Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Jonah Goldberg's essay on poor management of VA hospitals is up to his usual standard:
We are constantly told that we could get so many wonderful, super-fantastic things done if only both sides would lay down their ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada. Well, welcome to the VA. How’s that working out for you?
"Work together"? What account of Republicans screwing veterans would you prefer -- the most recent, or some vintage?
It is absolutely true that the VA was plagued with problems before Obama came into office and Republicans who talk a lot about how much they love the military are open to criticism as a result. But Democrats talk about how much they love the government. And everything they need to make the VA work is available to them. And yet, it’s a mess and has been a mess for decades. Why? Maybe it’s a mess because such messes come with the territory when you put bureaucrats in charge. Criminality, as alleged, may not be inevitable (though I’m not so sure). But rationing, incompetence, bloat, waste, rent-seeking and a sort of legal corruption certainly are.
This is a perfect reductio ad wingnut: If a government agency has problems, it's proof that government can't do anything right, including things that governments pretty much have to do, like veterans' services. Who's going to take them over, the guys who run the outsourced prison industry? As I've said before, normal people can easily imagine what a for-profit medical corporation would do with uninsured veterans -- shove their gurneys in the general direction of a county hospital, probably, or secretly grind them down into pet food.

Nobody in their right mind believes veterans' care should be privatized. But cases of government mismanagement are windows of opportunity for conservatives, just as ambulances bring out ambulance chasers, and so here's Goldberg like Paul Newman at the beginning of The Verdict, except less in need of mouthwash than Shreddies, pressing privatization cards into the hands of the bereaved. Though, as I recall it, Newman's character was ashamed of himself.


  1. But Democrats talk about how much they love the government.

    "Hello, I'm a real liberal. I love big government! I think everyone should be dependent on the government forever! My pants smell like veggie burger farts! Oops, I tripped over my phony welfare checks! I sure hope Obama doesn't death panel me!"

    Okay, that's not a liberal so much as a stick figure Jonah drew on the corners of his notebook that time Rich Lowry was lecturing him about downloading pirated episodes of The Simpsons to work computers. I understand that Simon & Schuster has offered a half a million dollars for the rights to that flip book.

  2. redoubtagain2:07 PM

    I'll never understand how anyone who's spent any amount of time on the phone with Comcast, AOL, or any number of other private service providers can believe that private enterprise is inherently more efficient than government.
    People like Jonah have staff for lighting his farts that sort of thing, so they have no concept.
    Plus, it's not like NRO is dependent on government grants for existence. (Maybe they should be. I'd pay tens of dollars for an NRO grant proposal.)

  3. Brian Schlosser2:14 PM

    Next up: privately run lighthouses. The light will be filtered so that only ship captains that purchase the $10,000 LiteVue (TM) goggles will be able to see it.

    After that, private air traffic control. You want clearance to land, Delta 211? We'll need your credit card, Captain.

  4. Jay B.2:18 PM

    You know, the best way to fix the VA is to have fewer veterans and fewer still with catastrophic injuries and mental illness acerbated by idiotic wars.

  5. KatWillow2:24 PM

    Most Americans are wising up to the scam called "Privatization". Its way past time, too.

  6. Brian Schlosser2:52 PM

    You must really hate the troops...

  7. Karl Kirchoff3:04 PM

    You shouldn't put the spoiler right there in the title. I was keen to guess what his solution was!

  8. Susan of Texas3:11 PM

    Fascism is middle management.
    Jonah is fortunate that he does not have to compete in the marketplace.
    Jonah/Costanza: Just say, "Governments can't do anything right, yadda, yadda, privatization!"
    Charles C. Cooke/Seinfeld: You yadda, yadda your columns?
    Jonah/Costanza: I do it all the time. Why not? They pay us no matter what we write.
    Kathryn Jean Lopez/Elaine: I yadda yadda too. "Liberals are baby-killers, yadda, yadda, vote for this tea party candidate." It's easy.
    Cooke/Seinfeld: But you yadda, yadda-ed over the most important part.
    Jonah/Costanza: No, I talked about getting paid.

  9. Shakezula3:37 PM

    Jonah isn't unique in failing to address the fact that the mean ol' government hands out zillions of dollars to private industry in the form of contracts to perform functions for the government agency. The list of private industries that rely on the VA is probably thicker than JG's head. But I guess private businesses that bid for contracts are corrupted by beauraco-cooties or something.

    Or maybe Goldberg is a moron.

  10. Gromet3:42 PM

    Hey! Our Republican veterans did not go over to Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq and risk their lives and see their buddies die face-down in the muck and dust to come back here and receive government assistance! They did it to get their physical rehab and PTSD handled by freedom-livng for-profit entities! JAYSUS! We might as well have lost WWIII to the Soviets.

  11. Derelict3:55 PM

    Let's see: Working assiduously to hack gigantic hunks of the VA's budget for the last 30 years, Republicans now point to the effects of that same lack of funding to prove that the VA doesn't work and should be abolished.

    The sad thing is, there are hosts of actual veterans to hew to the GOP, applaud the right's efforts to decimate the VA, and then join in the chorus of screeching about how the VA's just one more bad government agency. Feh!

  12. Derelict4:00 PM

    Hell, I'm even less capable of understanding how anyone who's ever been employed in the private sector can believe that private enterprise is inherently more efficient than government.

    Well, you've got the likes of Jonah (living on wingnut welfare for his entire life), Paul Ryan (educated on the public dime and then put directly into government jobs), Baby Megan McCardle (trust-fund kid who ended up on wingnut welfare). and so on. They've never worked in the private sector, so it's all some sort of cotton-candy fairy tale where everything's perfect and it's all happy endings.

  13. Derelict4:03 PM

    Recall how we're always saying "it's always projection with them?" Well, conservatives want to shrink (if not destroy) the government of the United States. Therefore, their political opposition MUST want government to be bigger.

  14. M. Krebs4:03 PM

    I dunno. A system that is so obnoxious by design that it discourages 90% of all customers needing help from even calling seems pretty efficient.

  15. Derelict4:08 PM

    Privatized air traffic control is more real than you know. There are already hundreds of "NFCT" (Non-Federal Control Tower) towers at airports around the country. And there's been a powerful push since Reagan canned the controllers to privatize the entire ATC system.

    ATC is, sadly, on its way to being the same story as the VA: Chronically starved of funds, it's had to almost eliminate R&D spending. As a result, the U.S. is now a follower in the international aviation community. Where we used to pretty much dictate the rules and the rest of the world followed our lead, we're now just another ICAO member--and one that's lagging far behind international standards, at that!

  16. Dr. Hunky Jimpjorps4:08 PM

    "Maybe it’s a mess because such messes come with the territory when you put bureaucrats in charge."


  17. Susan of Texas4:12 PM

    I would rather yank out my intestines through my navel than call AT&T's customer service.

  18. Ellis_Weiner4:21 PM

    Exactly. Thus:

    "We are constantly told that we could get so many wonderful,
    super-fantastic things done if only both sides would lay down their
    ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada."

    How would this sentence have been any different if it had been written by an actual 14-year old in a cranky, surly mood?

  19. XeckyGilchrist4:35 PM

    Plus it had that total gay rainbow color code for terror alerts! What could be more liberal than that?

  20. Derelict4:36 PM

    But the difference is that government bureaucrats end up delaying your healthcare because of the lack of resources available to the agency. The private-sector bureaucrats, on the other hand, completely deny you access to healthcare so as to improve profits and fatten the CEO's year-end bonus.

    That's an important distinction: You go straight to consumer heaven if you're sacrificed on the altar of capitalism!

  21. randomworker4:37 PM

    It's been stuck on orange forever.

  22. Derelict4:39 PM

    And another thing: How can a private company provide the same service for less cost while still turning a profit? There's only two possible outcomes here: The quality of service plummets as the company cuts costs, or the company simply cannot fulfill the contract. Either one of these sound like they're going to fix any of the problems the VA has?

  23. Jay B.4:43 PM

    A 14 year old might feel shame about writing it later.

  24. Disboose4:46 PM

    It reminds me of the clusterfuck that is Common Core, Presented by Pearson. When a multinational company gets paid public dollars to do lasting damage to the public's trust in their schools, it's a thing of transcendent ugliness.

    There is nothing I've seen that inherently bad about the idea of Common Core, but once you mold education priorities around Pearson's incompetent testmaking, you have a perfect example of government behaving incompetently precisely because it relies on a private enterprise.

  25. Mooser4:54 PM

    "Nobody in their right mind believes veterans' care should be privatized."

    Yes, but we are dealing with Goldberg, so there is no question of a "right" or "wrong" mind. In fact, no question about his having a mind at all.

  26. Mooser4:56 PM


    Nah gonna touch it.

  27. calling all toasters5:01 PM

    OT, but McArdle has now written the stupidest thing ever, and I can't even add "until Jonah writes something else." She has run the board, lapped the field, and pegged the meter: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-20/taxing-a-professor-s-privilege
    Prepare for awesome.

  28. Derelict5:13 PM

    It helps to remember that the purpose of No Child Left Behind is to eliminate public education. The law sets unattainable standards (i.e., 100% of students performing at grade level--and that includes profoundly mentally disabled students) and then progressively removes funding from schools that don't measure up.

  29. Your words to God's ear. Not too sure it’s
    going to matter much, though.

  30. gocart mozart5:23 PM

    Wouldn't it be easier, better, cheaper and more efficient to just give veterans free health insurance like medicare (veticare?) where they can use at whatever facility they choose? it seems like something both liberals and conservatives would support. Helping vets and getting rid of the socialized VA. What am I missing?

  31. gocart mozart5:26 PM

    The average 14 year old is a better writer.

  32. gocart mozart5:27 PM

    Jonah is more of a Newman.

  33. gocart mozart5:28 PM

    Free market death panels are good because Jesus.

  34. gocart mozart5:30 PM

    Shorter every conservative pol: Government can't do anything right, elect me and I'll prove it.

  35. Mooser5:35 PM

    Well, I think mauve, or taupe would go better.

  36. Speaking as a veteran, what this country needs is something very much like a functioning VA, but for FUCKING EVERYBODY.

    Fucking military is the closest thing we have to a socialized system that actually benefits the members, and we reserve it for folks who do our killing for us.

    Go figure.

  37. I will stand up and offer the argument that private enterprises in this unfettered, stinking capitalism is more efficient than government, but we must remember what private enterprises have as their one and only goal in an unfettered, stinking capitalistic system--MAKING HUGE PILES OF MONEY.

    For some reason, conservatives seem to forget this (or they think they can get the rest of us to forget it). There is absolutely no reason for a private enterprise to do a single thing that does not advance their bottom line, and there is no reason to think they would. This is why "regulations" come in handy.

    Sensible government is the leash on a monster that would devour the world, if let loose.

    Personally, I have grown into the conclusion that capitalism is like bad heroin--everyone thinks they can use it responsibly, for occasional recreation, but in the end it always gets the better of them, and they are lucky if they don't end up choking on puke and dying with shit-filled pants all alone.

    Capitalist addicts are going to take a whole bunch of us with them, though. So, I suppose smack addicts got that going for them.

  38. mgmonklewis6:11 PM

    Goldberg manages to take standard-issue wingnut boilerplate and somehow make it worse, even more unreadable than before. Why? Maybe it's due to his complete lack of talent, his bovine laziness, or the stultifying talking points he's obliged to recycle. Maybe it's a combination of all three. That might not make him the worst writer in the history of the universe (though I'm not so sure), but it's certainly indicative of blah blah blah blah and yada yada yada.

    Regardless, Doughy should avoid using the word "incompetence" in his word-vomits, lest the gods of Irony finally snap and cause him to combust with a dull bang in a plume of greasy black smoke.

    And his Cheeto-stained fingers should never, ever type the word "bloat." Ever.

  39. This is True.

  40. Kobie6:26 PM

    Holy shit, that was ridiculously dumb.

  41. No Graft Left Ungrifted

  42. XeckyGilchrist7:20 PM

    Yes, when you consider that the problem the VA has is that it's not lining the pockets of The Right People.

  43. XeckyGilchrist7:27 PM

    Well, there has been a shitload of terrorist activity roiling away since Obama took office. It's just coming from inside the country now.

  44. M. Krebs7:39 PM

    A corporate academic publishing company can, and will, fuck up a two car funeral. Every time.

  45. M. Krebs7:40 PM

    A mind is a terrible thing to lose.

  46. trizzlor7:45 PM

    Holy balls was that's some wicked logic. I summarized it as a formal proof for those who don't want to get out of the boat:

    Assume: Liberals just want to punish people with money.

    1. Given: having money is directly equivalent to having job security. Academics have job security. Therefore liberals want to punish tenured academics.

    2. Given: having money is directly equivalent to happiness. Journalists enjoy their job. Therefore liberals want to punish happy journalists.

    3. Given: liberals are all academics and journalists, so WHY ARE YOUR PUNCHING YOURSELFS LIBRULS? QED.

    PS (yeah proofs have PS'es): This doesn't actually mean anything "It’s just something worth keeping in mind whenever you hear someone talking about inequality" (direct quote).

    Initiate 200 comments about how liberals are just jealous of their betters!

  47. redoubtagain8:20 PM

    Privileged Legacy Hire Is Privileged, Vol. DCCLXV

  48. M. Krebs8:21 PM

    Ugggh. You owe me several drinks, calling all toasters.

  49. M. Krebs8:31 PM

    It wouldn't allow true-blue real Americans to feel good about themselves for the illusion of doing something super special for the troops.

  50. M. Krebs8:32 PM


  51. davdoodles9:40 PM

    "...if only both sides would lay down their ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada."
    I'm going to give this grotesque fool the benefit of the doubt and assume that he intended to wetshart "yada" and "blah", and that this isn't a case of his Filling-Column-Inches-for-LazyArse-Hacks Template* slipping by a semi-comatose editor.
    *Brought to you by the creative team who developed the "Democrats are the real [insert whatever some conservative arsehole just got caught doing]-ists" method of political debatemanshipitude.

  52. Check out Jenghazi Rubin's screed, if you dare.


  53. TGuerrant10:30 PM

    He wore those sweater vests, didn't he? That was a nice thing about him.

  54. DocAmazing11:03 PM

    The President used to say something a bit like it, but he seems to have recognized the folly of attempting bipartisan blah blah blah to attain yada yada yada.

  55. Formerly_Nom_De_Plume11:13 PM

    blah blah blah blah...yada yada yada

    Well, at least Goldberg's interns are amusing themselves, and it's not like he'll ever notice.

  56. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person11:14 PM

    But Democrats talk about how much they love the government.

    Um, no. Repugniphants talk about how Democrats love the G. Democrats don't. GOPers like to infer that Dems love the government, basically because that's their second favorite hobby, after projection. Project your innermost demons on the enemy, then infer that they've confessed to...something. It's a life...

  57. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person11:18 PM

    We are constantly told that we could get so many wonderful,
    super-fantastic things done if only both sides would lay down their
    ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada.

    Jonah normally sounds like he's phoning it in, a level to which the present instance does not rise. Is he daring NRO to fire his lazy ass?

  58. PS (yeah proofs have PS'es):

    Oh, where were you during my math major years?

  59. But conservatives shouldn’t get their hopes up that this will spark renewed interest and spur follow up in the other scandals.

    No, they shouldn't, Jen ... because it's all complete bullshit.

  60. Formerly_Nom_De_Plume11:46 PM

    The NRO, fire someone for being a lazy, shitty writer? Jonah will skip a meal before that ever happens.

  61. AGoodQuestion12:10 AM

    Curiously they have no great desire to see what the private sector is all about firsthand. It's kind of like a war zone in that way.

  62. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person12:17 AM

    point of this thought experiment, which is to illustrate the somewhat arbitrary ways in which we define “wealth.”

    However you may define "wealth", I think there's one property your "wealth" must have, and that's transferability. If nobody else wants what you have, does it have any value? If someone wants it, but there's no possible way they can have it, no matter how much transferable wealth they have to offer for it, what then is its value? Might as well tax good looks, or good luck, or innate talent, or a mellifluous speaking voice. This is a really stupid column. It's an experiment in how not to think.

  63. montag212:17 AM

    IIRC, the Repugs were doing their damnedest to cut the VA's budget at precisely the time that busted-up, beat-up and debilitated soldiers were beginning to flood into the system, thanks to Lord George's favorite wars.

    The fuckers have always done exactly that--screamed bloody murder, sent the rubes off to be slaughtered and then, holy shit, it costs money to take care of them. NOOOOOOOO! LEAVE RICH PEOPLE'S MONEY ALOOOOOONE!

    It's the height of calumny, to my mind.

    Anyway, there are lots of stories about the VA falling apart, but I have a story about that, and how things might be if it were privatized. Around the last time that the Repugs began tearing into the VA, I was visiting a guy who ran a foreign car shop, planning to buy some parts because he was selling off a bunch of stuff. I asked why. He said, approximately, "I can't work any more. My back's been destroyed." Umm, what happened here? "A few months ago, I had some abdominal pains that wouldn't go away. So, I went to my medical plan provider, and she said it was appendicitis. So, she operated by laparoscope, Pulled out a perfectly healthy, pink appendix. After a couple of days in the hospital, the pain was getting much, much worse, so bad that I couldn't even move my arms to eat--if my wife hadn't been there, I wouldv'e starved, because you couldn't find a nurse with radar."

    "The doctor told me it was just post-operative pain. After four days, with it getting worse, I told my wife, 'get me out of here and take me to the VA.' The doctor at the VA examined me and said, 'I can't tell what the problem is at this instant, but, I promise you we're going to find out..' The next evening, they'd found that I had a flesh-eating streptococcus that had worked its way around from the appendix to my back, and it had eaten away one disc and parts of two vertebrae. Dirty laparoscope. They got rid of the infection, and did what they could to fix the vertebrae, but, I can't pick up anything heavy any more. But, I was really lucky--if I'd stayed in the plan hospital, I would have died."

    "And I and everyone there at the VA got great care. It was something to see the nurses dealing with all the old cranky characters in there, joking with them and still able to get them to take their meds and keep some of them from self-destructing. They really earned their pay."

    "Oh, yeah, the reason for the abdominal pain, in the first place? The VA found out it was extreme constipation."

    I have no doubt that the VA's been having problems, but I don't think that's because it's inherently a bad institution. It's easy to drive a government program into the ground by underfunding it and forcing a regimen on it that encourages deceit and corruption, which the faux patriots in Congress have done every time they discover that wars are expensive, and people are not as expendable as they might wish.

  64. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person12:18 AM

    Santorum has that going, too.

  65. AGoodQuestion12:18 AM

    Goldberg manages to take standard-issue wingnut boilerplate and somehow make it worse, even more unreadable than before.
    Well that's a kind of efficiency, from a certain point of view. Maybe he does know what he's talking ab... No, I can't type the res of that sentence.

  66. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person12:21 AM

    Sprint is just as bad.

  67. Daniel Björkman1:02 AM

    Oh yes, the worship of the private sector again. You know what? I work in the private sector. Work at one company now, worked at one or two others before. And let me tell you a little secret:
    We are all exactly as stupid as the people in the public sector.
    Well, we are! On a good day, we can keep track of the things we need to do on that particular day, but we still keep trying to have week-long plans or month-long plans or even, God help me, year-long plans, possibly in some sort of resigned hope that if we make a big enough list of things we want to do, some of it might actually get done. We constantly fail to understand stuff, and half the time when we don't understand something, our reaction is to shrug and hope that it works itself out with time. Our left hand does not know what our right hand does, and quite frankly we don't even want to know what our feet are up to.
    Oh, we do get things done, eventually, but not really as a result of any focused effort - and a lot of the time, what we get done isn't what we originally planned to get done. Productivity is a mysterious thing that happens as the result of a thousand little tasks not working out as expected.
    And you know what? You should know this. Because chances are, you work in the private sector too. Would you say your workplace is a paragon of efficiency, or does my description of mine sound oddly familiar? Exactly.
    Oh, government programs are inefficient too, by all means. That's because they are run by members of the human race, same as private companies. And since we don't have any alternatives to letting members of the human race run things, perhaps we should just be happy that there are government programs that are kinda, sorta, more or less, succeeding in their task at helping people? And that don't have the additional problem of being expected to somehow run at a profit at the same time?

  68. Daniel Björkman1:08 AM

    I have grown into the conclusion that capitalism is like bad heroin
    This comparison is so good that I think I'm getting high off of it. :D

  69. Daniel Björkman1:23 AM

    Er, I'm all for big government, actually. The bigger the better - assuming that all that bulk comes from things that help people instead of blowing them to pieces. And I'm already dependent on the government forever, so I don't see the big deal there.
    But then, liberal strawmen come from conservatives imagining themselves as liberals. I am a liberal who think like a conservative, so I'm a living strawman.
    ... why do I suddenly have "Off To See The Wizard" stuck in my head?

  70. Daniel Björkman1:31 AM

    I've heard it said - been piously lectured on it, in fact. But not lately, oddly enough.

  71. Glock H. Palin, Esq.1:36 AM

    And everything they need to make the VA work is available to them. And
    yet, it’s a mess and has been a mess for decades. Why? Maybe it’s a mess
    because such messes come with the territory when you put bureaucrats in

    As opposed to private insurance companies, where such positions are filled by lumberjacks and pastry chefs.

  72. sophronia1:39 AM

    Come live in Arizona and enjoy the political career of his son Ben. You'll get over that sentiment quickly.
    I wonder why the right-wing sons/daughters are usually so much more horrendous than their parents (see George and Mitt Romney, the Goldwaters, George Allen, etc.) I am seriously side-eyeing the Palin clan.

  73. Glock H. Palin, Esq.1:42 AM

    It's like America's "check engine" light.

  74. calling all toasters2:11 AM

    I'm having hemlock. Care to join me?

  75. smut clyde4:51 AM

    Press 1 if you would like to talk to an operator about performing Seppuku.

  76. Another Kiwi4:52 AM

    Joberg has really crapped in the ole pantaloons here as the interns left in the yadas and didn't replace them with his pre-packaged ejaculations. "if anyone has some original work on this topic I'd be happy to use it under my name". So now the editor is gonna come over and bust his ...a senior writer will call him and warn him...the janitor will give him a hard stare.

  77. smut clyde4:59 AM

    That's the second article she's written about the Pikkety book without saying anything about the book
    Next you'll be expecting her to read it.

  78. Derelict7:33 AM

    I want to take this comment in for immediate servicing.

  79. Derelict7:36 AM

    And has anyone mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is?

  80. Susan of Texas7:47 AM

    Read, yes. Understand, no.

  81. dommyluc8:33 AM

    The Doughy Pantload works in mysterious ways.

  82. And remove its catalytic converter.

  83. fraser8:56 AM

    But remember our whole Communist agenda is to drag down people until we're all totally equally. So if people have more tenure or more happiness than other people, obviously the Comintern wants us to penalize them. It was in their last memo, from Thursday afternoon.

  84. Woah! Graphic! Someone has a story tell. I'll just sit here and wait until you are ready.

  85. montag29:31 AM

    In a world wholly dependent upon perverse incentives, you would, of course, be right. Oops! We are!

  86. montag29:39 AM

    Ooh, Sprint. An official sponsor of the Morons' Telemarketing Olympics.

  87. mortimer20009:39 AM

    Well, welcome to the VA. How’s that working out for you?
    ...it's a mess and has been a mess for decades.

    Goldberg, incapable of an original thought, is just catapulting the usual right-wing bullshit. If the VA is a mess, than so are private hospitals:
    The American Customer Satisfaction Index for 2013 shows that the VA health network, which serves more than 8 million veterans, achieved marks equal to or better than those in the private sector.

    This entire scandal is pretty typical of the genre. Take a single allegation of wrongdoing at one VA hospital, add conventional right-wing idiocy of a crumbling and mismanaged VA, apply the original allegation to all VA hospitals with no evidence, invent and inflate numbers (thousands of patients, more than 40 deaths!), turn on the wingnut Wurlitzer (Google "VA scandal" and 90% of the results are from the usual right-wing & libertarian operatives, and mainstream media reporting on what they're saying), and pretty soon (Roy's second link) even the NY Times is reporting on allegations being made by Republicans as facts (see scandal, Whitewater).

    The only surprise about this latest anti-liberal government crap is that Goldberg didn't bring up the post office.

  88. montag29:42 AM

    Consumer heaven?

    Dante would like a word with you.

  89. Oh thank you for doing this public service. If I'd gotten out of the boat over there I would have committed Susan of Texas's self disembowling within a few minutes.

  90. montag29:47 AM

    Well, we do have to consider the history of the national security state in this. Their track record is not exactly distinguished.

    M'self, I think they're just convinced that every dollar given to poor people is being spent on Cadillacs and crystal meth and bling. Oh, and that the entire budget is composed of giving the poor money.

  91. Halloween_Jack9:48 AM

    So, Both Sides Do It, but only Democrats really love bureaucrats, so it's all on them? Is that what he's putting down?

  92. Its the very definition of a conservative coffee table book--its there on the table to show you are the kind of person who has read it to engage with conservativism's many critics in an honest way. The idea that these goons ever read anything that doesn't flatter their side, in sixth grade prose, is absurd.

  93. mortimer20009:48 AM

    She calls it a "thought" experiment, and then proceeds to demonstrate that she's incapable of any. It's disheartening to realize that there are people -- even established media types -- who respect McArdle's "thinking" about anything.

  94. gocart mozart10:00 AM

    +1 for quoting Charles Pierce.

  95. montag210:00 AM

    Indeed. It's designed to make parents in white suburbia think their schools are horrendous, just as NCLB and RTTT were meant to make inner-city parents think of their schools.

    And, of course, the answer to everything is to privatize the public schools. It's like Bill Gates got together with Michelle Rhee and they said, "hey, let's find the guy who invented the New Math and have him create an entire new curriculum!"

    I realize I'm belaboring the obvious, but neither one of `em know fuck-all about education. 150 years ago, they'd be selling snake oil out of the back of a wagon. And poisoning people everywhere they went.

  96. gocart mozart10:01 AM

    I bet you think we don't worship Obama either.

  97. Derelict10:03 AM

    And I'm already dependent on the government forever, so I don't see the big deal there

    In the libertarian paradise to come, you will know true freedom. You will be free to pay for all the services you presently mooch from the makers--things like roads, police, fire protection, sewers. And you can afford all of that because, without the jackboot of senseless regulation standing on the neck of business, you will be paid something something mumble.

    Well, it will be paradise, I can assure you.

  98. gocart mozart10:05 AM

    Wouldn't it also be cheaper though?

  99. montag210:06 AM

    They've been aping the British aristocracy for a long, long time. That's one of the unintended consequences.

  100. Halloween_Jack10:12 AM

    Obama appealed directly to Aaron Schock, my then-congressman, to vote for his stimulus package; Schock refused, although later he tried to take credit for the parts of the stimulus that directly benefited his district. (Rachel Maddow schooled him on that.)

  101. Halloween_Jack10:13 AM

    When you put it that way, it seems like Starship Troopers came true after all.

  102. montag210:15 AM

    I sometimes wonder if MeMeMeMeMeMeMeMeMeMegan will have one of those Col. Nicholson moments ("What have I done?") as the guillotine blade is whistling down.

    Nah. Not nearly enough imagination for that.

  103. Halloween_Jack10:15 AM

    Ooh! Ooh! She brings the laffs with the very second sentence:

    You’ll have to wait on my thoughts on the book until they’re a bit more fully formed.

    Oh, you!

  104. Derelict10:18 AM

    Sure. But who's actually concerned with that?

    The fact that there was absolutely ZERO pushback when Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld rejiggered the definition of "combat death" so that 90% of American casualties in Iraq would no longer qualify for the combat death benefit--and then cut the death benefit by 30%--tells us everything we need to know about just how much America appreciates its veterans.

    The sad fact of the matter is that we really want our veterans as taxidermied fetish objects. We can take them out, stage parades with them, give them long speeches about how much we honor their sacrifice, and put on shows about their valor. And then we put them back up on the shelf where they gather dust without making any sounds. Memorial Day is the quintessential expression of this.

  105. Halloween_Jack10:19 AM

    So this is the result that you get from a Republican administration that wants to take over local control of (mostly Democratic) "failed" municipalities because they think that they can run things better.

  106. Halloween_Jack10:25 AM

    Shit, I got that covered. I could talk about the time that AT&T charged me $99 to have someone come out and plug in a new modem, or the multiple times at my current location that they've made a big deal out of setting up an appointment (or, should I say "appointment", because they're perfectly free to blow it off) because my DSL connection is weak or gone, even after I tell them that they don't need to go into my apartment because the problem is with their local infrastructure, which they refuse to upgrade or even properly maintain. I could, but I won't, because I left my blood pressure cuff at home.

  107. montag210:26 AM

    The latter is very, very true. War fucks people up in ways that ordinary life does not.

  108. Susan of Texas10:27 AM

    I think she'll have a very happy and successful life. She will do a lot of damage before she dies but that is the price we all have to pay for freedom.

  109. Yes. Things cost money. I don't know why this is so hard for Capitalists/Corporatists/ALEC to grasp. Things that people want cost money and always will. You get what you pay for and there is no free lunch. They say that all the time. Why would schooling in a safe, clean, modern, building be any different. Its going to cost a lot of money. You can't cut costs out of labor and just ignore the other capital costs--that's not the way anything works in the real world.

    Basically, though, its the same thing as the Franchise problem that has been discussed over at LGM rather extensively. If all the costs are tightly controlled (lines of supply, form of food/education, costs charged to the consumer such as 1 dollar meals) then the only place to eke out a profit is by gouging labor and getting more productivity out of them for less money and benefits. That's literally all that is left.

    The Charter schools are like a McDonald's franchise where the cost of the physical plant is forgiven and the franchisee is told "make a profit wherever you want, do whatever it takes." There are only a few profit centers in the educational system, only one payor (the state) and the kids themselves are not even considered the customers so their actual needs are very far down on the list of stakeholder needs to be satisfied.

  110. We had to move our phone number to a new apartment when we were renovating our old house and needed to be out for a year. Luckily, like childbirth, the details of the pain now escape me. But I remember that it was the strangest, lengthiest, most expensive, most bizarrely constructed and kafkaesque procedure imaginable. They screwed it up about six different ways, charged us a ton of money, and began again every time we called to try to straighten it out. It was like dealing with an entire company that was run by alzheimer's patients or HM who could only remember things that happened in the last five minutes.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Molaison

  111. Is he in heaven?
    Is he in hell?
    that demmed, elusive, yadda yadda yadda

  112. 150 years ago, they'd be selling snake oil out of the back of a wagon. And poisoning people everywhere they went.

    You are too kind.

  113. I'm upvoting this for truth. But otherwise I'm cowering under the bedclothes because its so painful to read it.

  114. Susan of Texas10:45 AM

    I've repressed a lot as well. But it was very obvious that they deliberately made it difficult to deal with them.

  115. Susan of Texas11:03 AM

    All is not lost. P. Suderman might walk off with half of her assets. Then we'll see what she really thinks about income equality.

  116. dstatton11:06 AM

    As I remember, the VA in the late 1990s underwent a dramatic turnaround:

    New England Journal of Medicine published a study that compared veterans health facilities on 11 measures of quality with fee-for-service Medicare. On all 11 measures, the quality of care in veterans facilities proved to be "significantly better."

    The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study that compared veterans health facilities with commercial managed-care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care.

    What happened? The GO fucking P happened, that's what. And FEMA also improved dramatically in the same period.

    "Democrats talk about how much they love the government." Do we? I did not know that. Thanks Jonah!

  117. Susan of Texas11:11 AM

    Fortunately McArdle feels obligated to try, which is always amusing.

  118. mortimer200011:18 AM

    Exactly. Back in 2007, the Bush administration adamantly opposed an additional $40 per month for widows of slain soldiers, which would have cost $27 million in the first year and about $160 million through 2013. Imagine, 40 fucking dollars a month for spouses of the dead victims of Dick Cheney and William Kristol. At the same time, the administration was spending about $12 Billion per month on the Iraq war. Hell, they even had a 1.5 billion slush fund for the promotion of abstinence and marriage.

    For these scumbags, "Support our troops!" has never meant anything more than "Support our wars!"

  119. Derelict11:25 AM

    Don't forget that there is a sizable chunk of the voting population who think paying teachers more than what the cashiers at Winn Dixie or Safeway is just too exorbitant. Funny how they think they can get little Sally and Junior to be taught by world-class PhDs while only offering Third-World wages.

    And don't get me started on the 21st century craze of forcing teachers to buy school supplies like white-board markers and copy paper.

  120. StringOnAStick12:13 PM

    My dad experienced almost exactly this while working in Kazakhstan 20 years ago. They drove up to the small airplane, produced a briefcase fill of bills, the pilot looked it over, accepted it, and they were on their way. Truly the future the rethugs are trying to create for all of us looks positively post-Soviet in the level of awfulness, but hey, no regulations!

  121. brandonrg12:14 PM

    AFAIK common core standards don't actually mandate any sort of standardized testing or use of Pearson (or any other company) products. I could be wrong, though.

  122. StringOnAStick12:33 PM

    This underfunding issue is how Harper is trying to destroy the Canadian single payer system, because socialism and he's a neocon with a northern accent. The difference is that since every Canadian has skin in that game, the push-back is fierce. I also recall conservatives telling me the biggest risk to Obamacare was forcing us all into "crappy care like the VA". Hmph.

  123. StringOnAStick12:39 PM

    Ah, I see your problem right there in the 2nd to last sentence: a true conservatroid simply does not believe that government has any role at all to play in "helping people".

  124. Derelict12:43 PM

    I want to carry this comment's books home for it.

  125. Gromet1:21 PM

    What the charter school did for them that ordinary public school teachers could not have done more cheaply (without the profit skimming) is beyond me.

    Well, no unions, mainly! Unions are an emotional, driving force for many people (who despise them). I have a mixed experience with unions (from what I've seen in construction and film crew, no one is going to do a better job; from printers I've tried to work with, no one is going to plead "that's impossible" more than a union printer) -- and when I was in high school, the teachers union went on strike briefly and I got to see first-hand how full of crap some of their basic claims were. Primarily: the claim that my school had no bad teachers. Hoo boy, there were some AWFUL ones -- and it's a huge problem when your organization is premised on the idea that all its members are amazing superheros. I think a lot of the charter school movement would go away if teachers unions would just find a sensible way to cull their own damn herd. We all know there are bad teachers. Unions facing that head-on would help students, and ultimately the unions themselves.

  126. MikeJ1:34 PM

    Be fair. Paul Ryan spent a summer driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Surely that's enough experience to understand the private sector (although most of that time was spent on publicly funded roads.)

  127. Derelict1:35 PM

    Or, as consultants say: "You brought me in because you couldn't decide if the glass was half full or half empty. After careful analysis of your situation, I have concluded that your problem is that you have twice as much glass as you need."

  128. redoubtagain1:36 PM

    37.6 miles northwest of Grand Rapids. I smell DeVos all over this one.

  129. I'm trying to write a longer blog piece about this but "the children" has to be one of the most schizophrenic love/hate objects of the modern right wing. On the one hand the teachers and the government are excoriated for the evil treatment of "the children" in k-8. On the other hand as soon as kids get into highschool and college they are described and treated by right wing commenters as proto-moochers and looters, welfare cheats, spoiled brats, and entitled rich kids all at the same time. The entire of the commencement speech kerfuffles revolves around a narrative in which college students who are graduating are described as spoiled, entitled, mooching, rich kids who have learned nothing from their libtard professors and who will finally learn their lesson when they get out of school and get the abuse they deserve from an uncaring world.

    There's a ton of demonization of high school and college students that reflects the displaced rage of our fox news watching seniors. They still seem to have a (faux) sentimental attitude towards k-8 but they are also convinced that the parents and teachers of k-8 kids are also moochers and looters.

  130. Derelict2:10 PM

    Education in general is a tough nut for people of all stripes. There are few other realms of government action where the sums are so vast, the results so intangible, and the limited evidence that reaches the public eye takes two forms: stand-out individuals who excel, and larger aggregates of students who apparently learn little or nothing despite the public investment.

    In my former life doing political consulting, I dealt with lots of school-board candidates. Whether extreme left or extreme right, they all looked at the schools (high school, especially) as horribly broken. For the lefties, the answer was usually applying more money and adopting better standards. For the righties, the answer was usually getting rid of the teacher unions and figuring out how to get private enterprise involved--either in the form of charter schools or by having businesses come in to "advise" on curriculum (the concept of businesses being the "customers" for the "products" the school system cranked out).

    It's easy to demonize the right on this, but the left (at least in my experience) does not fare any better when you look at the actual policies proposed and what their effects would be. (And, just to be fair about it, I have no clue as to what might improve our educational system.)

  131. XeckyGilchrist2:19 PM

    Heh. I was kidding - I'd as soon never see any of these trogs near the levers of power again.

  132. Susan of Texas2:26 PM

    Gains from trade!

    I wish them the best, bless their hearts. Surely they will happily and willingly sacrifice for each other, for libertarians are an unselfish and self-sacrificing lot.

  133. Al Swearengen2:30 PM

    Everything the VA needs is available to them except a sane legislature to fund them enough to actually do their jobs. That's the galling thing when GOP Congresscritters stampede to the mics to blame everything on Obama. They never give him what he requests for the VA budget.

    It's exactly like public education. Stupid rightwingers think that everything can just be miracled into perfection, without the outlay of a single dollar.

  134. I agree with you. I should clarify perhaps that of course there will be instances of fraud and mismanagement and inefficiency. It's just that trying to tackle those problems is a lot of what generates bureaucracy, so the people howling about government waste and bureaucracy are kind of nuts. But moreover there is a point at which trying to root out fraud and waste becomes more inefficient than accepting that some poor guy might get a break on his welfare.

    And this goes to your point that the shrillest types are convinced that the poor and elderly and educators are running some kind of fantasy scam while they never bother to look at the actual problems we could address like defense bloat and corporate giveaways.

  135. BG, dismayed leftie2:48 PM

    From The Hill, February 27, 2014:

    Senate Republicans stopped Democrats from advancing a bill that would have expanded healthcare and education programs for veterans.

    In a 56-41 vote Thursday, the motion to waive a budget point of order against the bill failed, as Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican roadblock.

    Dear Jonah,

    Go fuck yourself with a veteran's crutch.


  136. mortimer20002:58 PM

    The custody battle would be a spectacle. Forget the kiddies. Who's gonna get the Thermomix?

  137. Gromet2:58 PM

    I'd say there is a middle ground, which is the union becoming an organization that evaluates and ejects its low-performing members (with membership required for employment). Incompetents couldn't stay long, whereas currently the union fights to the death to protect them, right alongside all the truly amazing teachers.

    Having worked in politics, entertainment, publishing, and advertising, I've seen deadwood handled with varying levels of efficiency. My current employer (ad agency) is amazing at getting rid of people. If you don't nail your job, within a year you're gone, every time, and it's done without a reign of terror -- it is generally respectful. I've never worked in a place more willing to fire people and better at understanding who to fire. I think the key has been that managers cast a wide net of anonymous peer reviews and the joint is willing to get rid of anyone -- chief execs, VPs, anyone.

    It helps that in advertising, there are always plenty of applicants for a vacancy, and it helps that the industry standard is that people expect to be laid off repeatedly during their career (agencies lose a client and downsize until they can attract a replacement), but I've worked at other agencies very bad at deciding who to employ forever, who to promote. Those agencies have not performed nearly as well as this one, and the difference has been an absence of peer review, instead relying on a tightly controlled, top-down management style.

    tl;dr -- Unions have created a problem for themselves and need to think creatively to solve it.

  138. Derelict3:48 PM

    Take a look at what normal schools used to demand as entry requirements. Quality in meant quality out, generally.

  139. [Hurls entire glass to floor, takes paycheck and leaves broken glass for someone else to clean up]

  140. That would be "more fully formed" in the roughage sense, I presume.

  141. I went to public school up through 8th grade, and private school thereafter. Both my daughters have been in private school all the way. I can say without fear of contradiction that no rich person who sends their child to private school would ever tell you that "more money" is not the solution to all problems. More money, smaller schools, smaller classes, healthier students (that is: students who have their other needs met) are the sine qua non for excellent schools. Its not possible to do this on the cheap. There can be pedagogical arguments about whether methods that work on the docile bodies of healthy upper class kids with full support "work" to get the same education into kids from broken, dysfunctional, or impoverished families whose needs for food, shelter, and safety are not being met but I don't see these as problems of liberalism. They are just problems.

  142. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person7:55 PM

    It's a fair cop...

  143. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person8:02 PM

    I'd settle for a world where we're all equally happily...

  144. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person8:59 PM

    My sis has had horrible AT&T DSL for years (and she works online). I ran a new Cat5 dedicated line to her office three separate times, thinking weedeater scars may have somehow discombobulated the wiring. Finally things got so bad they actually started sending out techs. The first two did zip. The third spent most of the afternoon, and ended up in the pedestal down the street, and changed her to a different pair. "I can't see how you even had a dial tone on this line, it was so bad".
    Next day it went out again. A week later Tech #4 did the whole dance again. After a whole afternoon, he discovered that another tech, the day after Tech #3 fixed things, had fumbled around in the RT and nicked her wires a foot or so from her line card at the Remote Terminal, and one of 'em was shorting out. Spliced in a new line, and her DSL has never been better.

    All told, she missed about two weeks of work because of their incompetence, and has no recourse at all.

  145. Meanie-meanie, tickle a person9:07 PM

    I dunno man, "...choking on puke and dying with shit-filled pants all alone." pretty much harshed my buzz...

  146. realinterrobang1:39 PM

    I work for a private-sector company with ~120 000 employees, which should by rights be about ten different companies (and even those would probably be too big). There is absolutely nothing efficient about this company; the word that keeps coming to mind when I think of it is "moribund."