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The Other 600

[ 0 ] April 17, 2007 |

Defense News:

There are roughly 130,000 contractors in Iraq, said [Barry} McCaffrey; about 4,000 of them have been wounded and 600 have been killed, he said.

It’s unclear whether McCaffrey was talking specifically about American deaths or contractor deaths overall, but the comment highlights an oft-overlooked aspect of the chaos in Iraq. While most have focused on American military losses, civilian contractors (including both private security personnel and engineers, etc.) are also taking it on the chin. This has predictably awful consequences, as contractors have the expertise necessary to reconstruction, and a high death rate scares away most and makes the rest far, far more expensive.

Just another facet of the disaster, really.

Unhappy Anniversary

[ 0 ] April 17, 2007 |

April 17, 1861:

An Ordinance to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United State of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution.

The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States:

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain, That the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying and adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.

And they do further declare, That said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day, when ratified by a majority of the voter of the people of this State cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

Virginia’s voters cast their approval for the secession ordinance a month later. Meantime, the western counties of the state — which overwhelmingly disapproved of secession — prepared to organize their own separate, loyal government in Wheeling.

We often forget the importance of this particular act of secession. In the two months prior to the attack on Ft. Sumter, the debate over the ordinance was intense in the state that viewed itself as the “Mother of the Union.” While the usual nonsense was served up in favor of departure, many convention members and observers countered by arguing that secession would deprive Virginia of its leading role in the US, converting it instead into a “tail” of the cotton states. Those fears aside, Virginia was more than a mere appendage to the Confederacy, which would have been utterly helpless without the advantages Virginia provided — a large population, a major iron works in Richmond, and geographic proximity to Washingon, DC. In defense of a slave-owning society that had been diminishing in the state for about a century, Virginia’s secessionists squandered tens of thousands of lives and enabled the ruin of their own economy. Among the many poorly-conceived decisions made by my home state, secession surely outranks all challengers.


[ 0 ] April 17, 2007 |

Glenn Reynolds: “If Bush and Cheney were really evil, they’d both resign and stick the Democrats with a Pelosi Presidency for the next two years. The Democratic Party would never recover.” After all, Congress is less popular than Bush.

v. reality: “So people like the Democratic congress better than they like the Republican one. 44/54 is also considerably better than the 35/62 approve/disapprove split Bush gets. Indeed, fully 49 percent of respondents say they strongly disapprove “of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president” — Bush Derangement Syndrome has gone mainstream. Nancy Pelosi, however, is much more popular than either Bush or Congress generically — earning a 53/35 approve/disapprove split. Ever since she became the top House Democrat, the DC press corps has been insisting that Pelosi is an unpopular figure whose bad for the Democrats. This because she’s the most robustly liberal person we’ve seen in high elected office in over ten years. The evidence, however, doesn’t bare this theory out. In the spring of 1995, Newt Gingrich’s approval numbers were in the thirties.”

Heh. Indeed!

You Got a Problem With That?

[ 0 ] April 17, 2007 |

I shall henceforth be known only by my Mafia Nickname, “Knuckles”. Via Slate.

The High Cost of Drug Treatment

[ 0 ] April 17, 2007 |

I was a little worried when I saw the headline in today’s NY Times article: Revolving Door for Addicts Adds to Medicaid Cost. Often when I write about my opposition to the drug war, I encourage more widespread use of state-funded treatment programs (though NY is somewhat generous, most states are not). Was this article going to make that argument even less popular than it currently is?

Well, yes and no, and for the most part, the no’s win.

The Times article details the great expense of treating the 500 people in the state who most use and abuse the revolving door of Medicaid-funded treatment in the state. According to the article, those 500 alone cost the system $50 million annually. And that’s certainly a problem, particularly when that money could be spread out to help more people receive badly needed treatment. Those 500 are a drain on resources because they use drug treatment not as a way toward actually kicking their addictions, but rather as a break — a time to lower their resistance so they can get high on a lesser amount of expensive opiates and narcotics, a getaway even. As one former user puts it to the Times:

“I would tell myself I was just a brother who needed a rest, not somebody who had a problem,” he said. “I could mimic what they said with such grace and conviction, they would swear I was cured.”

But while this attitude is part of the reason for the system’s high cost, it’s neither the most central nor the most under state control to change. The real problem, it turns out, is the lack of homeless services which could treat the many needs that drive these 500 – and thousands of others – to seek expensive, inpatient addiction treatment:

The system suits the most frequent patients — most of them homeless, mentally ill, or both — who see the programs as a source of shelter and food. And the most expensive treatment, which usually involves some sedation, can reduce the discomfort of withdrawal better than other methods. [...]

But at its core, experts say, the overuse of costly inpatient programs is connected to the lack of housing for homeless people. People are less likely to admit themselves to hospitals, and more likely to adhere to treatment programs, when they are not living on the streets. For more than a decade, the city and state have invested in such housing, including some that accept residents who are not yet drug-free, but demand for housing still far exceeds supply.

Sure, the programs are expensive, but their cost can be controlled not through cutting badly needed treatment services, but through increasing funding for services that meet lower level needs, including temporary housing and food.

Another part of the problem is the structure of federal Medicaid, which in its infinite wisdom, will pay for in-hospital detox (the most expensive) but not inpatient treatment programs, which cost about the same as outpatient medically managed detox (which is explained in the article), and which are more effective long term. It’s a backwards policy that is having a disastrous impact not only on the state’s budget but also on the lives of the many people who could benefit from inpatient, community-based treatment. It seems like a common thread in American social policy, no? Plug a hole with your thumb but don’t figure out what caused the hole or how it might permanently be closed.

(Also at AB&B)

Steve Spurrier: No Friend of Treason

[ 0 ] April 17, 2007 |


This didn’t take long, either

[ 0 ] April 16, 2007 |

The Wikipedia entry is already quite massive — around 600 edits today. Scanning the progress on this one is depressing. The original stub began with the announcement of one person killed. Within a few hours, as the news got progressively worse, the title of the event had crossed various thresholds, from “Virginia Tech shooting” (lower case) to “Virginia Tech Shooting” (upper case) to “Virginia Tech Massacre.” By 6:00 EST, the conversation had <turned to whether this was the deadliest shooting or merely the deadliest school shooting in US history. “I’m sure there have been deadlier shootings,” one editor surmised.

I’m not sure the appropriate response to that remark is “I wish,” but — horrifyingly enough — that was the first thing that came to mind.

That didn’t take long

[ 0 ] April 16, 2007 |

TBogg’s nickname for Bob Owens — usually known around these parts as Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee — is especially apt today.

Gun Counter Gomer believes that Virginia Tech and other college campuses would be a lot safer if everyone were packing heat:

Would the number of students shot at Virginia Tech today have been lower if student there were allowed to take a training class, get a permit, and carry a concealed weapon on campus? There is of course not way to be sure. I do think it is obvious that an armed student or faculty member could have at least made taking their lives a far more difficult.

I’d urge a far more somber Virginia General Assembly, and the General Assembly of other states, to consider letting student who have satisfied their state requirements to carry concealed weapons also carry those weapons on campus. The lives saved may belong to someone dear to them.

Gomer also highlights the possibility that the shooter was “Asian.”


. . . TBogg himself has more for the dumpster diver.

Selective Outrage

[ 0 ] April 16, 2007 |

To follow up on Matt and Atrios, Radley Balko asks his readers if they’ve heard of James Giles. Giles, like the three men in the Duke rape case, was falsely accused of rape. Unlike the Duke men, however, he didn’t have the money to hire top-flight legal counsel and didn’t benefit from attracting opportunistic attention from powerful conservative statists with a strong commitment to opposing “political correctness.” As a result, Giles “served 10 years in prison, as well as an additional 14 years on probation and as a registered sex offender” before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Despite having faced much more dire consequences, Giles’ case has attracted a fraction of the attention.

The point is not that the Duke case was not an injustice, or that it didn’t merit attention. Privileged white guys also deserve equal treatment under the law, and prosecutorial abuse is always bad. But despite the attempts of people like Walter Olson to draw grossly inappropriate analogies between these defendants and the Scottsboro boys, it’s also worth noting that there are cases of prosecutorial abuse that, because they happen to people with fewer resources and less social status, have much worse consequences and yet somehow fail to interest many people screaming about the Duke case because there’s no chance to rail against left-wing academics. It would be nice if the people upset about the Duke case will start contributing to the ACLU, supporting increased funding for public defenders offices, loosening recent restrictions on habeas suits, looking carefully at the drug war, etc. But I’m not holding my breath.

[Also at TAPPED.]


[ 0 ] April 16, 2007 |

This is horrible.

…31 so far. How is that even possible?


[ 0 ] April 16, 2007 |

Charlie Rangel and Jeff Flake had a good op-ed in Saturday’s Washington Post about Cuba policy:

We should unite around a principle that Democrats and Republicans have long embraced, a principle that aided the West’s success in the Cold War: American openness is a source of strength, not a concession to dictatorships.

It is time to permit free travel to Cuba, as provided in legislation we have introduced. Open travel would create a “free flow of ideas” that “would promote democratization,” as dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe wrote shortly after his release from prison in 2004. It would also bring humanitarian benefits to Cubans as family visits increase and travelers boost Cuba’s small but vital entrepreneurial sector.

Electoral politics should not prevent us from reaching out to 11 million neighbors who have lived under communism for 48 long years.

In a word, yes, yes, and yes. Although it’ll have no impact on this administration, anything that puts a dent in the insanity of US Cuba policy is remakably welcome. We’re currently pursuing a policy towards Cuba that a) reduces the chance of regime change, b) hurts both importers and exporters in the American South, which, as detailed in a recent Economist article, would benefit immensely from the opening of trade with Cuba, and c) hurts ordinary Cubans. I know that I’m not telling you anything new here, but that in itself is an astounding phenomenon. How odd is it that a policy that hurts almost everyone involved is barely even controversial on the American political scene?

The answer to the Cuba dilemma always comes down to Florida electoral votes. What’s less often asked, however, is why the Cuban exile community settled around the embargo policy. The Taiwanese-American community, for example, seems happy to invest in China, and while I know less of the Vietnamese exile community in the United States, I haven’t heard the argument that it posed much of an obstacle to the return of American investment to Vietnam. I do wonder whether the preferences of the Cuban exile community have more to do with the form that regime change takes, rather than regime change itself. Many of the exiles seem to continue to harbor fantasies about the return of property lost in the Revolution, and the sort of incremental regime change that economic and political openness towards Cuba would most likely facilitate is conversely least likely to result in compensation for lost property. A sudden counter-revolution, on the other hand, in which the exiles get to return as conquering heroes might produce better prospects for a return to 1959.

It’s an insane fantasy, which would be fine if it weren’t for the grip that the insanity has had on US policy.

Cross posted to TAPPED.

Man Out of Time

[ 0 ] April 16, 2007 |

Why? I don’t bear any animosity towards Kerry, and I don’t think his campaign was quite the disaster it’s sometimes portrayed as, but, really, give it up.

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