China

It costs HOW MUCH?

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The mind boggles. War is expensive to conduct. Once wars finish, the cost of looking after veterans is massive. In 2000, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in America spent $43.6bn to look after returned servicemen and women. In 2020 it is expected to exceed $212bn (c. 5x), the equivalent of what the Chinese currently spends on its military.  Digging deeper into the data reveals that the cost of the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) on veteran treatment keeps growing in a straight line.

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Total obligations for OIF/OEF/OND patients has grown 19-fold in the last 14 years to over $7bn. Total veterans from those campaigns now totals 965,000 and is expected to hit 1.1mn by 2020. Cost per veteran patient over the 2006-2020 period will virtually treble.

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Expenditure on prosthetic devices (e.g. limbs, hearing aids) has near as makes no difference quadrupled in that period.

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Spending on pharmaceutical products is up 1.9x since 2006.

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Drugs such as Oxycontin which contain opioids have found their way to creating problems in the US armed forces. 15% of Army troops admitted to taking illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana) and opioids back in 2008.

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Spending on programs to prevent substance abuse is up 1.8x since 2006.

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The VA notes key clinical metric trends from Quarter Four of 2012 to Quarter Four of 2017 show:

• 67% reduction in Veterans receiving opioid and benzodiazepine together;
• 44% reduction in Veterans on long-term opioid therapy (> to 90 days);
• 38% reduction in Veterans receiving opioids;• 56% reduction in Veterans receiving > 100 Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose;
• 51% increase in Veterans on long-term opioid therapy with a Urine Drug Screen
(UDS) completed within last year to help guide treatment decisions.

Spending on mental health programs is up almost 4x since 2006. The VA plans to promote the development of skills in VA providers to diagnose and assess PTSD
by developing a computer-based training using simulated virtual patient
technology that will allow clinicians to practice and receive customizable feedback
on giving CAPS-5 to a lifelike virtual patient.

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The 2019 VA Budget requests $8.6 billion for Veterans’ mental health services, an increase of 5.8% above the 2018 current estimate. It also includes $190 million for suicide
prevention outreach. VA recognizes that Veterans are at an increased risk for suicide and
implemented a national suicide prevention strategy to address this crisis. Veteran suicide in the US is at a 22/day clip.

The price of freedom. All said and told the US over the last 20 years will have spent the equivalent of $2.476 trillion with a “T” on veterans. That is the equivalent of one entire year of UK GDP.

Smart technologies are an absolute must for the VA. The cost of veteran health is the equivalent of 29% of what the US spends on defence, up from 14.8% two decades ago. Asking for yearly increases is a band aid solution.

How well do Americans know their Defense budget?

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The US spends more than the next 9 countries combined when it comes to defence. What is probably lost on many Americans is the spiraling cost of funding the veterans who served. The US is forecast in 2020 to spend almost as much on the Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) as China does on military spending. The direct cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven the indirect costs of treating those who served almost 5-fold since the war began. US politicians have passed increase after increase.  Have these increases been thought of in context of the trend? Or do annual increases just get signed off as a reflex action?

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If we put the VA budget next to the defence budget, the former has grown from 14.8% of the latter to around 29% between 2000 and 2020. The number of veterans receiving disability compensation has grown 2 million in 2000 to 4.3 million in 2016. A total of 7.2 million veterans are actively seeking services or payments from the VA, up from 5.5 million in 2000.

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Spending per veteran by priority group also reveals sharply higher costs. This is not an exhaustive list of priorities, but the main 7.

Priority 1

• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 50% or more disabling
• Veterans determined by VA to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions.

Priority 2

• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 30% or 40% disabling

Priority 3

• Veterans who are Former Prisoners of War (POWs)
• Veterans awarded a Purple Heart medal
• Veterans whose discharge was for a disability that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 10% or 20% disabling
• Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation
• Veterans awarded the Medal Of Honor (MOH)

Priority 4

• Veterans who are receiving aid and attendance or housebound benefits from VA
• Veterans who have been determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled

Priority 5

• Non service-connected Veterans and non-compensable service-connected Veterans rated 0% disabled by VA with annual income below the VA’s and geographically (based on your resident zip code) adjusted income limits
• Veterans receiving VA pension benefits
• Veterans eligible for Medicaid programs

Priority 6

• Compensable 0% service-connected Veterans.
• Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
• Project 112/SHAD participants.
• Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
• Veterans of the Persian Gulf War who served between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998.
• Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
• Currently enrolled Veterans and new enrollees who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 and those who were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible for the enhanced benefits for five years post discharge.

Priority 7

• Veterans with gross household income below the geographically-adjusted income limits for their resident location and who agree to pay copays.

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Countries have an obligation to look after the troops that sustain injury, physical, mental or otherwise. The question is whether politicians are cottoning on to the mounting relative increase in healing the veteran community to the spending on weapons of war?

There are 19.6 million veterans in the US. By 2045 this is expected to dip below 12 million. With 2.1 million serving active duty military personnel and reserves, the overall costs of healing may not come down anytime soon.

What it does say is that there is a massive need to work out how to reduce the costs to the VA without impeding improving healthcare and benefits for veterans.

Trump mid term victory more probable than not

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Actions not words. Forget all of one’s personal opinions (hatred) of Trump and analyze the facts.  This is a picture of Obama trying to rally Democrats in Nevada this week. Despite the small audience, Obama mentioned himself 92 times in 38 minutes as opposed to talking up the candidate he was there to support. Sounded like a desperate attempt to save his own legacy. The following pictures are of Trump’s rally for Ted Cruz in Houston, Texas.

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Conventional wisdom tells us that the party in opposition tends to get the House in the mid terms. Politics is in such a funk, why would we for one second believe that consensus should be the default in November 2018? How did that work out on 2016?

Ahh yes, but the Democrats have learned from treating the prior election as a coronation for Hillary Clinton. They’ll be out in droves. No doubt they will but after the Kavanaugh debacle in the Senate and over 10,000 strong Honduran caravan surging to the US southern border (the Dems have been eerily quiet over this) it only plays to Trump’s domestic agenda. What many overlook is that ICE records indicate there are  474,000 illegal immigrants still in the queue for processing. Four hundred and seventy four thousand. Think of the costs to process that.

So to the polls? They were wildly inaccurate at the 2016 election. Largely because they are telephone polls to 1,000 people with landlines. Hardly an accurate assessment. Only old folk have landlines now don’t they?

A MSN (left leaning) online poll conducted last month showed 76% of 73,000 would lean Republican in the mid terms. How valuable are polls? Let’s be honest, a Fox poll leaning to conservatives and and a CNN poll swaying to liberals Shouldnt shock anyone. It is the anomaly that should cause us to question a mood as this MSN poll did. Are 73,000 people representative of the 250mn eligible to vote? More than 1,000 would be that is for sure.

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Once again, forget personal dislikes for Trump. If a p*ssy grabbing, racist, xenophobic, bigoted, nationalist silver back Nazi orange buffoon as he is often referred to as can get this many people to a gathering imagine if he had none of the baggage? Potentially less people because there is not as much shock value.

CM has said for ages that the mainstream media is his best ally. The constant one-eyed bias against him only gives more air time. He is a showman. The White House has become  a reality TV program. All the MSM does is feed his exposure. Sadly ratings reflect that he is winning. The media can only tell the public that Trump is the antithesis of the establishment so many times before it wears thin and people tune out.

Then again perhaps it is more telling that the average American doesn’t look to him as a spiritual leader. Or put that another way, the mid terms will be a measure of how successful he has been to date (even if blasted Russian bots meddling in the voting machines are behind it).

If he has genuinely helped put Americans on a better financial footing in their minds that is all that matters to them. Call Stormy ‘Horseface’, slag off Blasey-Ford for her amnesia and bash CNN at a rally for “fake news”. None of it matters. It appears Americans are less likely to be intimidated by thuggery (chasing Republicans out of restaurants or shooting them) of the left than to join their ranks as the #WalkAway campaign has demonstrated.

Trump is the most left field curve ball President in US history.  So unconventional in his diplomacy. He has shown that pushing back can get results. Whether smashing NATO members for failing to execute on  their own self imposed military spending targets, stopping Rocketman testing nukes or getting Juncker to sign an FTA a week after he stumbled blind drunk at a NATO summit there is some method to the madness.

In two weeks time we’ll get a result which will reflect the mood of America. The observation of CM is that the Dems are playing all the same party tricks as the 2016 election albeit at 11.

CM may be well off the reservation on this but those same vibes from Nov 2015 suggest Trump may well upset decades of history. Fake views? Allie Stuckey did a rather amusing parody of the Democrats here.

We’ll know soon enough.

40 Maseratis for PNG shows commitment to combat climate change

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Last month Australia was beaten over the head for not helping the Pacific Islands cope with the dangers of climate change which is causing those countries to supposedly slip below the waves. What better way to use part of the $150mn in aid money from Australia to buy gas guzzling sports limousines from Italy.

Of all the 4-door cars least suited to the PNG climate, Maseratis would be top of the list. Pot holed roads, firm suspension  and 20inch alloy rims wouldn’t work so well neither would the high performance V6s help lower the CO2 content that is such a grave risk to their survival. Lord only knows why anyone would pick an Italian car to stand up to corrosion by the sea side?!? To the best of CM’s knowledge a Maserati Port Moresby dealership does not exist,

Yet we shouldn’t forget that as angry as we have every right to be in Australia, these islands know how strategically important we are to them for national security that we should count ourselves lucky they didn’t go for the 4.7 litre high performance V8s with the optional high performance pack.

China’s President Xi has visited these islands in the Pacific. Our Aussie PMs Turnbull and Morrison have just sent the Foreign Minister showing a lack of priority. We just take for granted that cutting cheques should be enough to curry favour.

Do we really believe the $12mn gift from China to install CCTV cameras in PNG is for the locals’ benefit? Beijing will happily monitor everything, including facially recognizing our politicians when they visit. Might as well bug the meeting rooms while they’re at it! All because we’re too daft to think just because we have history that gives us a leg up over China. Best think again.

At the very least signing FTAs with these island nations won’t even be a rounding error for China’s GDP but there is no question we are way behind on diplomatic negotiations.

So when they buy Maseratis with our taxes we should not bat an eyelid. It’s a pittance in terms of what places like PNG mean to our long term security.  In fact we might have been better off suggesting the PNG government buy Rolls-Royce Cullinans as  a more sensible alternative given its SUV abilities.

If we’re so keen to stick to Paris should we feel guilty about nuclear power?

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Australia seems keen to stick to the Paris Accord. Despite knowing whatever we do on saving the planet through following the politics of Paris will result in no palpable change in world temperatures at considerable economic cost to overstretched taxpayers. If we seem so keen to do our bit for tokenism, why not copy so many signatories and build nuclear plants? After all if we don’t want to be censured for abandoning the accord should we feel any sense of guilt if we adopt the very same CO2 limiting measures of others? Safety in numbers – literally.

CM was privy to a meeting with a former US Navy officer who was speaking about how negative PR can create false narratives. Nuclear power was one of them. He argued that the US & Japan were losing the PR war hence technological leadership on civilian nuclear power. The likes of Toshiba-Westinghouse are now shrinking minnows whose dwindling order book looks like the victim of a sunset industry when in reality it has been terrible program management. However why should it?

Nuclear power is set to be 14% of global electricity generation by 2040 from 11% today. Emerging Asia get the practicalities of nuclear power. Affordable and sustainable baseload with virtually no emissions.

Of course the horrible outcomes of poorly managed nuclear plants has come at great financial cost as experienced most recently  with Fukushima but the safety record of nuclear power is astonishingly good. Quantum levels more people die in coal mine accidents every year than the combined deaths from radiation from Chernobyl or Fukushima meltdowns since either occurred.

The misplaced fear of Fukushima was so high at the time that Americans across the Pacific were stocking up on radiation masks and Geiger counters in preparation of impending irradiation. It seemed the further one got away from the reactor the more hysteric people became. Deaths in the US as a result of the Fukushima meltdown? Zero!

As it stands, the US has two nuclear plants under construction at present which are saddled with delays and costly overruns based on incompetent execution. The Chinese have twenty in the build phase. India 7. Korea and the UAE 4 each. Russia 3. Even Bangladesh & Pakistan have two in the pipeline using technologies outside of the US/Japan.

There are about 150 power reactors with a total gross capacity of about 160GWe on order with about 300 more proposed. Where are the former world leaders in power technology? Next to nowhere. Cowering in a corner and allowing themselves to be beaten up senseless over false statistics. Where is the PR reporting reality? It’s as if they’ve given up. Where is the media lambasting China, India and other nations for putting our lives at risk? That’s right – nowhere.

What probably escapes many people is that for all the negative news cycle around nuclear power and the thirst for renewable alternatives, many Americans are already surrounded by active nuclear plants. While they visit a zoo or the beach they are blissfully unaware that at all the naval ports dotted around the mainland (e.g. California, Connecticut, NY, Florida, DC, Texas, South Carolina etc) and islands (e.g. Hawaii, Japan) there are 100s of nuclear reactors sitting safely in close proximity to millions of civilians. Yet where is the outrage? Not a peep.

Shout from the hilltops at the efficiency of renewables all you want. Then explain why those with higher levels of renewables as baseload power end up with the highest incidents of blackouts and steepest prices.

South Australia is the case in point. Australia is home to the cheapest materials (gas, coal and uranium) to make affordable electricity but we have caved to the green madness and saddled ourselves with punitive power prices to meet goals based on unproven and often whistle blown manipulated science. If climate scientists were subject to the same punitive damages that players in the financial industry are then it is likely the “targets” leading to our ecological disaster would be pared back to such a degree we’d just keep calm and carry on. Yet because there is no risk of jail sentences the tax dollars get misappropriated, funding an industry whose survival and growth depends on fear. Talk about a lack of ethics.

Even worse we want to double down on this inefficient renewable technology (where claims are often made on 100% capacity rather than the 20% they truly operate on) despite having empirical evidence of its all too obvious shortcomings. Virtue signaling actions such as blowing up old coal fired power stations has ironically proven the stupidest of moves in that all the while demand hasn’t changed reductions in reliable baseload supply makes us vulnerable.

Throw on the desire to electrify the automobile  and we already know that existing base load won’t cope with the increased demands. Take a look at Britain as an example. Apart from the risks of losing massive fuel tax levies (around 5% of total government revenue) the power industry’s current projections of new electricity generation additions can’t meet the expected demand if we all plug our EV in overnight.

So Australia should quit worrying about what others think and act in its own best interests. Maybe Canberra needs a PR agency more than the nuclear industry does. High time to look at real data and sustainability.

 

If you’re easily triggered don’t join the military

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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) should never be actively trying to recruit spent cartridges to serve. What is the purpose to train people that don’t wish to step in harm’s way? Yet our top brass is hell bent on diversity and equality targets. Let’s not get the message confused. Those who actively seek to defend our nation with dignity and bravery deserve our highest praise and support. As written yesterday, it is absolutely clear that the project, even by the ADF’s own data and reporting, is failing. Instead of admitting defeat, the armed forces leadership believes doubling down is preferable.

The Navy thought serving RAN seamen painting fingernails pink in order to push the ‘100 Days for Change’ campaign was more virtuous than spending to defend our nation. Make no mistake, China’s military is not pandering to politically correct posturing. They must have chuckled at this overt display of weakness. President Xi wants to make his country the dominant, God-fearing player in the region and as far as displaying weakness goes Australia may as well hand over the keys to the Lodge.

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Speaking to people related to personnel in the Defence Department yesterday, the argument was that diversity is a good thing. When asked to defend the position the individual couldn’t come up with a credible answer. The strongest argument offered was that allow smoother integration into civilian life. Since when did it become a current employers role to help the transition of leavers? Surely the aim is to keep soldiers for the long term not support the 25% who are actively looking to quit.

CM posed a question back. Usain Bolt can run 100m faster than me. I’ve wanted to hold the 100m world record since I was a kid. In order to fulfil my subjective sense of self worth he should be forced to run 150m while I’m at 75m. It’s a stupid argument.  Much like a heavyweight male boxer fighting a female heavyweight in the quest for equality.  The man is likely win 100% of the time. Look at men identifying as women  making such a mockery of women’s sports. Let’s openly accept that I’ll never beat Bolt and there is no point pretending it. If the ADF want to celebrate diversity, embrace the existence of biological and  physiological differences. Stop this nonsense that “diversity is our strength”  because outside of diversity of thought it doesn’t.

Therefore “if” men happen to be more qualified in terms of strength, endurance, fitness, accuracy or whatever metric that is chosen, why shouldn’t they be recruited over women? If women prove to be superior than men on the same metrics then they should be hired over the men they beat.  As written yesterday, the ADF lowered the targets for women because they were too onerous in the hope the execution rate would be more easily achieved yet they missed by a wider margin. Instead of actively accepting fewer women are interested in a military career than men, males are actively discriminated against. Recruiters face demotion for not complying with big brother. In civilian life companies would be fined and face jail terms for operating similar structures. So much for equality!

It’s not rocket science. The military should never be a social experiment. Period. Our military leadership even wants to ban death symbols. Honestly if death symbols make our troops feel better morale then let them. What  surprise that our diversity programs are sinking morale to record lows? Even a large slug of female military  personnel don’t believe these programmes are effective yet we will push our Waterloo strategy.

CM is going to take a wild stab in the dark. War veterans or those in special forces must be rolling their eyes. Some SAS soldiers have confessed that in training, new cadets are able to raise a red card if they feel their instructor is being too harsh? Discipline is the most important part of a military. Following orders. Surely in the heat of battle a commander needs to be able to order troops to take a hill or position, not spend crucial minutes debating subordinates on the validity of the plan. If one is so easily triggered by members of the home team how effective could they possibly be in battle? Instead of waving a white flag why not waggle pink fingers to the enemy in the hopes they won’t be shot?

Time for the military to be handed back to professional soldiers not caught up in political correctness. If our enemies are “sons of bitches” best we become “total sons of bitches” rather than “fairies”.

Japan defence – change before you have to

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The Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) is scheduled to add two more vessels to the 452 (372 armed patrol) vessels she already has vs the Japan Marine Self Defence Force’s (JMSDF) 145 ships. Although in ultimate tonnage terms the JMSDF is bigger than the JCG (i.e. a Kongo class Aegis destroyer is 5 times the size of the largest JCG vessel),  Still Japan still continues to ramp up its coast guard fleet because it is viewed as less confrontational than deploying naval ships near contested islands such as the Senkaku Islands, where Chinese naval activity continues to increase.

This fiscal year the JCG will get access to a 212 billion yen budget (a 10% hike over last year of which 27% will be committed on surveillance around the Senkaku Islands). The JMSDF is part of the overall defence budget of 5.2 trillion yen.

Two new 1,500-ton JCG vessels with helipads will be deployed between FY2019 and 2020 from the coast guard’s Tsuruga Port in Fukui Prefecture, which is home to several nuclear plants. This is code for more JCG vessels required for duties around the contested waters due to increased China PLA Navy activity. From the 2017 Defence White Paper

“Since December 2015, Chinese government vessels carrying weapons that appear to be cannons have begun to repeatedly intrude into Japan’s territorial waters. Additionally, government vessels deployed to seas near the Senkaku Islands are increasingly larger in size, with at least one of the government vessels intruding into Japan’s territorial waters being a 3,000 t or larger-class vessel since August 2014. Since February 2015, three 3,000 t or larger-class government vessels have been confirmed entering Japan’s territorial waters simultaneously multiple times. China is also building the world’s largest 10,000 t-class patrol vessels, and one vessel was incorporated into the fleet in July 2016.”

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As CM has reported in previous tomes, The Japanese Air Self Defence Force has scrambled almost 900 times in 2016 to interecept Chinese PLAAF fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft. That compares to 30 in 2008. Many of these intercepts have been over the Senkakus.

The Japanese Ministry of Defence has just turned 10 years old. It used to be an agency reporting to the PM’s office but now has its own minister that fights for budget and policy such has the defence map changed from passive to active deterrence. Japan is well within its rights to be concerned at the status of its changing defence priorities.

It isn’t just Japan. China is conducting live fire drills in the Taiwan Straits again as we write. It’s disdain for Vietnam and The Philippines and contested islands (Spratly & Paracels) mean that at some stage a boil will be lanced as America will be tested on its resolve to back up its allies in the Pacific. A dictator-for-life has time on his side. That doesn’t mean the rest of Asia or the US can be complacent. japan has got the message – change before you have to!