equipment in the field, what should sailors in the Navy do, who should do intelligence analysis, who should work in field kitchens, and, well, I don't know if you've noticed that your military policy prescriptions, although extremely repetitive and full of adjectives, are more than a tad vague; let's be specific: which MOS do you advocate eliminating, specifically? Presumably it must be a very long list. Why not list fifty or so? For extra credit, explain how you'll obtain civilians to do the same jobs in the field.
Incidentally, when you say this: "gary, glad to see your reading comprehension has improved," you are, in fact, in no position whatever to judge my reading comprehension. You are certainly entitled to respond to what words I write here, and to analyze them and respond to them to the best of your ability, but, again, the only way you could judge my reading comprehension would be via mind-reading. Having gently suggested to you once that this is an illegitimate line of conversation, and having had that ignored, I'll more directly point out that it is not only illegitimate, but it is also offensive. I kindly invite you to cease.

I missed this earlier comment of yours:

"1) Most veterans vote against my and my families interest."

Cite, please?

"5) We simply cannot afford to have a sacred cow group of people entitled to special benefits. Also It is immoral to saddle my child with that obligation."

I assume you also oppose Social Security, TANF, Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start? No? Then please explain which "group[s] of people" are "entitled to special benefits," and which are not, if you would be so kind, and explain why each group belongs in one column and not the other.

I note also that you continue to make The Argument By Assertion. Do you have any additional argument to support your claim? Or do you believe repetition is sufficient?

"I think that offering discharged service men and women the same benefits available to Medicare recipients would probably improve Medicare. We would all then benefit. No?"

No. Since the benefits available to Medicare are considerably inferior to the services available to veterans, the mechanism by which we would therefore "all... benefit" is entirely opaque, and is unstated by you.

Incidentally, have you noticed that the Department of Veteran's Affairs engages in more than medical benefits?

"I will declain your generous offer to provide me with extra credit for answering your question regarding military size and supplies. I don't see it as relevant."

You stated here:

Also, it serves a useful social purpose to have veterans suffer a bit for their having served in the military. The military has a far too glamorous veneer that has proven useful in recruiting. Disabled veterans, unable to get any medical care, is a far better argument against militarization than any other I could offer.
"Militarization" is something you apparently oppose. You apparently oppose military recruiting. Therefore I ask you to support your assertions by kindly stating what size military you believe we should have, and how you belief personnel for it should be obtained, given that "recruiting" should be discouraged. I assume that your own stated policy preferences and statements are "relevant" to a discussion of your preferred policy preferences and statements.

"It is a zero sum game in that every dollar spent in one area of the economy is a dollar that cannot be spent in another erea of the economy. I don't think this is controverial."

Since the economy is not a zero-sum game, yes, it is. If you'd care to defend your assertion that the economy is a zero-sum game, by all means, go ahead. If you'd like a starter as to why it is not, note that the 2005 federal budget, and the 2005 GDP, are not identical in size to the figures for 2004, or 2003, or 2002, or to any prior year.

"Now think of the military in all its attendent ramifications as one big special interests."

We could also think of the military as a big tree, or as a duck, or as a fruitbowl. Whether these are useful analogies is questionable. Are you contending that the U.S. has no need for a military? If not, back to the relevance of your opinion as to what an appropriate size is for the military.

"We need to confront them head on. Attack their strength with the truth. It is different. It is new. It may even be unsettling to some."

"They" is the military, I take it? What truth do you advocate "attack[ing] their strength" with? What's different? What's new? What's unsettling? Name three people who are in these "some."

Consider, again, I suggest, not uttering banal and meaningless generalities.

"When you nitpick on spelling and off topic side issues you lose peoples interest."

Ken, please name two other people you speak for when you speak in the plural here. There are two possibilities: either a) there are specific people you know of whom you speak for -- in which case you can name them; or, b) you are falsely claiming to speak for others besides yourself, so as to make your personal opinion sound as if it were not just your personal opinion. Presumably if it's not "b," you can name at least a couple of of these "people." Right?

"...this is not a forum for rigorous argument staying within a narrow deductive framework."

A "narrow deductive framework"? What does that mean?

I'd suggest that this is most certainly a forum for sound argument, and for rigorous argument. Do you prefer not to make sound or rigorous arguments? Do you object to being asked for them?

"If you were to spend a just a small amount of effort trying to understand the ideas instead of trying to find flaws in how they are presented it could be of great help."

I'd be happy to understand your "ideas" if I could make out what they were. If you think that how ideas are "presented" can be separated from the ideas themselves, you are badly confused. What are "ideas," besides words in sentences and comprehensible paragraphs, logically presented, exactly? How are you otherwise attempting to communicate them? What means do you suggest we use to understand these ideas, beyond reading your words, and hoping they will be comprehensible?

"...it could be of great help."

To whom? Yourself? The other people who are confiding in you their opinions of what I write? Some mice in your pocket?

Hint: you might want to avoid passive voice.

"Donald Clarke, you are right that military employess can be ordered into life endangering situations and employees of most other industries cannot. That is one difference, and for those so ordered it is a big difference. But for the vast majority of military employees this is not a risk they will ever face."

And yet it's a risk that they, in fact, face the possibility of every day they are in service, or are legally subject to being compelled to return to service. Any sworn member of the service, or person who has not fulfilled their residual requirements, is subject to possibly being ordered to a theater of war the next day, or being subjected to orders that are life-threatening. Anyone enlisted in the National Guard could be mobilized tomorrow, and ordered into a situation in which they are guarding against a riot, an epidemic, a wildfire, or any number of other life-threatening situations. Yes or no?

"I do not want to stretch the analogy beyond all recognition I just want to use it to emphasise that todays military is closer to a huge industrial enterprise than it is to the image we have of the military of yore composed of citizen soldiers walking away from home and hearth to answer the nations call to service."

You're repeating yourself here for at least the fourth time. Why do you think this will be more convincing if repeated? Are you saying you have no other argument?

"The main point I am making here is that we can no longer equate the romantic notion of the military with the actual military of today."

Again, repeating for the fourth time.

At 5:04 p.m.: "That romantic notion of military service no longer holds. The military today is mostly just another industry and those employed by it are no longer special cases. They are more and more just employees, like any other."

At 6:24 p.m.: "That is why I say the romantic notion of a military composed of citizen soldiers answering the call to service does not apply to todays military."

At 8:46 p.m.: "Those legacy aspects get romanticized and have a far greater influence on peoples opinion of the military than is warranted by the facts."

Would you like to repeat yourself for a fifth time? Do you think that will be be more convincing?

"If it is true, and I have no reason to know one way or another, that the military is convinced that 160,000 troops was the maximum needed to meet the mission for the war on Iraq then what the hell are we paying for the almost 800,000 other people in uniform to do."

Try checking a list of Army MOS. Do you even know what an MOS is? You want to argue that there is no point to having a Navy and an Air Force?

No, wait! "We need a navy. Every country needs a navy."

So, why did you ask "what the hell are we paying for the almost 800,000 other people in uniform to do"?

"We can at least cancell all new warship construction without lowering our effectiveness one bit...."

Are you asserting that ships don't wear out, and don't reach an age at which they need to be retired?

It's probably verging on the cruel to continue to ask you questions you seem to have considerable difficulty with, about subjects you hold highly emphatic opinions about, but don't seem able to muster any actual facts about. Of course, so long as you keep asserting your opinions, you are inviting responses.

"It might help if we thought of the military...."

What really might help is having a clue as to what you are talking about. It's terribly useful to supporting an opinion. Opinions absent knowledge aren't the most useful form of opinions.

geez gary, I asked you to be to brief. If you cannot understant a simple statement like that how I am to believe you will ever understand anything else I write, regardless of how well presented?

I do not believe you are engaging in this discussion in good will.

My comment that you 'missed' and then proceeded to quote out of contex above lays out my answer, such as it is to all your previous questions that are relevant to the discussion. If any of it is unclear I will try to explain what I meant. If you disagree with any of my statements please feel free to state your disagreement.

And gary, please try to read carefully what is written before you respond. You have, as I have noted before an enoumous intellect and it seems to me you choose to use it in a battle with people. But like any powerful weapon when it is miss aimed it can backfire doing more harm than good: I never said the economy was a zero sum game. I said that a dollar spent on one sector of the economy is a dollar that cannot be spent on another sector of the economy. The sectors I was referring to implicitly were the military sector and the civilian sector. I will posit there is some bleedover between sectors but not enough to change the point I was making. This is, I think, not controversial.


geez gary, I asked you to be to brief

Apparently he declined. That's freedom, ain't it?

Gary has asked many specific questions of you that you have not answered. Supplying the answers to these questions could tend to move you from an argument by assertion toward an argument that has basis in fact. Not doing so will keep you right where you are, in the land of it's-so-because-I-say-so.

For you to not do so, that'd be counter to the America's interests. So I say, anyway.

ken: I do not believe you are engaging in this discussion in good will.

I don't either, ken, but the solution is to quit responding, not to get mad because he isn't replying as would suit you. He doesn't have to argue with you on your terms, but you don't have to argue with him on his.

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