Monday, June 18, 2007

Other Items

Disability compensation for veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly the youngest, is set too low, creating a lifetime earnings gap with non-disabled peers, according to a draft study on disabled veterans' incomes prepared for the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission.
The same study found that disability compensation probably is set too high for veterans who first begin drawing the disability payments at age 65 or older, having already retired from post-service careers.
This imbalance in disability compensation paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs was a point of contention at a June 8 commission hearing.
Congress created the commission to examine the appropriateness of benefits being paid to veterans and their survivors. The commission hired the think tank CNA to survey more than 20,000 veterans to determine the effectiveness of VA disability payments in replacing earnings capacity lost to service-connected disabilities compared with nondisabled peers.
The typical veteran is awarded disability pay at about age 55. The present value of their diminished lifetime earnings is about $150,000 and over their remaining years they will draw about $145,000 in disability compensation, nearly matching average earning loss.
But the fairness of disability payments unravels when actual earning losses are broken out by the veteran's age when payments start, the severity of disability and whether conditions are physical or mental. Earnings capacity is affected far more dramatically by mental disorders, CNA found.

The above, noted by Joan, is from Tom Philpott's "Disability pay full of disparities" (Honolulu Advertiser). And a perfect indication of the actual so-called 'support' that is given. Another indication of that can be found Danielle Trussoni's "End Vietnam’s Air War" (New York Times) and it's rare that we link to one of their op-eds. This one is on the effects of Agent Orange for the Vietnamese and the US service members:

Today the federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, is scheduled to hear oral arguments against Dow, Monsanto and 35 other companies that manufactured Agent Orange and related herbicides used during the Vietnam War. In addition, 16 appeals by American veterans will be heard, as well as an appeal by a group that represents Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.
The veterans and the Vietnamese are seeking the reinstatement of lawsuits dismissed in March 2005 by Judge Jack Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn. The plaintiffs are asking the court to acknowledge that Agent Orange has damaged the lives of thousands of people in both the United States and Vietnam.

Returning to the Washington Post's "The Measure of a Life, in Dollars and Cents" for more on the 'value' of lives -- in this case, payouts to Iraqis who have lost loved ones:

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Beginning in April of last year, payments of up to $10,000 were possible for "extraordinary cases" but only with a division commander's authorization.

Turning to the joke that is 'strategy' and 'plans' in Iraq, Martha notes Joshua Partlow's "U.S. Strategy on Sunnis Questioned" (Washington Post):

One senior Iraqi government official described the American military policy of partnering with local Sunni groups as "nonsense."
"Every three months they have a new strategy. This is not only a distracting way to conduct policy, it is creating insecurity for all. I don't think these strategies have been thought through deeply. It is all about convenience," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Saturday, the Washington Post ran an article that Lloyd's noting today. Steve Fainaru's
"Iraq Contractors Face Growing Parallel War" addresses the flooding of Iraq with contractors who are not bound by laws:

The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials. Blackwater USA, a prominent North Carolina firm that protects U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, and several other companies have not applied, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Blackwater said that it obtained a one-year license in 2005 but that shifting Iraqi government policy has impeded its attempts to renew.

The next time Congress hears testimony on Iraq, they should ask why US troops are not considered 'good' enough to guard Crocker (or Negroponte or Bremer or . . .). Put them on the spot. Have them tell the American people that the US military isn't "good enough" or get honest about the fact that the contractors can break laws and that's why they use them.

On A11 of this morning's New York Times, Nicholas Kulish offers "End Looms for Iraq Arms Inspection Unit" which is rather 'cute' in noting "the inspectors left Iraq in March 2003, shortly before the invasion" as if that will wipe away the footage of the cars streaking out of Iraq after Bully Boy gave his ultimatium. For those living under rocks, no WMDs were ever found -- because they did not exist. Kulish notes that, "Ocotber will be the third anniversary of the American-led Iraq Survey Group's finding that the Hussein government had destroyed its stockpiles of illicit weapons just months after the Persian Gulf war in 1991."

For laughs, read Thomas Ferraro's "Newly empowered US Democrats draw wrath of voters" (Reuters):

The new Democratic-led Congress is drawing the ire of U.S. voters upset with its failure to quickly deliver on a promise to end the Iraq war. This is reflected in polls that show Congress -- plagued by partisan bickering mostly about the war -- at one of its lowest approval ratings in a decade. Surveys find only about one in four Americans approves of it.

Where's the humor? Read the article. Harry Reid shares maybe the Dems built up too much excitement. Joe Biden offers hilarity as well. No one, including Ferraro, points out the obvious, the conjobs. First conjob the laughable "100 Days" which didn't even bother to address Iraq. The second? The lust for "symoblism." A symoblic vote on the escalation. A symbolic Pelosi-Reid measure (March) that was toothless and non-binding and they (and their Party Hacks) wanted to promote it as "action!" And then The Great Sell Out where they claimed there was nothing to do. As a party, they have done nothing. They have refused to do anything. Voters aren't stupid and Reid can act like, "Golly, gosh, I guess I built Christmas up too much this year but . . ." Truth of the matter, not a single damn present under the tree. And voters grasp that.

Bonnie reminds me to note that Ruth's Report posted Saturday (though it didn't display until Sunday). The e-mail address for this site is