Archives: 07/2008

Defending Nukes

Walter Pincus writes for the Washington Post today:

Most overseas storage sites for U.S. nuclear weapons, particularly in Europe, need substantial improvements in physical security measures and the personnel who guard the weapons, according to a newly available Air Force report.

I bet many Post readers saw that and wondered why in the world the United States still has nuclear weapons in Europe. The answer is no good reason. In the Cold War, some US war planners worried about being overrun by numerically superior Soviet forces and wanted to use tactical nuclear weapons to slow a Soviet invasion or deter it from occurring. The sense of this at the time was questionable, given the difficulty of limiting the exchange. Now there is no strategic justification for placing these forces in Europe – unless it’s to trade to Russia for reductions in their own tactical nuclear weapons arsenal, where security is more worrisome. But tactical nuclear weapons were absent from the Moscow Treaty on nuclear arsenals that the US and Russia negotiated in 2002, and no agreements have occurred since then.

The nukes in question are reportedly all relatively small B-61 bombs designed for delivery by F-16s. The disposition of our tactical nukes in Europe is secret, but according to this report from the Federation of American Scientists, we recently removed all nuclear weapons from the United Kingdom, leaving 150-240 nuclear bombs scattered at six bases, some European run, in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

All this gets to the absurdity of US nuclear weapons force posture – the maintenance of the famous Triad, which was always more a logroll among military communities in the Air Force and Navy than a strategic imperative. The US gets all the survivable firepower it needs, and then some, from our 14 Trident ballistic missile submarines. Today, the need for land-based nuclear missiles is questionable. The case for nuclear bombs delivered by aircraft is hard to articulate, let alone believe, especially when they are deployed to defend rich nations capable of defending themselves from a state, Russia, that is no longer our enemy.

They Want to Post WHAT?

According to the Raleigh News & Observer:

The [North Carolina medical] board, charged with licensing and disciplining the 22,000 doctors who practice in North Carolina, has proposed posting all malpractice payments going back seven years as part of a new effort to broaden the kind of information patients can see about the doctors who treat them. About 25 states have adopted similar rules.

What does North Carolina’s health care industry think about the proposal?

[T]he measure has met opposition from doctors and hospitals, the insurers who write their medical malpractice policies and the lawyers who defend them against patient lawsuits…

The hearing Monday drew 32 speakers, with 24 speaking against the board’s plan to post all payments, no matter how large or small, going back seven years.

No doubt some of those settlements involved no wrongdoing by the defendants. But does that mean we should deny patients all such information?

Oh, and another, unrelated story in today’s News & Observer reports:

Eighteen patients who had operations at Duke hospitals in 2004 sued Duke University Health System on Monday, charging that it committed fraud and negligence in connection with the patients’ exposure to surgical instruments mistakenly washed in elevator hydraulic fluid…

Hospital officials cited tests it conducted, which it said showed the instruments were sterile and that microscopic concentrations of fluid that remained on the tools posed no risk to patients.

Theft by Gavel

A judge has decided to “correct” Leona Helmsley’s disposition of assets.

From the New York Times:

Judge Renee R. Roth of Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan will also play a role. She has already demonstrated a willingness to be flexible, cutting the size of Trouble’s trust fund to $2 million, from the $12 million prescribed in Mrs. Helmsley’s will, and ordering that the difference be added to the pending charitable trust.

Judge Roth also agreed to a settlement between the trustees and two of Mrs. Helmsley’s grandchildren who were explicitly left out of her will. The agreement gave those grandchildren $6 million each.

It’s easy to let Helmsley’s interest in dogs distract us from what Judge Roth has done here. But consider this: If this judicial interference can happen to someone who can afford the best law firm in the USA to arrange her estate, what’s to stop some state official from messing with your property? I had to endure a semester of “Trusts and Estates” during law school and I’m sorry to report that what Judge Roth has done is fairly common. Wills can be “adjusted” according to the “flexibility” of the executor and the judge.

With Friends Like These…

The American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE) used to be beloved by conservatives for its staunch advocacy of traditional liberal arts education, not the politically correct, pseudo-intellectual pabulum conservatives think is dribbling out of most American schools.

But then AALE got in the way of the Bush administration’s obsession with declaring itself the head of all education, and has like St. Thomas More ever since been languishing in the college accreditors’ version of the Tower of London, waiting as the U.S. Department of Education has seemingly searched for ways to have it “legally” killed. Inside Higher Ed has more on what has happened to these one-time conservative friends since they’ve dared to say that higher education can’t be reduced to simple, standardized-test scores, and to resist big-government conservatives’ most unconservative education power-grab.

Setting the Wayback Machine

Andrew Sullivan has been re-reading The War over Iraq, William Kristol and Lawrence F. Kaplan’s pamphlet advocating for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. The first thing that leaps to mind is how utterly dismissive and contemptuous Kristol and Kaplan were of those who were sounding cautionary notes before the war. Here they are on Chuck Hagel, who voted for the war but whom Kristol and Kaplan deemed insufficiently enthusiastic about it:

“Iraq’s uncertain future, as opposed to its totalitarian present, has become the principle [sic] concern of many realists. ‘What comes after a military invasion?’ Senator Chuck Hagel would like to know. ‘Who rules Iraq? Does the United States really want to be in Baghdad, trying to police Baghdad for twenty or thirty years?’”

Kristol goes on to mock this question with his usual assurance:

“Predictions of ethnic turmoil in Iraq are even more questionable than they were in the case of Afghanistan.

“Unlike the Taliban, Saddam has little support among any ethnic group, Sunnis included, and the Iraqi opposition is itself a multi-ethnic force… [T]he executive director of the Iraq Foundation, Rend Rahim Francke, says, ‘we will not have a civil war in Iraq. This is contrary to Iraqi history, and Iraq has not had a history of communal conflict as there has been in the Balkans or in Afghanistan…’”

(Kristol and Kaplan fail to mention, of course, that Ms. Francke was not exactly an objective observer to this phenomenon; she was a lobbyist who spent years pushing for more U.S. action to oust Saddam Hussein.) This “there’s no history of ethnic turmoil in Iraq” trope was central to Kristol’s advocacy. In an article for The American Conservative in 2006 (not online, alas), I pointed out that

KristolOn–appropriately enough–April Fool’s Day 2003, on NPR Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol informed host Terry Gross that “there’s been a certain amount of pop sociology in America…that the Shi’a can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shi’a in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all.”

The whole thing would be laughable if there weren’t so many corpses over there.

Tax Revenue Tanking? Act Now on Education Tax Credits and Watch Your Savings Grow!

With a sluggish economy and rising costs for everything, state and local governments are facing serious budget problems. It’s clear that there’s a lot of spending that they should simply cut outright. But politicians hate doing that.
But there is one way to save billions of dollars without cutting a single program or budget; broad-based education tax credits.

A fiscal impact analysis of our Public Education Tax Credit from our own Andrew Coulson and economist Anca Cotet was released today that shows the potential savings for 5 states.

Education spending makes up about half of most state budgets and is the biggest item at the local level, so we expected major savings from our broad-based program. But the totals surprised even us.

Here are the pretty stunning highlights:

Illinois saves $5.1 billion in the first 10 years and $1.6 billion every year after the program has been in operation for 15 years.

New York saves $15.1 billion in the first 10 years and $4.8 billion every year after the program has been in operation for 15 years.

South Carolina saves $1.1 billion in the first 10 years and $350 million every year after the program has been in operation for 15 years.

Texas saves $15.9 billion in the first 10 years and $5.4 billion every year after the program has been in operation for 15 years.

Wisconsin saves $9.3 billion in the first 10 years and $3.2 billion every year after the program has been in operation for 15 years.