Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

University officials threaten students passing out U.S. Constitution

University officials threaten students passing out U.S. Constitution
October 14, 2014 by Kaitlyn Schallhorn

University officials threatened to call the police and disciplinary action against students who were passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution at Southern Oregon University (SOU) last week.

A group of four students at SOU handed out copies of the Constitution on campus Tuesday while collecting signatures to end the university’s restrictive speech policies, which limit free speech to an area that totals less than one percent of campus. While doing so, the students were approached multiple times by school administrators and campus police who all asked the students to move to a different area of campus.

“We encountered wild accusations that because the event was affiliated with SCC, there was legitimate fear for the imminent danger of students on campus.”   

“I would very much like you to leave, if you would, please, because the students have the right to be able to come by here without you guys, you know, invading their space and asking them to do something,” Tim Robitz, director of university housing, can be heard telling the students in an exclusive video obtained byCampus Reform.

School administrators threatened to call the police on the students when the group did not leave. One of the students in attendance told Campus Reform that some administrators resorted to “personal attacks” and threatened disciplinary action.

“We have our free speech zone. I understand that you may not like it, but that’s where it is,” Allyson Beck, SOU’s family housing coordinator, told the students in the video.

WATCH: Officials confront pro-Second Amendment students

The four students are affiliated with Students for Concealed Carry (SCC), a nonpartisan student organization that advocates for concealed carry rights on college campuses.

“We encountered wild accusations that because the event was affiliated with SCC, there was legitimate fear for the imminent danger of students on campus,” SCC member Stephanie Keaveney told Campus Reform after the incident. “Administrators accused us of causing an immediate panic for the safety of students in the face of gun violence, or the promotion of such.”

Campus police did inform the group that they had received a complaint from another student who said he felt uncomfortable, although members of SCC told Campus Reform that not a single student complained to them.

“[S]tudents on this campus were in no way framing themselves to be a legitimate threat to safety or inciting unlawful behavior,” Keaveney said. “This action was only related to SCC in that its members on this campus believe in order to fight for our second amendment rights; we must first be free to exercise our first amendment rights.”

Besides asking the group to move to the designated free speech zone, SOU officials asked the students to make sure they were explaining to their peers why the free speech zone exists in the first place.

“Well I just think if you’re going to ask someone to sign a petition, it’s always helpful if you’re explaining both sides of the petition–why the policy exists is certainly useful as opposed to saying ‘we want this,” Robitz can be heard telling the students in the video.

While Robitz did tell the students he would be willing to sit down and have a conversation about SOU’s speech policies, but that “doesn’t necessarily mean [he] supports doing it.”

“If you’re asking me if I support it, I don’t think I could say yes or no at this point because clearly there’s a number of reasons why it exists and I think we need to look at all those–good, bad, and indifferent–because it’s not just about the free speech of students,” Robitz told the students in the video. “When you open it up to free speech that means anyone anywhere can come on here and do that and that might create some other challenges for this campus that we’re not prepared to manage.”

Students were handing out the free Constitutions in what SOU considers a “residential area” because of its close proximity to residence halls. The four students didn’t have a table and stayed on a sidewalk which led to a main road.

“Caging students in censorship zones flies in the face of the First Amendment and undermines the reason for education,” David Hacker, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, toldCampus Reform. “Colleges and universities are and should be the marketplace of ideas, and the Constitution protects the speech rights of everyone, not just groups or students that a few university officials personally choose.”

Keaveney confirmed to Campus Reform that city police never approached the student group or asked them to leave. She also said that so far the university hasn’t taken any action against the students despite the threats to the contrary.

“While it is lawful for the university to maintain policies prohibiting activities which genuinely disrupt the educational process, restricting speech as acutely as SOU has by instituting and upholding the free speech zone is grossly more broad than necessary to ensure the educational process is not interrupted,” she said.

Neither Beck nor Robitz responded to a request for comment from Campus Reform.

A university spokesperson did confirm to Campus Reform that the incident took place but did not say if the students would be further disciplined.

Another view of the incident: 

UPDATE: In an email Tuesday afternoon, SOU confirmed to Campus Reform that it has no plans to further discipline the students.

original article: University officials threaten students passing out U.S. Constitution

abuse, bias, bullies, censorship, constitution, education, free speech, freedom, government, gun rights, left wing, liberalism, oppression, power, progressive

Filed under: government, liberalism, bias, left wing, censorship, education, oppression, free speech, freedom, constitution, abuse, gun rights, bullies, progressive, power

CDC not controlling Ebola outbreak in US, blames those infected

U.S. CDC head criticized for blaming ‘protocol breach’ as nurse gets Ebola
October 13, 2014 by JULIE STEENHUYSEN

(Reuters) – Some healthcare experts are bristling at the assertion by a top U.S. health official that a “protocol breach” caused a Dallas nurse to be infected with Ebola while caring for a dying patient, saying the case instead shows how far the nation’s hospitals are from adequately training staff to deal with the deadly virus.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the declaration on Sunday at a news conference and called for an investigation into how the unidentified nurse became infected while caring for Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States. Duncan died last week at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Healthcare and infection control experts said that hospital staff need to be coached through the stages of treating an Ebola patient, making sure they have the right safety equipment and know how to use it properly to prevent infection.

It was not immediately clear whether the Texas hospital prepared its staff with simulation drills before admitting Duncan, but a recent survey of nurses nationwide suggests few have been briefed on Ebola preparations. Officials at the hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Some experts also question the CDC’s assertion that any U.S. hospital should be prepared to treat an Ebola patient as the outbreak ravaging West Africa begins to spread globally. Given the level of training required to do the job safely, U.S. health authorities should consider designating a hospital in each region as the go-to facility for Ebola, they said.

“You don’t scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak,” said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and a disaster relief expert at National Nurses United, which serves as both a union and a professional association for U.S. nurses. “We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct.”

More than 4,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that began in West Africa in March.

In recent months, the CDC has published detailed guidelines on how to handle various aspects of Ebola, from lab specimens and infectious waste to the proper use of protective equipment.

How that information gets communicated to frontline workers, however, varies widely, Castillo said.

In many cases, hospitals “post something on a bulletin board referring workers and nurses to the CDC guidelines. That is not how you drill and practice and become expert,” she said.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency is still investigating the case of the Dallas nurse, but stressed that “meticulous adherence to protocols” is critical in handling Ebola. “One slight slip can result in someone becoming infected.”

Skinner said the CDC is going to step up its education and training efforts on how to triage and handle patients, and may consider designating specific hospitals in each region as an Ebola treatment facility.

“We’ve been doing a lot over the past few months, but clearly there is more to do,” he said. “The notion of possibly transporting patients diagnosed with Ebola to these hospitals is not something that is out of the question and is something we may look into.”


Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, an expert on public health preparedness at Pennsylvania State University, also disagreed with the talk of a breach of protocol, saying it just puts the onus on the nurse.

“I think that is just wrong,” said Macgregor-Skinner, who helped the Nigerian government train healthcare workers when a traveler from Liberia touched off an outbreak of Ebola this past summer.

“We haven’t provided them with a national training program. We haven’t provided them with the necessary experts that have actually worked in hospitals with Ebola,” he added in reference to U.S. hospital staff.

Legal experts said the Dallas nurse may be entitled to compensation if the hospital carries workers’ compensation insurance. If it doesn’t, she would have the right to sue the hospital for damages under Texas law, said Jay Harvey, a lawyer in Austin, Texas.

Her ability to show that the hospital was negligent by, for example, not providing proper training, would be key to winning such a suit, Harvey said.

Sean Kaufman, president of Behavioral-Based Improvement Solutions in Atlanta, helped train healthcare staff at a special isolation unit at Atlanta’s Emory University which treated U.S. aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the first two Ebola patients to be treated on U.S. soil.

He would observe the nurses and doctors as they cared for patients and keep detailed notes when someone would accidentally touch their sleeve or mask with an infected glove.

He then helped coach them through the process of carefully removing their infected gear. Facilities caring for Ebola patients are encouraged to use a buddy system so that colleagues are watching each other to make sure they don’t take risks.

“Doctors and nurses get lost in patient care. They do things that put themselves at risk because their lens is patient-driven,” Kaufman said. In Dallas, “I suspect no one was watching to make sure the people who were taking care of the patients were taking care of themselves,” he said.

CDC and Texas health officials said the nurse who became infected had been wearing the recommended personal protective gear for Ebola, which consists of gloves, a gown, a mask, and a shield to protect the eyes from possible splatters from the patient.

According to experts, that gear offers the minimum level of protection. When an Ebola patient enters the latter stages of the disease, as Duncan did, they become so-called fluid producers, Kaufman said.

“Towards of end of the illness, the virus is trying to live and thrive. It’s trying to get out of the person’s body. It’s producing massive amounts of fluid,” he said.

At that point, caregivers need to add more layers of protective gear, such as double gloves and a respirator or a full bodysuit. Those kinds of decisions need to be made by managers who are constantly assessing the risk to healthcare workers, Kaufman said.

Macgregor-Skinner said all U.S. hospitals must be ready to identify and isolate an Ebola patient, but should also be able to turn to a regional facility that is better prepared to receive them.

“Every hospital can then prevent the spread of Ebola, but not every hospital in the U.S. can admit a patient in the hospital for long-term care,” he said.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Additional reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Martin Howell)

bureaucracy, crisis, foreign affairs, government, health care, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, crisis, foreign affairs, government, health care, unintended consequences

How many times were we told Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction?

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons
October 14, 2014 by C. J. CHIVERS

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.”

Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, these soldiers had entered an expansive but largely secret chapter of America’s long and bitter involvement in Iraq.

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

The secrecy fit a pattern. Since the outset of the war, the scale of the United States’ encounters with chemical weapons in Iraq was neither publicly shared nor widely circulated within the military. These encounters carry worrisome implications now that the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.

The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.

“I felt more like a guinea pig than a wounded soldier,” said a former Army sergeant who suffered mustard burns in 2007 and was denied hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the United States despite requests from his commander.

Congress, too, was only partly informed, while troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found. “ ’Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” said Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major who was present for the largest chemical weapons discovery of the war: more than 2,400 nerve-agent rockets unearthed in 2006 at a former Republican Guard compound.

Jarrod L. Taylor, a former Army sergeant on hand for the destruction of mustard shells that burned two soldiers in his infantry company, joked of “wounds that never happened” from “that stuff that didn’t exist.” The public, he said, was misled for a decade. “I love it when I hear, ‘Oh there weren’t any chemical weapons in Iraq,’ ” he said. “There were plenty.”

Rear Adm. John Kirby, spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, declined to address specific incidents detailed in the Times investigation, or to discuss the medical care and denial of medals for troops who were exposed. But he said that the military’s health care system and awards practices were under review, and that Mr. Hagel expected the services to address any shortcomings.

“The secretary believes all service members deserve the best medical and administrative support possible,” he said. “He is, of course, concerned by any indication or allegation they have not received such support. His expectation is that leaders at all levels will strive to correct errors made, when and where they are made.”

The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.

Then, during the long occupation, American troops began encountering old chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs. Typically 155-millimeter artillery shells or 122-millimeter rockets, they were remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

All had been manufactured before 1991, participants said. Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin. Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them.

In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.

As Iraq has been shaken anew by violence, and past security gains have collapsed amid Sunni-Shiite bloodletting and the rise of the Islamic State, this long-hidden chronicle illuminates the persistent risks of the country’s abandoned chemical weapons.

Many chemical weapons incidents clustered around the ruins of theMuthanna State Establishment, the center of Iraqi chemical agent production in the 1980s.

Since June, the compound has been held by the Islamic State, the world’s most radical and violent jihadist group. In a letter sent to the United Nations this summer, the Iraqi government said that about 2,500 corroded chemical rockets remained on the grounds, and that Iraqi officials had witnessed intruders looting equipment before militants shut down the surveillance cameras.

The United States government says the abandoned weapons no longer pose a threat. But nearly a decade of wartime experience showed that old Iraqi chemical munitions often remained dangerous when repurposed for local attacks in makeshift bombs, as insurgents did starting by 2004.

Participants in the chemical weapons discoveries said the United States suppressed knowledge of finds for multiple reasons, including that the government bristled at further acknowledgment it had been wrong. “They needed something to say that after Sept. 11 Saddam used chemical rounds,” Mr. Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

Others pointed to another embarrassment. In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.

Nonproliferation officials said the Pentagon’s handling of many of the recovered warheads and shells appeared to violate the Convention on Chemical Weapons. According to this convention, chemical weapons must be secured, reported and destroyed in an exacting and time-consuming fashion.


The Pentagon did not follow the steps, but says that it adhered to the convention’s spirit. “These suspect weapons were recovered under circumstances in which prompt destruction was dictated by the need to ensure that the chemical weapons could not threaten the Iraqi people, neighboring states, coalition forces, or the environment,” said Jennifer Elzea, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The convention, she added, “did not envisage the conditions found in Iraq.”

Nonetheless, several participants said the United States lost track of chemical weapons that its troops found, left large caches unsecured, and did not warn people — Iraqis and foreign troops alike — as it hastily exploded chemical ordnance in the open air.

This was the secret world Sergeant Duling and his soldiers entered in August 2008 as they stood above the leaking chemical shell. The sergeant spoke into a radio, warning everyone back.

“This is mustard agent,” he said, announcing the beginning of a journey of inadequate medical care and honors denied. “We’ve all been exposed.”


Expecting Explosives, Finding Chemical Arms

The cache that contaminated Sergeant Duling’s team was not the first discovery of chemical weapons in the war. American troops had already found thousands of similar warheads and shells.

These repeated encounters sprang from a basic feature of the occupation: After the invasion, Iraq became a battlefield laced with hidden, lethal traps — most tied to the country’s protracted history in the global arms trade.

Iraq had attacked Iran in late 1980, expecting quick victory against a military sapped of officers by Iran’s revolutionary purges. Mr. Hussein also thought Iranians might rise against their new religious leaders.

He miscalculated. By June 1981, as Iran blunted Iraq’s incursions and unleashed its air force against Iraqi cities, Mr. Hussein was seeking new weapons. He created a secret program — known as Project 922 — that produced blister and nerve agents by the hundreds of tons, according toIraq’s confidential declarations in the 1990s to the United Nations.

War provided urgency; Mr. Hussein added the cash. Western nations, some eager to contain Iran’s Islamic revolutionary state after the American hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, lent Iraq support.

With remarkable speed, Iraq built a program with equipment and precursor purchases from companies in an extraordinary array of countries, eventually including the United States, according to its confidential declarations.

German construction firms helped create a sprawling manufacturing complex in the desert south of Samarra and three plants in Falluja that made precursor ingredients for chemical weapons. The complex near Samarra, later renamed Al Muthanna State Establishment, included research labs, production lines, testing areas and storage bunkers.


Iraq produced 10 metric tons of mustard blister agent in 1981; by 1987 its production had grown 90-fold, with late-war output aided by two American companies that provided hundreds of tons of thiodiglycol, a mustard agent precursor. Production of nerve agents also took off.

Rising production created another need. Mr. Hussein’s military did not possess the munitions for dispersing chemical agents. So it embarked on another buying spree, purchasing empty ordnance — aviation bombs from a Spanish manufacturer, American-designed artillery shells from European companies, and Egyptian and Italian ground-to-ground rockets — to be filled in Iraq.

As these strands of a chemical weapons program came together, Iraq simultaneously accumulated enormous stores of conventional munitions.

Much of the chemical stockpile was expended in the Iran-Iraq war or destroyed when the weapons programs were dismantled after the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But thousands of chemical shells and warheads remained, spicing the stockpile of conventional ordnance left unsecured in 2003 after Iraq’s military collapsed as the United States invaded.

Chemical munitions can resemble conventional munitions — a problem compounded by Iraq’s practice of mislabeling ordnance to confuse foreign inspectors and, with time, by rust, pitting and dirt.

These were the circumstances that combined against ordnance disposal teams as they pursued their primary duty in the war: defeating makeshift bombs.

Almost all of the bombs were made with conventional ordnance or homemade explosives. Here and there, among the others, were bombs made from chemical arms.


On a Routine Mission, ‘Bit’ by Sarin

Staff Sgt. James F. Burns, a team leader in the 752nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, peered into a video screen at a bomb’s cracked remains.

It was an unusual device. A short while before, it had been detonated beside an American patrol in southwest Baghdad. The blast had been small. No one had been wounded.

Two ordnance disposal techs, Sergeant Burns (since promoted to first lieutenant) and Pfc. Michael S. Yandell, manipulated a robot toward the device to examine it via video feed. They expected to find a high-explosive shell.

The video showed a damaged shell rigged to a telephone cable. It was May 15, 2004. Weeks before, Sergeant Burns had found a similar bomb made with an illumination shell — a pyrotechnic round that lacked explosive power. It, too, had been rigged with an identical telephone cable.

This shell, the sergeant thought, was a duplicate. The bomb maker had goofed again.

To prevent militants from reusing materials, disposal teams often destroyed any warheads and shells they found on the spot. But snipers stalked this neighborhood. Sergeant Burns understood that risks grew the longer the soldiers remained. He decided he would destroy the shell near their base.

Private Yandell carried the shell to their truck bed.

The drive back passed through a bazaar. Sergeant Burns noticed a bitter smell and thought, he said later, that “it was rotten vegetables.”

Then he felt the onset of a headache. He told Private Yandell, who was driving, that he did not feel right.

Nauseated and disoriented, Private Yandell had quietly been struggling to drive. His vision was blurring. His head pounded. “I feel like crap, too,” he replied.

Dread passed over Sergeant Burns. Maybe, he wondered aloud, they had picked up a nerve agent shell.

Neither man remembers the drive’s last minutes. At the base entrance, they did not clear the ammunition from their rifles and pistols — forgetting habits and rules.

As they arrived at their building, Sergeant Burns was sure. In the back of the truck, the shell had leaked liquid. Illumination rounds, he knew, do not do that.

“I thought: ‘I’ve gotten Mike killed, and maybe everyone else around here, driving a chem round onto the FOB,’” he said, using the acronym for forward operating base.

Disposal teams kept bleach for decontamination. Sergeant Burns found a jug and poured it onto the shell before stumbling to the showers, where he found Private Yandell at a mirror, transfixed by his own image.

“It was just pinpointed pupils,” Mr. Yandell later recalled. “And that is like the classic sign of sarin exposure.”

He faced the sergeant. “I don’t want to freak you out,” he said. “But look.”

Private Yandell’s irises were so constricted they seemed solid. “I didn’t see pinpointed pupils,” Lieutenant Burns said recently. “I didn’t see his pupils at all.”

The soldiers lived with three sailors, who told them to rush to the clinic.

The soldiers staggered in claiming exposure to a nerve agent. The staff, Mr. Yandell said, acted as if he and Sergeant Burns were lying. “They suspected we were doing drugs or something,” he recalled.

A medic who had been with them vouched that they had just handled an artillery shell. The staff changed its stance. “They stripped us down and helped us shower,” Mr. Yandell said.

“Pt being admitted for possible chemical contamination,” his record reads, noting the pinpointed pupils, headache and dizziness. “Wheezing audible.”

The two techs were given oxygen, then Tylenol. At 3:20 p.m., medics irrigated their eyes with atropine gel.

By then the Navy techs had examined the shell. Word was circulating. Sergeant Burns’s team had picked up an exceedingly rare weapon: a 152-millimeter binary sarin shell.

In 1988, late in the war against Iran, Iraq had tested a batch of prototype 152-millimeter shells containing segregated containers for sarin precursors, according to its confidential declarations.

Very few were thought to have been assembled, fewer still to have survived. But this one found its way into a makeshift bomb. Sergeant Burns and Private Yandell mistook it for an illumination round in part, several techs said, because it was so rare it was not in the military’s standard ordnance recognition guides.

Its canisters had ruptured during the roadside bomb’s detonation, mixing precursors to create sarin with a purity of 43 percent — more than enough to be lethal.

Private Yandell had handled the shell without gloves. Both men inhaled sarin vapors. Their cases, said Col. Jonathan Newmark, a retired Army neurologist, became “the only documented battlefield exposure to nerve agent in the history of the United States.”

As the two soldiers were afflicted by symptoms of this unlucky distinction, their supervisors initially pressed for a cover-up.

“They put a gag order on all of us — the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” Lieutenant Burns said. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified top secret.”

Two days later, the military released an account of their sarin exposure, without revealing names or units involved. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a spokesman, offered a prescient warning: “There may be more out there.”

For nearly a decade this would be the only time the military released details of a chemical incident in Iraq in which troops were exposed.

Ten days after the incident, both soldiers were awarded Purple Hearts. Both men said their company commander urged them to rest.

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians are part of a small field with a code that encourages selflessness: Any call one team does not take, another team must.

In June the two soldiers, still suffering symptoms, including intense headaches and difficulties with balance, asked to return to duty. Soon they were ordered to a site hit by 60-millimeter mortar fire.

Two shells had been duds. They were stuck, fins up, in the sand. Sergeant Burns freed them with rope and then set off carrying them to a disposal pit.

“I was walking with one in each hand, and I just fell,” he said. “I remember falling and trying to keep the fuzes from hitting the ground.”

He wondered why the Army had not sent the two of them home. “We really should not have been operating out there,” he said.


Playing Down Dangers, Withholding Evidence

In September 2004, months after Sergeant Burns and Private Yandell picked up the leaking sarin shell, the American government issued a detailed analysis of Iraq’s weapons programs. The widely heralded report, by the multinational Iraq Survey Group, concluded that Iraq had not had an active chemical warfare program for more than a decade.

The group, led by Charles A. Duelfer, a former United Nations official working for the Central Intelligence Agency, acknowledged that the American military had found old chemical ordnance: 12 artillery shells and 41 rocket warheads. It predicted that troops would find more.

The report also played down the dangers of the lingering weapons, stating that because their contents would have deteriorated, “any remaining chemical munitions in Iraq do not pose a militarily significant threat.”

By then the Pentagon had test results showing that the sarin shell could have been deadly. American chemical warfare specialists also knew, disposal technicians and analysts said, that in the 1980s Iraq had mastered mustard agent production in its Western-built plant. Its output had been as pure as 95 percent and stable, meaning that the remaining stock was dangerous.

Reached recently, Mr. Duelfer agreed that the weapons were still a menace, but said the report strove to make it clear that they were not “a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction.”

“What I was trying to convey is that these were not militarily significant because they not used as W.M.D.,” he said. “It wasn’t that they weren’t dangerous.”

The Duelfer report also claimed that the United States had cleared more than 10,000 arms caches but found no other chemical ordnance. Several disposal technicians said this claim was false, though the report’s authors did not know it.


One reason that government tallies were low, and that Mr. Duelfer’s team was not aware of all the chemical weapons recoveries, the techs said, was that by 2004 the military’s procedures for handling Iraq’s chemical weapons had created disincentives for troops to report what they found.

During 2003 and 2004, the United States hunted for unconventional weapons and evidence that might support the rationale for the invasion. But as the insurgency grew and makeshift bombs became the prevailing cause of troops’ wounds, the search became a lower priority for the rank-and-file. Some saw it as a distraction.

One tech who served three tours in Iraq said his team twice encountered chemical weapons, but did not report one of them.

That was in 2004, he said, when his team found a mustard shell in a conventional ordnance cache. Reporting it, he said, would have required summoning chemical warfare specialists, known as a technical escort unit, and adding 12 to 24 hours to the job. The team decided to put the mustard shell with the high-explosive shells and, he said, “get rid of it.”

In the difficult calculus of war, competing missions had created tensions. If documenting chemical weapons delayed the destruction of explosive weapons that were killing people each week, or left troops vulnerable while waiting for chemical warfare specialists to arrive, then reporting chemical weapons endangered lives.

Many techs said the teams chose common sense. “I could wait all day for tech escort to show up and make a chem round disappear, or I could just make it disappear myself,” another tech said.

The tech who exploded a mustard shell in 2004 said the disposal teams had little time to register and report each item they found in Iraq’s stockpiles. Everything, he said, went into demolition piles.

“You set up these huge shots day after day and you don’t research every single round because you would just use up all of your time doing research,” he said. “There were more chem rounds that were discovered and just blown in place.”

Late in 2004, roughly simultaneous to the release of the Duelfer report, the Army signaled internally that it was concerned about the risks of chemical weapons by distributing detailed new instructions for treating troops exposed to warfare agents.

One of the memorandums, by the Medical Command, stated that “exposure to chemical weapons is a continuing and significant risk to our deployed forces.” The instructions required blood and urine tests for patients and follow-up tracking of the exposed — for life.

In the years ahead, these steps would often not be followed.

By then the soldiers wounded by sarin had returned home. They still suffered symptoms. Private Yandell complained of severe headaches. Sergeant Burns, in a note for his medical record in late 2004, described memory lapses, reading difficulties, problems with balance and tingling in his legs.

“I have been dropping items such as tools, soda cans, cups of water, pens and pencils,” he wrote. “I will stumble or nearly fall while standing up from a chair. While speaking, I will stutter or stammer and lose my thought.”

Nonetheless, the Pentagon continued to withhold data, leaving the public misinformed as discoveries of chemical weapons accelerated sharply.

In late 2005 and early 2006, soldiers collected more than 440 Borak 122-millimeter chemical rockets near Amara, in southeastern Iraq. And in the first nine months of 2006, the American military recovered roughly 700 chemical warheads and shells, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

British forces also destroyed 21 Borak rockets in early 2006, including some that contained nerve agent, according to a public statement to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2010.

The Pentagon did not provide this information to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as it worked in the summer of 2006 examining intelligence claims about Iraq’s weapons programs.

Even as the Senate committee worked, the American Army made its largest chemical weapons find of the war: more than 2,400 Borak rockets.

The rockets were discovered at Camp Taji, a former Republican Guard compound, when Americans “running a refueling point for helicopters saw some shady activity on the other side of a fence,” said Mr. Lampier, who lived at the camp at the time.

An Iraqi digging with a front-end loader ran away when an American patrol approached, leaving behind partly unearthed rockets.

Mr. Lampier, then a captain commanding the 756th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, was with the first to arrive. “At first we saw three,” he said. “Then it wasn’t three. It was 30. Then it wasn’t 30. It was 300. It went up from there.”


The rockets appeared to have been buried before American airstrikes in 1991, he said. Many were empty. Others still contained sarin. “Full-up sloshers,” he said.

At least 38 techs worked for weeks, excavating rockets, crushing many of them and then reburying them and covering them with concrete. Mr. Lampier said he was told to describe the work in blandly bureaucratic terms: “Nothing of significance.”

With this discovery, the American military had found more than 3,000 pieces of chemical ordnance and knew that many were still dangerous. The military did not disclose this as the Senate worked; instead, it stood by data from the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center that it had declassified in late June, leading the Senate to publish an inaccurate report.

The report, released in September 2006, claimed “another 500 filled and unfilled degraded pre-1991 chemical munitions” had been found — about one-sixth of the Pentagon’s internal tallies.

This tally, obsolete as it was published, was not updated in the ensuing years, as more chemical weapons were found and as more troops were exposed.

The publicly released information also skirted the fact that most of the chemical artillery shells were traceable to the West, some tied to the United States.

These shells, which the American military calls M110s, had been developed decades ago in the United States. Roughly two feet long and weighing more than 90 pounds, each is an aerodynamic steel vessel with a burster tube in its center.

The United States has long manufactured M110s, filling them with smoke compounds, white phosphorous or, in earlier years, mustard agent.American ordnance documents explicitly describe the purpose of an M110 filled with blister agent: “to produce a toxic effect on personnel and to contaminate habitable areas.”

The United States also exported the shells and the technology behind them. When Iraq went arms shopping in the 1980s, it found manufacturers in Italy and Spain willing to deal their copies. By 1988, these two countries alone had sold Iraq 85,000 empty M110-type shells, according to confidential United Nations documents. Iraq also obtained shells from Belgium.

By 2006, the American military had found dozens of these blister-agent shells in Iraq, and had reports of others circulating on black markets, several techs said. Tests determined that many still contained mustard agent, some at a purity level of 84 percent, officials said.

Had these results been publicly disclosed, they would have shown that American assertions about Iraq’s chemical weapons posing no militarily significant threat could be misread, and that these dangerous chemical weapons had Western roots.

Public disclosure might also have helped spur the military’s medical system to convert its memorandums into action, and to ready itself for wounds its troops were bound to suffer.


‘Bit’ by Blister Agent in Roadside Bombs

Once American forces began finding large numbers of M110 shells, it was all but inevitable that disposal teams would be exposed to blister agent.

This happened for the first time, several techs said, on Sept. 25, 2006, after militants detonated two roadside bombs near an American patrol in southern Baghdad.

Two Navy techs — Chief Petty Officer Ted Pickett and Petty Officer Third Class Jeremiah M. Foxwell — arrived at the blast site.

They found three damaged shells, decided against destroying them in a populated area, and drove them to a demolition range beside their base, according to Mr. Foxwell, who left the Navy in 2008.

There they discovered that one 155-millimeter shell had leaked a noxious liquid. As he inhaled its vapors, Petty Officer Foxwell was instantly alarmed. “It smelled overbearingly like extreme toxicity,” he said recently. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck.”

The shell contained a brown crystalline substance they had thought was a homemade explosive. A swab with detection paper tested positive for sulfur mustard.

The sailors radioed for a technical escort unit, then put on gloves and gas masks and wrapped the shell in plastic and duct tape. They waited. Hours passed. No chemical specialists arrived.

Mustard agent acts slowly on victims. Symptoms of exposure often do not appear for hours, and intensify for days.

Late that afternoon, with the sailors worried about the effects of mustard inhalation, they destroyed the shell with an explosive charge and entered the Army clinic on their base.

Within two days lesions formed in Petty Officer Foxwell’s nasal passages and upper airway, according to his medical records, which noted exposure to “chemical vapors — mustard gas” from a “terrorist chemical weapon.”

But the care he would receive proved to be much less than that mandated under the Army’s treatment order.

The clinic did not perform the required blood and urine tests on Petty Officer Foxwell, according to his medical records. (His former team chief did not reply to written questions.)

Both men were returned to duty within days, though Mr. Foxwell said his breathing remained labored and his chest hurt.

Dr. Dave Edmond Lounsbury, a former Army colonel who helped prepare for the chemical warfare victims expected at the war’s start in 2003, said in an interview that Petty Officer Foxwell’s care was inadequate.

“When you first meet the patient it is impossible to tell how he is going to do,” he said. “You have to get the blood work, monitor him and follow him over time.”

“To return them soon to duty?” he said. “I would be uncomfortable with that.”

The Army opened an investigation into why the chemical specialists were delayed in arriving. An officer taking statements from participants forbade Petty Officer Foxwell from discussing the incident with his peers, restricting him from issuing a warning.

“I couldn’t walk outside and tell the next route-clearance team that this was out there,” he said. “It was just not natural, the idea of not sharing. If you experience a new battlefield weapon, it is your responsibility to share that actionable information with other teams.”

Mr. Foxwell said his Navy officer-in-charge did not visit them in the clinic or submit them for Purple Hearts. The insurgents’ use of a mustard shell faded from view. “No one in my chain of command, outside of Ted, discussed the incident with me again,” he said.

After Mr. Foxwell was honorably discharged, the Veterans Administration awarded him a partial medical disability in 2008, noting chronic respiratory infections and the development of asthma.

The incident was a foreboding sign. Several months later, on March 11, 2007, two Army techs were burned.

This second exposure occurred when a team from the 756th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company was summoned to a roadside bomb made with a rusty artillery shell.

The team remotely detonated the shell and continued to the usual steps: checking to ensure the bomb was rendered harmless, and collecting evidence.

Specialist Richard T. Beasley, one of the techs, picked up the broken shell, not knowing it contained mustard agent, and stowed it in a bin on their truck beside a fresh-air intake.

A foul smell filled the truck and irritated the soldiers’ eyes. Suspecting the shell was the odor’s source, they stopped and heaved it into a deep canal.

The next day Specialist Beasley noticed his pant leg was wet. Mustard exposure symptoms had set in. “I undid my pants,” he said, “and felt the bubble.”

His fingers were tracing a seeping blister nearly the size of his hand.

His team leader, a former sergeant who asked that his name be withheld to protect his medical privacy, discovered a similar blister on his own left leg.

At first the soldiers were confused. Then, remembering the odorous shell, the sergeant felt a rising fear. If that was mustard, he thought, and was burning their skin, what might be happening in their lungs?

The patrol sped to an Army clinic at Camp Taji.

Had the techs been burned a few years earlier, the military medical system, which had prepared before the invasion for chemical warfare casualties, might have recognized their wounds. But in 2007, with blast and gunshot wounds the predominant causes of casualties, the doctors were not ready.

The Army’s medical orders were not followed. The staff rinsed the soldiers’ eyes, put cream on Specialist Beasley’s blister, and turned them away.

“I don’t know how to describe it, except to say: confusion,” the former sergeant said. “They really didn’t know what to do. The general feel was a whole lot of people shrugging their shoulders nonstop.”

The soldiers returned to Balad Air Base, where they were stationed, and visited another clinic.

A doctor ordered treatment with painkillers, antibiotics, burn cream and cleaning of the blisters — a sensation, the former sergeant said, “like a having a wire dog brush being rubbed across your leg.”

Specialist Beasley’s medical record shows that blood and urine specimens confirmed the mustard agent exposure. But the patients were not admitted to a hospital.

Mr. Lampier, then the soldiers’ commander, said he argued that they should be evacuated to the United States. “They were raw meat trying to heal in the worst environment imaginable,” he said. “There was dust and ash and smoke from the burn pits, and they had these wounds that shouldn’t have been exposed to that.”

The soldiers remained outpatients at a clinic.


All the while secrecy prevailed. The military determined the soldiers had been burned by an M110 shell. Both victims said word of their exposure was purposefully squelched.

“We were absolutely told not to talk about it” by a colonel, the former sergeant said. The order, he added, included prohibitions against mentioning mustard agent when writing home.

The secrecy was so extensive that Dr. Lounsbury said he suspected officials hid the cases even from him and two other Army doctors assigned to prepare an official textbook on treating battlefield wounds.

Their book, “War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007,” published in 2008, provided an inventory of traumas and treatments.

“We would have certainly included this case if we had known about it,” he said, “and not just for obvious medical reasons but because here was exactly the kind of wounds at the very heart of the reason the government sent our nation to war.”

The exposed soldiers’ objections to how their cases were handled grew after their commander submitted them for Purple Hearts.

The medals were disapproved by the headquarters of the American-led coalition “because the incident was deemed to have occurred after the I.E.D. was destroyed, and therefore was no longer considered to have been in contact with the enemy,” Tatjana Christian, an Army spokeswoman, said, using the abbreviation for an improvised explosive device.

Purple Hearts, awarded for “wounds received in action,” according to their certificates, are a respected martial decoration. They are also contentious, given the subjectivity in defining “action.”

This is particularly true in the ordnance disposal field, because improvised bombs are dangerous before and after a foe sets them out. Bombs made with chemical ordnance pose more questions, because unlike explosives, chemical agents do not pass from dangerous to harmless in a flash.


Several techs pointed out that chemical munitions found in explosive devices were a result of conscious enemy action. But troops wounded by chemical devices were treated inconsistently: Some received the medal, others did not.

Under presidential order, Purple Hearts are awarded by each military service, which follow separate rules.

The Army regulation, another spokesman said, excludes soldiers wounded by chemical agents not released by an enemy. And because this exposure was caused when the soldiers destroyed the chemical device, he said, it did not qualify for Purple Hearts.

Mr. Beasley, who was honorably discharged in 2008, said the Army’s position was dismissive. “I remember it being, basically, that we wounded ourselves,” he said, which he called “baloney.”

“I didn’t put that shell in that hole,” he said. “And I did exactly what we were supposed to do when we dealt with an I.E.D.”

In the years since he returned to the United States and left the Army, he said, the Army has never contacted him again. His follow-up care amounted to one unsatisfying visit to a doctor near his last base.

“I went to a civilian doctor who didn’t actually believe I had been exposed to mustard agent,” he said. “That was the extent of my follow up.”


On the Old Chemical Warfare Complex, Marines Find Mustard

By mid-2008, as incidents with mustard shells accumulated, ordnance disposal techs suspected one area had become a principal source of the weapons: Al Muthanna State Establishment, the former nexus of Iraq’s chemical warfare program.

Although incidents with chemical arms were scattered across Iraq, many were clustered near the ruined complex, which this June was overrun by the Islamic State.

During the occupation, little remained of Al Muthanna. The United States had destroyed much of it from the air in the 1991 gulf war. United Nations demilitarization in the 1990s had made the grounds a boneyard.

But one bunker, a massive, cruciform structure, still contained a menacing dud — a 2,000-pound airdropped bomb among a stockpile of sarin-filled rockets, according to people familiar with the complex.

On July 11, 2008, a platoon of Marines unwittingly discovered that another bunker still held mustard shells, too.

The shells were found after about 15 Marines from the Second Tank Battalion’s scout platoon noticed a freshly cut hole in a small bunker, according to three Marines who participated.

A peek inside, said one of them, Jace M. Klibenski, then a corporal, showed “there were just rounds everywhere.”

As the Marines were carrying the shells out, another corporal swore. Mustard agent had spilled on his upper body. Corporal Klibenski helped him pull off his fire-retardant shirt.

“We climbed out,” he said, “and high-tailed it” to their base, Combat Outpost Hawas, from which they were moved by helicopter to Balad Air Base.

Six Marines had been exposed: five lightly, and the corporal who had lifted the leaking shell, the participants said. Doctors sedated him ahead of the expected symptoms.


“He was pretty much just laying flat as the blisters started popping up,” said another participant, Jonathan Martin, then a private first class.

The exposed corporal’s skin erupted on his right arm, left hand, right side and feet, according to the victim, who asked for anonymity to protect his medical privacy.

The military evacuated the corporal to the United States. Five days after being burned, he was awarded a Purple Heart. He later returned to duty.

Mr. Klibenski said an officer visited the other five exposed Marines at Balad and urged them not to talk about what had happened. “They told us that this was something that was going to be kept confidential for a long time,” he said.

The incident remained out of public view, and with it knowledge that mustard shells remained on Al Muthanna — long after two wars and an international demilitarization effort to remove them.


The Shells Beside the Lake

The military’s handling of mustard exposure cases — combining reflexive secrecy, substandard medical care and an inconsistent awards system — reached a low point after Sergeant Duling’s team was exposed on Aug. 16, 2008.

The exposures followed the discovery of a seemingly small batch of artillery shells by Bushmaster Company, First Battalion, 14th Regiment, a mechanized Army infantry unit searching an area from which American forces had taken fire.

Sergeant Duling, of the 710th E.O.D. Company, arrived and relieved another disposal team. The first team leader was in a chemical protection suit.

“He was shot,” Sergeant Duling recalled. “It was like 115 degrees. He was throwing up in his mask.”

“I said, ‘Roy, we can take it from here.’ ”

Sergeant Duling and his team put on protective suits, approached the crater from upwind and found a pile of rusty 155-millimeter shells. They tested negative for chemical agents.

Relieved, the techs removed their chemical suits and detonated the pile from afar. The blast unearthed still more munitions.

Soldiers from Bushmaster Company formed a human chain to stack shells for another blast, said one participant, Philip Dukett, a former sergeant. “I would pick one up,” he said, “put it on my thigh, and pass it on.”

In the blast crater, Specialist Goldman noticed one of the shells was leaking; soon it tested positive for sulfur mustard. He swore.

Sergeant Duling ordered everyone to decontaminate with bleach, but the team was not fully prepared. “Then I was out of bleach, so I just used baby wipes and hand sanitizer and whatever else I could find to clean myself up,” he said.

The chemical specialists did not arrive until after midnight.

Shortly after dawn on Aug. 17 the disposal techs and the chemical specialists detonated the pile, including many M110 mustard shells. An orange blast shook the desert.

Weary soldiers laughed as the breeze caught the blast’s gray-brown plume. They had been told the explosion’s heat would destroy the agent. “Ahhh!” one shouted, mockingly. “It’s mustard gas!”

When the cloud reached them, they coughed. “Everything smelled really funky,” Mr. Taylor said recently. “The smoke really irritated our eyes and kind of burned more than smoke from a usual controlled det.”

The blast had uncovered still more shells.

Sergeant Duling and his soldiers were spent, and had a more pressing priority — finding medical care.

They undressed, set their contaminated clothes afire with a thermite grenade, and left, leaving the shells unsecured. The Army did not return for two months, when it destroyed more than 20 remaining mustard shells, a participant said.

The team entered a clinic at Camp Taji. The staff, all three victims said, was unhelpful. “They said, ‘Well, you’re not showing any signs or symptoms, so you weren’t exposed,’ ” said Mr. Goldman, who was honorably discharged in 2012.

In the shower a short while later, he felt a blister on his buttock. Sergeant Duling struggled to breathe.

The soldiers slept a few hours, woke feeling worse, and returned. By then, Mr. Goldman said, he too was short of breath. Blisters were forming around his eyelids.

The medical staff remained unmoved. On Aug. 18, two days after the exposure, an optometrist prescribed drops for Specialist Goldman’s eyes.

Their company commander, Capt. Patrick Chavez, who retired as a major in 2013, said that rather than help the patients, the clinic seemed intent on proving them wrong. “They were trying to come up with other causes for the symptoms — heat exhaustion, things like that,” he said.


He gave the team a week off.

As the techs went untreated, burns and blisters broke out on two soldiers from Bushmaster Company, who lived at another outpost.

One, Staff Sgt. Adam Hulett, noticed a large blister on his left foot, which turned bright yellow. Medics told him to put cream on it, he said.

“I went to the Internet feeling something was not right with their assessment and did a search on ‘mustard gas exposure,’ ” he said. The search results showed “the same symptoms I was having.”

Blisters also rose on Sergeant Dukett’s right thigh, as if someone had pressed a hot iron against his skin.

Both sergeants were evacuated to Germany, while the more heavily exposed victims were still denied treatment.

On Aug. 23, the Camp Taji clinic informed Specialist Goldman that he was fine. “Discontinue treatment O.K. to resume normal mission,” his records read.

The team returned to duty. The first day out, when Sergeant Duling was examining an exploded device, he quickly gasped for air.

“I literally got back to the truck and took off all the body armor, poured a bottle of water on my head and sat on the steps,” he said. “I pulled us off mission and we went back to medical.”

Still the doctors resisted. It was as if, Sergeant Duling said, the staff suspected the soldiers were malingerers. “We came in, we’re not bleeding, we’re not missing body parts,” he said. “So they were kind of like, ‘What’s your problem? ‘Are’ — you know, typical response – ‘are you trying to get out of duty?’

“It was sheer stupidity on their part.”

The clinic’s attitude changed, the techs said, only after a platoon leader broke the chain of command, sending photographs of Specialist Goldman’s blisters to a supervisor in the United States.

Medical records show the shift. On Sept. 1, a physician dropped the line that Specialist Goldman could return to duty. He reclassified the case: “poisoning by mustard gas.”

The team was flown to Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. A colonel visited from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, an Army chemical warfare center, to discuss lab results.

“He said we would probably never see the paperwork, but our blood showed that we had all been exposed to mustard agent, and that my exposure was the highest,” Mr. Goldman said.

These lab results were not put in his medical records, Mr. Goldman said.

Why such vital information was withheld is not clear. The Army Medical Command, in a written statement, said it was unsure.

Next the Army took up the question of Purple Hearts. Captain Chavez submitted the soldiers for the medals. In late October, the hospital staff told them the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, would present awards and they needed soldiers for the photographs.

Sergeant Duling said he was told his medal had been approved first and the others’ would follow.

Mr. Geren pinned the medal on Sergeant Duling’s uniform on Oct. 23, and the Army announced he had been wounded by “blister agent while conducting operations in North Taji.”

The turnabout came weeks later. The team was told their Purple Hearts had been denied and that Sergeant Duling could not wear the medal — no matter the Army secretary’s role in presenting it.

Tatjana Christian, an Army spokeswoman, said Purple Hearts “were denied because the mustard agent that affected them was not caused by enemy actions.”

Another Army spokesman, who asked that his name be withheld so he could speak candidly, said it appeared the ceremony’s organizers had erroneously reissued Sergeant Duling a Purple Heart he had previously received for wounds from a bomb blast in 2006.

The rejection was a bitter turn. “They said, ‘You blew a cache and got bit, but it wasn’t enemy action,’ ” Sergeant Duling said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, who put them rounds there? And why were we in this country in the first place?’ ”

The mustard exposure left him in permanently poor respiratory health; in 2013 he had surgery to keep his airway open.

Mr. Goldman said he still suffered headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath. The Army, he said, has not tracked him to see how he has fared — part of what he described as a pattern of indifferent leadership and lackluster care, and secrecy to protect the bungling.

“Our doctors screwed up our treatment so much,” he said, “they didn’t want it public because it would have ruined their careers.”

Prompted by the Times reporting, the Army acknowledged that it had not provided the medical care and long-term tracking required by its chemical exposure treatment guidelines. It said it would identify all troops and veterans who had been exposed and update and follow their cases.

“We’re at the point of wanting to make this right,” Col. Bill Rice, director of Occupational and Environmental Medicine of the Army Public Health Command said last Friday. “We can’t change the past, but we can make sure they are pointed in the right direction from this point forward.”


Unfinished Business: An Unspoken Legacy of Chemical Arms

At American prodding, Iraq entered the Convention on Chemical Weapons in early 2009. From that moment, its fledgling government assumed primary responsibility for securing and destroying any chemical munitions remaining from Mr. Hussein’s time.

The difficulties this posed for Iraq’s troops became clear in April 2010 when an Iraqi police patrol found about a dozen M110 mustard shells near the Tigris River.

One of the police officers involved, Farhan Hachel, said he and others were ordered to gather the shells and take them to Awenat, a village south of Tikrit.

Officer Hachel picked up one the shells and carried it across his chest. He woke the next morning with “small bubbles” on his upper body, blisters, he said that “were growing really fast.”


The next day, he said, “I received a phone call from my colleagues asking me if I was doing O.K., as two others were suffering the same thing.”

His friends told him then that they had carried leaking chemical shells.

In all, seven Iraqi police officers were burned, Officer Hachel and officials said. The American military secretly destroyed the shells, and photographed and briefly treated the burned police officers. The care was cursory.

“They gave us some creams and sent us home,” Officer Hachel said.

And still more mustard shells were found.

The last large discovery of chemical rounds widely known among ordnance techs occurred at a surprising place — a security compound known as Spider, beside a highway south of Tikrit.

During the occupation, both American and Iraqi units had worked from the compound. The presence of mustard shells there, soldiers said, appeared a result of negligence.

The discovery, described by different sources as in 2010 or early 2011, was made when an Iraqi security officer visited Contingency Operating Base Speicher, and told the ordnance disposal troops there that Iraqi troops had opened a shipping container and found it packed with chemical shells.

The report led to Operation Guardian, when an American soldier from a technical escort unit, wearing a protective suit and mask and carrying a detector, reopened the shipping container.

A detector’s alarm immediately rang, warning of mustard agent, said Staff Sgt. Paul Yungandreas, one of the American techs assigned to recover the shells.

Inside were stacks of M110-style shells. “We carried out the rounds, one by one, and put them on plastic tarps,” he said.

The operation’s planners had expected 150 to 200 shells. The disposal technicians found nearly 400.

Many of the shells were empty. Others still contained mustard agent. Most showed signs of age and decay.

Many had been wrapped in plastic — a powerful indicator, several techs said, that they had been collected elsewhere by an American or an Iraqi unit, which then failed to secure them properly.


Like most incidents in which American troops encountered chemical weapons in Iraq, Operation Guardian was not publicly disclosed.

By then adherence to the international convention, and the security of the stock, was not much longer a Pentagon concern.

The United States had invaded Iraq to reduce the risk of the weapons of mass destruction that it presumed Mr. Hussein still possessed. And after years of encountering and handling Iraq’s old chemical arms, it had retroactively informed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2009 that it had recovered more than 4,500 chemical weapons.

But it had not shared this data publicly. And as it prepared to withdraw, old stocks set loose after the invasion were still circulating. Al Muthanna had still not been cleaned up.

Finding, safeguarding and destroying these weapons was to be the responsibility of Iraq’s government.

Iraq took initial steps to fulfill its obligations. It drafted a plan to entomb the contaminated bunkers on Al Muthanna, which still held remnant chemical stocks, in concrete.

When three journalists from The Times visited Al Muthanna in 2013, a knot of Iraqi police officers and soldiers guarded the entrance. Two contaminated bunkers — one containing cyanide precursors and old sarin rockets — loomed behind. The area where Marines had found mustard shells in 2008 was out of sight, shielded by scrub and shimmering heat.

The Iraqi troops who stood at that entrance are no longer there. The compound, never entombed, is now controlled by the Islamic State.

original article: The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

oreign affairs, government, history, war, wmd

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Some said it would be capitalism or religion that brings Nazism to America – they were wrong

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons
October 14, 2014 by Todd Starnes

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley. “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.

However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.

Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.

The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.

“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”

Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.

“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”

He accused the city of violating the law with the subpoenas and vowed to stand firm in the faith.

“We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights,” Welch told me. ‘This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.”

“This is a shot across the bow of the church,” he said.

This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.

Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.

Tony Perkins is absolutely right. Now is the time for pastors and people of faith to take a stand. We must rise up and reject this despicable strong-arm attack on religious liberty. We cannot allow ministers to be intimidated by government thugs.

The pastors I spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

“This is the San Jacinto moment for traditional family,” Welch told me. “This is the place where we stop the LGBT assault on the freedom to practice our faith.”

We can no longer remain silent. We must stand together – because one day – the government might come for your pastor.

original article: City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

anti-religion, bullies, christian, first amendment, free speech, freedom, government, homosexuality, law, oppression, regulation, religion

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Political correctness in schools doesn’t stop at politics

‘Gender inclusive’ school district says drop ‘boys and girls,’ call kids ‘purple penguins’
October 9, 2014 by Todd Starnes

The fine folks who run the school system in Lincoln, Neb., are on a campaign to make their classrooms gender-inclusive. And that means teachers will no longer refer to boys and girls … as boys and girls.

“Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention,” reads a handout from the Lincoln Public Schools that was given to teachers.

The handout was part of an effort to educate teachers and administrators about transgender issues, educators told the Lincoln Journal Star.

So instead of asking boys and girls to line up as boys or girls, teachers have been encouraged to segregate the children by whether they prefer skateboards or bikes, or whether they like milk or juice.

“The agenda we’re promoting is to help all kids succeed,” Brenda Leggiardo the district’s coordinator of social workers and counselors told the newspaper. “We have kids who come to us with a whole variety of circumstances, and we need to equitably serve all kids.”

So instead of asking boys and girls to line up as boys or girls, teachers have been encouraged to segregate the children by whether they prefer skateboards or bikes, or whether they like milk or juice.

“Always ask yourself, ‘Will this configuration create a gendered space?’” the handout stated.

The handout, provided by Gender Spectrum, a website which “provides education, training and support to help create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for children of all ages” does not explain what to do if all of the children like juice or skateboards. But it does suggest teachers “create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet at the rug.”

Purple penguins?

The Nebraska Watchdog website published copies of the handouts, titled, “12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness…”

The documents are chock-full of all sorts of advice for teachers as they deconstruct and reconstruct the notion of what constitutes a boy and what constitutes a girl. (To avoid offense, those terms will henceforth be known as the “b-word” and the “g-word.”)


“Provide an opportunity for every student to identify a preferred name or pronoun,” the document reads. “At the beginning of the year or at Back-to-School Night, invite students and parents to let you know if they have a preferred name and/or pronoun by which they wish to be referred.”

Back when I was in school, teachers only asked kids if they’d like to be referred to by their first name or their middle name. Of course, I went to school during the Dark Ages.

The document also provides teachers with information to prevent kids from getting bullied on the playground. They suggest teaching kids to use phrases like, “Please respect my privacy” and “Hey, they’re called ‘private parts’ for a reason.”

Yes sir, that kind of tough talk should definitely dissuade the playground bullies.

Teachers were also encouraged to share anecdotes from their own lives “that reflect gender inclusiveness.”

“Even better, share examples when you were not gender inclusive in your thinking, words or behaviors, what you learned as a result and what you will do differently next time,” the handout states.

I wonder if teachers are allowed to opt out of that part of the assignment. Perhaps they could tell the kids, “They’re called private parts for a reason.”

Back when I was in school, the only thing the teacher did was read nursery rhymes – like “Rub-a-Dub-Dub.” It was the Dark Ages, folks.

It was an incredibly insensitive time in our nation’s history, when girls were girls and men were men (with respect to Archie Bunker).

To illustrate its point, the district provided an illustration of a gingerbread man. There I go again. How insensitive of me. It’s a gingerbread person. But for the sake of the teachers, the illustration was called a “genderbread person.” Clever, right?

The “genderbread person” was created by social justice comedian Sam Killermann. Who knew there was such a thing? But word on the street is the social justice people have quite the funny bone.

“Gender is one of those things everyone thinks they understand, but most people don’t,” Killermann wrote. “Like ‘Inception,’ gender isn’t binary. It’s not either or. In many cases it’s both/and.A bit of this, a dash of that. This tasty little guide is meant to be an appetizer for gender understanding. It’s okay if you’re hungry for more. In fact, that’s the idea.”

So what are the b-words and g-words supposed to call Superman and Wonder Woman? Super Being and Wonder Entity?

And I suspect some schools will have to rename their athletic teams – like the Smith County Cowpersons.

As you might imagine, some parents are not all that happy with the gender inclusiveness agenda. Rachel Terry fired off an email to other moms and dads accusing the district of social re-engineering.

The Journal Star obtained a copy of her email. She said the district was using taxpayer dollars to promote “the deconstruction of fundamental family and religious values.”

In her defense, Mrs. Terry probably grew up in the Dark Ages, too – when little g-words wore dresses and little b-words wore Husky jeans.

One school district official rejected her argument and said it was not pushing a political or religious agenda. Nor was it pushing a sexual preference on people.

“Part of education in addition to academics is the feeling of welcomeness, the relationship piece,” district official Russ Uhing told the newspaper.

In its quest for “welcomeness,” perhaps the district could ban all homework and allow children to eat cupcakes in the lunchroom. I’m sure the b-words and g-words would feel mighty welcome with those changes.

Still, the folks at Gender Spectrum admit there will be times when teachers will have to use a gender-specific term.

“When you find it necessary to reference gender, say ‘Boy, girl, both or neither,’” the handout states. “When asked why, use this as a teachable moment. Emphasize to students that your classroom recognizes and celebrates the gender diversity of all students.”

And that, dear readers, is a glimpse into what they’re teaching kids in public schools these days.

While we’re on the subject, what’s a gender-neutral term for morons?

original article: ‘Gender inclusive’ school district says drop ‘boys and girls,’ call kids ‘purple penguins’

children, culture, diversity, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, propaganda, public policy, relativism, sex

Filed under: pandering, liberalism, propaganda, left wing, political correctness, ideology, philosophy, sex, diversity, culture, public policy, nanny state, children, extremism, relativism, indoctrination

Can Muslim businesses be forced to endorse gay marriage too?

Commission says Christian business owners should leave religion at home
October 7, 2014 by Todd Starnes

The Human Rights Commission in Lexington, Kentucky has a chilling message for Christian business owners who refuse service to LGBT organizations: leave your religion at home.

“It would be safe to do so, yes,” Executive Director Raymond Sexton told me. “Or in this case you can find yourself two years down the road and you’re still involved in a legal battle because you did not do so.”

On Tuesday, a Lexington Human Rights Commission hearing examiner issued a recommended ruling that the owner of a T-shirt company violated a local ordinance against sexual-orientation discrimination. You can read the ruling by clicking here.

Take just a moment and let that sink in – a Christian business owner is being ordered to attend diversity training – because of his religious beliefs. That’s a pretty frightening concept and a mighty dangerous precedent.

“It was a landmark decision,” Sexton said. “This is a very important ruling for us.”

The examiner concluded that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals broke the law in 2012 by declining to print shirts promoting the Lexington Pride Festival. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization subsequently filed a complaint.


Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, represented Adamson, a devout Christian.

“No one should be forced by the government or by another citizen to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said ADF attorney Jim Campbell. “Blaine declined to the request to print the shirts not because of any characteristic of the people who asked for them, but because of the message that the shirts would communicate.”

ADF also pointed out that Hands On Originals has a history of doing business with the LGBT community as well has hiring LGBT workers.

But Sexton told me the law is the law. And in Lexington it’s against the law to discriminate against the LGBT community – regardless of religious beliefs.

“We’re not telling someone how to feel with respect to religion, but the law is pretty clear that if you operate a business to the public, you need to provide your services to people regardless of race, color, sex and in this case sexual orientation,” Sexton said.

The hearing examiner recommended the following punishment:

First, Hands On Originals cannot discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In other words, the T-shirt company must service LGBT customers – no questions asked.

The examiner also ordered Adamson to attend “diversity training” conducted by – wait for it – the Lexington Human Rights Commission.

Take just a moment and let that sink in – a Christian business owner is being ordered to attend diversity training – because of his religious beliefs. That’s a pretty frightening concept and a mighty dangerous precedent.

“That is certainly one of the dangers of an order like that – for the government to step in and order (what is essentially) a re-education of its citizens,” Campbell told me. “That’s a dangerous precedent for the government to engage in.”

In essence, the Human Rights Commission is telling Christian business owners they have to change their religious beliefs. It’s the idea that the government knows best and Christians must reorient their beliefs.

Sexton, who said he is a Christian, said he’s just upholding the law.

“The law in Lexington is pretty clear,” he said. “You cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Regardless of what your religious beliefs are – if you have a public business – then that’s how you have to operate.”

It seems to me if a Christian business owner does not want to do business with an LGBT organization – that should be their right. And should an LGBT business choose not to do business with a church that should be their right, as well.

There’s no denying there’s a conflict. Even Sexton admits to that.

“Our local law has exemptions for religious organizations,” he said. “However, religious organizations are narrowly defined. You actually have to be some sort of religious institution to get the exemption.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of hardworking Christian business owners are caught in the crosshairs of the culture war.

“There does tend to be a trend toward that,” attorney Campbell told me. “Business owners are being targeted for simply trying to operate their business consistent with their beliefs.”

original article: Commission says Christian business owners should leave religion at home

culture, government, homosexuality, ideology, nanny state, oppression, political correctness, politics, religion

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

America needs less statism

The Hillsdale Collegian recently published an opinion piece by Kate Patrick titled “Hillsdale needs a little more socialism.” Coming from Hillsdale College I found this title in the student newspaper quite curious and decided to read it. I found myself a bit shocked at the presumption reflected in the piece, given the sorts of things taken for granted in order to promote socialism, especially in relation to the philosophy at Hillsdale College. So I stayed up a bit late to comment on their website. Below is an updated version of those comments.

Quite an ironic piece, here. I’d like to address several points about John Strinka’s comments and about Kate Patrick’s framing of the issue. (Note: I am neither a Hillsdale student or alumnus. I don’t personally know anyone who attends or works at Hillsdale. I am merely a passerby. My knowledge of Hillsdale College is limited to some resources Hillsdale makes available to the general public.)

First, the opening Strinka comments in Patrick’s article lament how socialism tends to be misrepresented. The irony in this first quote is that the bulk of Mr. Strinka’s comments on capitalism are a gross misrepresentation of it. And this is no accident, Mr. Strinka’s pointedly anti-capitalist perspective is riddled with a rosy colored picture of socialism and government.

According to Patrick, Strinka says “Capitalism [teaches] that humans are commodities to be bought and sold.” If that’s his opinion, I’d like to offer a similar swipe at socialism for comparison. If I stated “socialism teaches that people are cogs in a social machine, and not really people but merely demographics”, I imagine Mr. Strinka and many socialists would object to such description. But policies promoted by socialists and their lauded remedies to society’s ails often seem like this is precisely what big government statists (socialists) believe. If Mr. Strinka insists his complaint about capitalism is accurate, I likewise insist my description of socialism is accurate.

Another Strinka quote: “At this point in American history, corporations can buy government policy.” That’s nothing new, and it was praised as a grand thing when the railroad began asking for government intervention to curtail competition from the trucking industry, and it is lauded today when corporate interests harm the competition under the guise of helping people. Under the pretense of fairness and protecting people, government has gladly embraced corporate entanglements – because these types of entanglements allow government to grab more power.

So what’s the problem with that? I believe P. J. O’Rourke said it best: “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” And he’s exactly right. Government regulation of industry invites, nay, begs for industry to attempt to leverage such intervention to its favor. The very thing government regulation of industry is supposedly meant to cure ends up exacerbated it instead. The Law of Unintended Consequences often raises its ugly head with the implementation of well intended policies trying to manipulate society.

Another comment from Strinka: “Democracy has been eaten up by corporate interests.” While I’ve admitted corporate interests have infected the political process (in no small part a self-inflicted problem by government itself) I notice Patrick includes nothing in her article from Strinka or anyone else about how political interests have infected business, education, health care, the environment, national security, national defense, the IRS, the interpretation of the Constitution, and on and on. Democracy has also been eaten up by political interests.

Another comment from Strinka: “We see a free-market system that has failed to distribute the goods”. The sad fact is, no one knows such a thing. There are very few people alive today who have ever seen capitalism or a free-market system at work. For generations Americans have seen only a hybrid of socialism and a free-market, with the pendulum swinging toward the former at an accelerating pace. As it stands, socialists and other Marxians conveniently blame all of society’s ails on anything other than government intervention.

After Patrick lends plentiful space to air Strinka’s misrepresentation of capitalism, she continues with some curious comments of her own.

I was expecting to find the term “crony capitalism” in this article, and I was not disappointed. The definition of crony capitalism Patrick offers is, to no surprise, one from a rather socialistic perspective. You’ll notice in her article that crony capitalism is presented as only a capitalism problem. It is not. Crony capitalism is a capitalism AND a government problem. It can’t happen without both sides of the coin. The term is designed to misrepresent the problem in the first place. A more accurate label would be crony government. Simply calling it cronyism should suffice but it is more expedient to Marxians of all stripes to indoctrinate us all into thinking cronyism is exclusively a result of capitalism.

And there is further socialistic bias in the term crony capitalism. There is an implied assumption that without corporate interests, Democracy (in this context meaning government) would have no corruption, or at least wouldn’t have nearly as much. I find this rather hard to believe because behind this implication an even more fundamental yet flawed belief: money is evil and government is good.

Let me propose an idea. Actually, it’s not my idea, it’s a very well known concept:

Money is Power

Effectively, at the end of the day, this is true. But the reverse is also true: Power is Money. And we all know what is said of power, and absolute power. Why is it then that Marxians see corruption in money but not in power? In the name of ridding the world of corruption, socialists see a problem with concentrated wealth and see concentrated power as the solution.

In this article we predictably see morality ascribed to wealth. But money and wealth have no morality – they are merely ideas and tools. Just as government has no morality, it is also an idea, but it tends to have more muscle behind it which is physically real. The only morality associated with wealth or power is that which people bring with them.

But where do Marxians typically focus their concern about corruption? At capitalism, not at government. Notice one of Patrick’s own comments: “Without proper regulation, the rich and powerful do what they want, according to Strinka.” Who is getting the blame for corruption in that statement? I submit this statement is not intended to make the reader think of government, but only of capitalism; to make people suspicious of freedom.

Another of Patrick’s own comments: “After all, it was improperly regulated capitalism that got us into the ugly state we’re in now.” Do we really know that or do we find the conviction of a love of big government here? How do we know it wasn’t government intervention itself that got us into the ugly state we’re in now? Among those not blinded by a love of government, there is plenty of evidence to suggest it was in fact government intervention that caused many problems we’re experiencing today.

Faithful statists have been lead to believe such allegations against government have been proven false, even though they haven’t. But there is such profound support for big government in politics and in the news media that repeating this lie has done its job.

Patrick does offer a token admission that socialism has its flaws. Unfortunately in today’s political discourse, those who express concern for government corruption are often dismissed or marginalized as anti-government right wing extremists. The fact that government corruption is also a vast plague on society hardly appears to be a second thought among socialists. Government incompetence makes the situation even worse, but that is a discussion for another day.

And why do Marxians defend an ever increasing government goliath? Because they trust and prefer government. That is not capitalist propaganda, that is an overt sentiment proudly embraced by socialists who believe government is benevolent. One of the greatest concerns I have about intermingling compassion and government is that the socialist love of government almost always wins out over anything else. Given the choice between (1) helping people but doing so unequally vs (2) harming people but increasing some abstract fairness quotient, lovers of government (Keynesians, Marxists, Socialists, Communists, Fascists, etc.) would choose the latter. And yet we are supposed to think liberals of all stripes are compassionate people (who happen to define “sharing” as confiscation of wealth under threat of imprisonment and “helping” people as regulating away their freedom).

Socialists lament that capitalism intermingling with government leads to corruption, but the solution to this corruption is power. Concentrated wealth can be a bad thing but is concentrated power really the solution? Socialists, Marxists, Communists, and others who believe life can be made fair if only there are enough laws also tend to believe government knows best and that people need to be forced to do the “right thing”. The essence of government is the use of force so those who value freedom and civil liberties ought to be cautious (not eager) about the use of government power.

Seeking government intervention first is anti-American. Trusting government more than liberty looks like freedom-hating. Trusting government to regulate itself but mocking the idea of a self-regulating free-market looks like the attempt to destroy everything America stands for. Pretending the free-market means only corporations (in order to justify government taking more control) and ignoring the other half of the “free-market” equation (the people and their freedom to choose) is a severely misguided view and not one that leads to a better society.

This differing view between a statist, big government mentality and a limited government, big liberty mentality has divided Americans to a point of tremendous hostility. But it is not the pro-free-market voice that is causing this. The “small capitalism, caps on business size, widespread ownership of private property, and farm-centered communities” voice is by far the predominant one in the nation, if not (thankfully) at Hillsdale College. The pro-freedom voice is largely squelched all across the American plain. Hillsdale College is fighting an uphill battle. If the pro-freedom mentality at Hillsdale is a “bubble” it is not because Hillsdale insulates itself from views differing from those it prefers, it is because they are an air pocket trying to elevate a country sinking into a sea of statism. The big-government view lives in a bubble protecting itself from outside criticism. It can be found almost anywhere, save a few bastions of freedom such as Hillsdale College.

One last point. Capitalists and lovers of freedom would like to see a “divorce [between] big business and politics” just as socialists would. But capitalists do not seek the use of government policy to achieve it, or if they do it is only where absolutely necessary for government to get involved. Sound-minded capitalists (which are the vast majority of capitalists) are rightly concerned about corruption of government and business.

I would also like to see a divorce between compassion and government, as this is the single largest category of spending in the American government. If corporate money corrupts politics I humbly suggest political control of the social safety net is just as corrupting of American society if not more so. Strinka is not “reacting to capitalism gone wrong in American society”. He is reacting to a leftist, statist, government-knows-best distortion of capitalism. I would like to know Strinka’s opinion of real capitalism, but I doubt he’s ever actually seen it (none of us have).

I used to be an advocate of the laissez-faire free-market approach. I no longer adhere to a libertarian view of the market place. I now support a more conservative approach to the free-market, one which requires input from a sphere outside both economics and government. Neither a self-regulating market nor a state-regulated market will achieve the results any compassionate person ultimately desires. That requires a moral component not really found in either of these approaches. Dr. Ralph Ancil of the Roepke Institute makes a good argument for where to find the best solutions to society’s problems.

bias, bureaucracy, corruption, cronyism, culture, economics, education, elitism, freedom, government, ideology, nanny state, opinion, oppression, pandering, philosophy, politics, public policy, socialism, unintended consequences

Filed under: bias, bureaucracy, corruption, cronyism, culture, economics, education, elitism, freedom, government, ideology, nanny state, opinion, oppression, pandering, philosophy, politics, public policy, socialism, unintended consequences

How School Choice Saves Money

September 30, 2014 by JASON BEDRICK

School choice programs expand educational opportunity, but at what cost?

Opponents of school choice frequently claim that vouchers and scholarship tax creditssiphon” money from public schools and increase the overall cost of education to the taxpayers. However, these critics generally fail to consider the reduction in expenses associated with students switching out of the district school system, wrongly assuming that all or most school costs are fixed. When students leave, they claim, a school cannot significantly reduce its costs because it cannot cut back on its major expenses, like buildings, utilities, and labor. But if that were true, then schools would require little to no additional funds to teach additional students. A proper fiscal analysis considers both the diverted or decreased revenue as well as the reduction in expenses related to variable costs.

A new study by Jeff Spalding, Director of Fiscal Policy at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, does exactly that. The study examines the fiscal impact of 10 of the 21 school voucher programs nationwide, finding a cumulative savings to states of at least $1.7 billion over two decades. Spalding, the former comptroller/CFO for the city of Indianapolis, is cautious, methodical, and transparent in his analysis. He walks readers through the complex process of determining the fiscal impact of each program, identifying the impact of each variable and explaining equation along the way. He also makes relatively conservative assumptions, such as counting food service and interscholastic athletics as fixed costs even though they are variable with enrollment. Critically, Spalding accounts for those students who would have attended private school anyway, explaining:

One common complicating factor is student eligibility. If a voucher program allows students already enrolled in a private school to qualify, then those students do not directly relieve the public school system of any costs. Thus, there is a new public cost incurred for the vouchers provided to those students, but no corresponding savings for the public school system. Anytime voucher eligibility extends to students not currently enrolled in a public school, the net savings calculation must include that complicating factor.

States save money when the variable cost of each student to the district schools is greater than the cost of the voucher, accounting for the students who would have attended private school anyway. After wading through each state’s byzantine school funding formula, Spalding calculated that the voucher programs reduced expenditures across all 10 programs by $4.5 billion over two decades while costing states $2.8 billion, producing $1.7 billion in savings.

In the last 40 years, government spending on K-12 education has nearly tripled while results have been flat. Moreover, the Census Bureau projects that the elderly will make up an increasingly larger share of the population in the coming decades, straining state budgetswith spending on health care and retirement benefits. Schools will have to compete with hospitals and nursing homes for scarce resources.

In other words, our education system needs to become more effective and financially efficient, fast. Large-scale school choice programs promise to do both.

original article: How School Choice Saves Money

budget, bureaucracy, economics, education, freedom, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, spending

Filed under: budget, bureaucracy, economics, education, freedom, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, spending

Rich actor willing to sacrifice other people’s liberty for the greater good

September 23, 2014 by Randy Hall

original article: Leonardo DiCaprio Tells U.N. That Climate Change Crisis Is Now Beyond Personal Choices

crisis, elitism, environment, extremism, freedom, global warming, government, greenhouse, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, politics, propaganda, public policy, reform

Filed under: crisis, elitism, environment, extremism, freedom, global warming, government, greenhouse, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, politics, propaganda, public policy, reform

D.C. Gets an ‘F’ in Academic Achievement for Low-Income & Minority Students

September 19, 2014 by Ali Meyer

(CNSNews.com) — The District of Columbia in 2014 received an “F” grade in academic achievement for low-income and minority students attending its public schools, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber, which released a report entitled Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness, ranked states on nine indicators to see which states were the national leaders in educational performance and which states were lagging behind.

The Chamber looked at metrics, in public schools and charter schools, like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to measure academic achievement, AP exams to measure post-secondary and workforce measurement, and various teacher workforces of schools, to name a few measures.

Out of nine indicators of educational achievement that the District of Columbia was applicable for, D.C. received five F’s, one D+, one C+, and two A’s.

The District got  F’s  in the Academic Achievement, Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students, International Competitiveness, Post-secondary and Workforce Readiness, and Return on Investment metrics.


(AP Photo)

According to the report, “The District of Columbia earns a failing grade in academic achievement for low-income and minority students. The District has the highest percentage nationwide of both African-American (76%) and low-income (78%) students. Fourth and 8th graders in both groups perform below the national average at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam.”

Other failing metrics for D.C. were workforce readiness and international competitiveness. “The District earns a failing grade preparing its students for college and careers. Students’ chances for college attendance by age 19 are the lowest in the nation,” said the Chamber of Commerce. “The District earns a very low grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy. Only 10% of students are proficient in reading and math – the lowest percentage in the nation – compared with an international standard.”

D.C. also fared poorly, a grade of D+, in the 21st Century Teaching Force metric. “The nation’s capital does a weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. It does not successfully identify effective teachers or remove ineffective ones,” said the report.

The district fared better in metrics like parental options and data quality. “The District does an excellent job providing parents with strong school choice options. It has one of the strongest charter school laws in the country and more than half of all students attend a school of choice – the highest in the nation,” said the Chamber.

“The District earns an excellent grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data,” states the report.  “It provides funding to expand its longitudinal data system and links student performance data with teacher data.”

original article: D.C. Gets an ‘F’ in Academic Achievement for Low-Income & Minority Students

bureaucracy, children, culture, education, government, nanny state, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, children, culture, education, government, nanny state, unintended consequences



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