Monday, June 20, 2011

Worst Wall Street Journal Editorial Ever

This editorial is so stupid it defies description. I am starting to think they put it in there just to make unions look bad. Maybe it was published on a dare?

Yet the Boeing case has a scarier aspect missed by conservatives: Why is Boeing, one of our few real global champions in beefing up exports, moving work on the Dreamliner from a high-skill work force ($28 an hour on average) to a much lower-wage work force ($14 an hour starting wage)? Nothing could be a bigger threat to the economic security of this country.

We should be aghast that Boeing is sending a big fat market signal that it wants a less-skilled, lower-quality work force. This country is in a debt crisis because we buy abroad much more than we sell. Alas, because of this trade deficit, foreign creditors have the country in their clutches. That's not because of our labor costs—in that respect, we can undersell most of our high-wage, unionized rivals like Germany. It's because we have too many poorly educated and low-skilled workers that are simply unable to compete.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Why Indeed Do Veterans Sleep in Dumpsters?

Laurence Tribe and Bobby Shriver have an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal about a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration to force them to provide more funding for caring for homeless veterans. Now I don't know the details about the lawsuit or benefits in this particular area, although as a veteran I am of course sympathetic to this. I was a bit concerned, however, with one of the veterans they are taking up the cause of.

Among the plaintiffs in this lawsuit is Greg Valentini. A private in the 101st Airborne, he took part in the initial invasion of Afghanistan. There, he participated in the assault on Tora Bora that sought Osama bin Laden. He was redeployed to Iraq, where he again experienced heavy combat. He received six decorations for his service.

Having served in the original OEF myself though, this claim is not true. The 101st Airborne was not part of the initial invasion of Afghanistan. They did not arrive until mid-January of 2002, two months after Kabul fell. Furthermore, they did not participate in the assault on Tora Bora, which took place in mid-December 2001. The authors of this piece should have known that, since only a handful of special operations troops took part in the operation, working with local Afghan forces, a decision which has been widely criticized over the years as allowing Osama bin Laden to escape to Pakistan. To the best of my knowledge the only significant combat operations they took part in was supporting the Army Rangers during Operation Anaconda, and they spent the rest of the time manning guard posts in Kandahar. At the time the tours were only 6 months. In fact a list of casualties from Afghanistan does not show a single fatality from the 101st for all of 2002, for any reason.

So how exactly did this private end up homeless? Well a previous article in the LA Times tells us:

Back home, it was meth that took the edge off, and nearly destroyed him.

"It wasn't pretty," says Mr. Valentini.

His son was scatterbrained, dishonest and jumpy. Mr. Valentini was torn. He knew Greg was strung out, but he also knew he'd been through something horrible.

"I was probably too lenient, but I was trying to understand his side of it."

"But I got worse and worse," admits Greg, who stole cash, credit cards and jewelry from his father. "I did a lot of humiliating things."

"Yeah, it was a blow," says Mr. Valentini.

Greg, who was arrested several times, often limped back home when he was set free. Once, his father told him he could sleep on the back porch, that was it. Another time, he kicked him out altogether.

In that same article, Valentini tells even farther fetched stories:

As the father grills burgers on a sunny and pleasant Southern California day, the son takes us into a war zone on the other side of the world. In Afghanistan, Greg says, his whole unit smoked opium "to take the edge off." Surviving firefights seemed to be a matter of luck. Once, in a convoy, he was switched out of one vehicle and into another. Minutes later, the first vehicle hit an IED, and there were no survivors.

Once again, the 101st did not suffer a single fatality during that tour in Afghanistan. Not a one.

Update: More overwrought stories here:
Six years later, Valentini can still hear the fury and chaos, see himself freezing in his first firefight in Kandahar, feel the butt of the rifle that a buddy used to bust him in the chops and snap him out of paralysis.

He began shooting, and shooting, and shooting, and during nine bloody months of heavy combat in Afghanistan, Valentini came to understand fear, absorb it, get comfortable with it. What was fear of death but a reverence for life?

Update 2: More problems in the complaint, although who knows what of this Valentini said, or his lawyer embellished. From page 38.

Mr. Valentini received his basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, and was selected for further training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and then to the 101st Airborne Division. In October 2001, he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of the initial assault on the Taliban and al-Qaeda after September 11.

Mr. Valentini's first mission was to take control of the Taliban-held airport at Kandahar, which involved heavy combat. Many of his fellow soldiers were killed. He also witnessed a number of civilian deaths and was tasked with transporting the dead bodies of civilians.

The first major problem with this being, the Army didn't take the Kandahar Airport, the Marines did in December 2001.

Marines took control of the airport Thursday night without resistance. Afghans on the ground appeared stunned and curious, then waved and fired weapons in the air in a show of support. Still, Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis has ordered that "force protection" remain a major concern as Taliban and Al Qaeda forces continue their retreat.

"These guys might try to make one big hit before they get out of town," said Maj. Tom Impellitteri. "The Marines have to remember: vigilance, vigilance, vigilance."

On Sunday, only one Afghan approached the perimeter of the airport. Given some clothes and food by Marines, he left quickly.

The complaint continues:

In February and March of 2002, Mr. Valentini's unit was part of Operation Anaconda in the Tora Bora Mountains, searching for Osama bin Laden and other elements of the al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership. He took part in significant ground fighting, under nearly constant sniper fire and mortar bombardment. Again, he witnessed the gruesome deaths of numerous civilians, including children.

OK, this might at least explain the previous Tora Bora claim. Operation Anaconda did not take place at Tora Bora, but rather the Shah-i-Kot Mountains. I have no idea what role he played in this, but based on the rest, I am not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.