Friday, September 30, 2005

LYING: IN GENERALS

Stop the War! I want to get off!

Just where is the critical mainstream media? Are they really safeguarding our democracy? Seems to me that one of the most important stories of the week is being largely ignored by the media. That being the lies and distortions, virtual perjury being foisted upon us by the likes of Gen. George Casey, senior U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, senior U.S. commander in the Frickin' Middle East, and Gen Dick Myers, now retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Who, by the way, just this morning had just a marvelous going away (far far away I pray) party presented by President Bush and Defense(??) Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


HOW 'BOUT THEM TROOP CUTS?


Way way back in March, then once again in July of this year, Gen. Casey predicted "fairly substantial'' reductions in U.S. troops in the spring/summer of 2006. The Pentagon, by the way, saw this as 20-30,000 troops out of the current 140,000(??). By the way? The Pentagon was also telling us that troop levels might be raised by - 20-30,000 - for support of the upcoming elections in Iraq. WHAT TROOP CUTS? The Pentagon, no question, knows how stupid and unobservant we all are! In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Casey cast doubt on this, saying Iraq was in a period of heightened uncertainty that made it "too soon to tell" if troops can be brought home.

So what exactly has changed in six months? in three months? I don't know. Hah!


SEVEN MORE YEARS! SEVEN MORE YEARS!


Sounds like a political convention shouting for re-election...in some backward third world dictatorship. But that is the clarion call of Gen. Casey in his testimony before the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee yesterday said the average 20th century counterinsurgency lasted nine years. "And there is no reason that we should believe that the insurgency in Iraq will take any less time to deal with."

Seven more years? Does he actually think that a) the American voters will permit us to fight this unwinnable war for seven more years? or b) that Iraqis will tolerate our presence on their soil for seven more years? The plain facts are NO! Plus, one small matter, we financially cannot afford it.


9/11 DEUX ON THE WAY


Gen. Dick Myers, not to be outdone, said that if the United States pulls out now from Iraq, another attack like the one on September 11, 2001, was "right around the corner." What does he know that we do not? My money is more likely on empty threats from Bush's loyal cadre of blind incompetence.


THE WAR IS GOING WELL...NO IT'S NOT...

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was incensed at Dick Myers during testimony. Time and again, we have heard about how well the war was going. McCain accurately and angrily pointed out that the war had not gone as well as the Pentagon said it would go, or had been going.

"I don't think this committee or the American public has ever heard me say that things are going very well in Iraq," said Myers. "This is a hard struggle," he added.

Gen. Casey, December 16, 2004: "My view of winning is that we are broadly on track to accomplishing our objectives..."

Gen. Casey, same day: "There is progress across Iraq every day, and every day we and our Iraqi partners are a step closer to accomplishing our objectives."

Vice President Dick Cheney, June 20, 2005 on CNN's "Larry King Live": "I think the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint I think will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Vice President Dick Cheney, June 24, 2005 to CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "We will succeed in Iraq, just like we did in Afghanistan. We will stand up a new government under an Iraqi-drafted constitution. We will defeat that insurgency, and, in fact, it will be an enormous success story."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, June 26, 2005 ABC's "This Week": "The fact of the matter is that the progress (in Iraq) has been solid."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, June 26, 2005, "NBC's Meet The Press": 'Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, are the people with the most direct knowledge of what's transpiring in Iraq, and they "feel very good about the progress that's being made." '

Gen. John Abizaid, June 23, 2005 Senate Armed Services Committee: "For those of us who have spent many months in the field, we see good progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We sense good progress against the extremism that once seemed so pervasive in the region."


AND ABOUT THOSE IRAQI ARMED FORCES BEING TRAINED?

They're up, they're down, they're up...No one seems to have a handle on what is going on with Iraqi troop strength or capabilities.

Gen. John Abizaid, March 1, 2005 Senate Armed Services Committee: Gen Abizaid predicted that Iraqi security forces, while not up to the task yet, will assume the lead role in fighting the insurgency by the end of the year. "They will get better and I think in 2005 will take on the majority of the tasks."

Gen. John Abizaid, September 29, 2005 Senate Armed Services Committee: "Over the past 18 months, we have built enough Iraqi capacity where we can begin talking seriously about transitioning this counterinsurgency mission to them."

Gen. John Abizaid, September 29, 2005 Senate Armed Services Committee: "Iraqi armed forces will not have an independent capability for some time."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she was discouraged by the lack of readiness by the Iraqi security force. She said that it "contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going," and that "it doesn't feel like progress when we hear today that we have only one Iraqi battalion that is fully capable." This was in response to Gen. Casey saying that there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago. In fact, our military brain trust, just those few months ago had said that there were all of three Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness.

The following from Globalsecurity.org:

Iraqi Military Reconstruction: "Security Forces began to recover strength in early 2005, following the major setback in late 2004. However, by mid-2005 the overall growth in Iraqi forces had slowed, no doubt at least in part reflecting the ferocity of insurgent attacks against Iraqi Security Forces. End-strength growth from April through June was negligible, 162,000 on 04 May 2005 to 168,000 by 22 June 2005. Indeed, endstrength declined slightly in June, dropping from 169,362 on 08 June 2005.

Overall, from October 2003 through October 2004 the objective end-strength of Iraqi forces appears to have doubled, increasing from 170,000 to 346,700. The actual number of forces on hand increased from 98,700 in October 2003 to 181,200 in October 2004. The shortfall of troops increased from 72,200 to 165,500 over this period.

The US made essentially no progress in increasing the number of Iraqi forces during the year 2004, with the total number of troops on hand continuing to hover at about 200,000. The situation in January 2004 looked fairly good, with 210,400 troops on hand, versus a desired end-strength of 226,700 -- ie, about 90% fill of desired endstrength. By October 2004 things did not look so good, with 181,200 troops on hand, versus a desired end-strength of 346,700 -- slightly better than 50% of desired end-strength.

Even more striking are the changes between August 2004 and October 2004, following the troops to task analysis completed in August. Over this three month period, the objective end-strength of Iraqi forces increased from 265,900 to 346,700, while the shortfall of troops increased from 30,100 to 165,500 over this same period. In September 2004 the Police end-strength objective increased from 90,000 to 135,000, while in October 2004 the Police forces on hand dropped from 84,900 to 43,900. Reflecting both the increase in end-strength requirements, and the drastic decrease in police on hand, the percentage of Police force requirements filled dropped from 95% in August to 33% in October."

This from Global Policy Forum, March 15, 2005:

"U.S. commanders and Bush administration officials are overstating the number of Iraqi security forces on duty, providing an inaccurate picture about the training mission that is the U.S. military's exit strategy for Iraq, a government audit agency said Monday. The Pentagon in its latest figures said 142,000 Iraqis had been trained as police and soldiers. But the Government Accountability Office said those figures include tens of thousands of Iraqi policemen who had left their jobs without explanation." Read the entire story at Strength of Iraqi Military Forces Questioned


So where does it all end? The U.S. military is failing in its mission. It has too few troops in Iraq, U.S. or Iraqi, to win the war. It is not winning "hearts and minds." The American public is decidedly against the war - excluding the delusional and blind "Right." Though even support from some of Bush's longtime supporters is now waning.

What can we do? What can you do?

Fly your flags at half-mast until we end the Iraq War and our troops are home. Demand of your members of Congress that we be permitted to see video and photographs of our war dead, of the maimed American, not just Iraqi bodies, the coffins returning home. Demand that the war be brought home.








Wednesday, September 28, 2005

STOP THE WAR? STOP THE PEACE DEMONSTRATIONS!

Yes, the September 24 so-called antiwar demonstrations did receive some front page newspaper coverage. Yes, the demonstration in Washington, D.C. was the largest of its kind since the halcyon anti-Vietnam War era. Yes there were a lot of very sincere folks involved and in attendance.

And no, I was not in attendance in D.C.

But pleeeeeezzzzzz! If you're against the Iraq War, hold an anti-Iraq War protest. In these times of soundbite journalism and iPod/video game attention spans, the media's time is way too short to toss in every kitchen sink message into these all-important rallies.

Palestine? Haiti? Katrina? Unions? Racism?

How about the just plain old Iraq War, folks? The trouble with this potpouri organizational style is that many folks that oppose the Iraq War aren't necessarily in conflict with the situation in the Middle East...or Haiti...and could perhaps care less about unions.

Demonstrations should be focused on single objectives. How many people do you expect would show up for a demonstration protesting American policy involvement with Haiti? Really...Come on now...

The Bush family war in Iraq is an abomination, plain and simple. Let's not mix messages. Let's not forget what the mission of an antiwar movement should be, and hopefully is. You can be a racist - hopefully not - and still be opposed to Bush's war, can't you? You can be opposed to union organizing and be opposed to Bush's war, can't you?

Why do leftwing organizers of these events think that variety of messages is better than focus? Seems like that's a major flaw of both the Democratic Party and the Left. I've attended a number of so-called anti Iraq War demonstrations in Denver since 2003. Each time, I have to endure messages unrelated to the war while I wait impatiently for the marqueed antiwar orators. And as often as not, many of them seem either illiterate, unfocused, and most certainly unrehearsed. We don't need pep rallies with the standard slogans, "Peace Now!, Stop the War!" etc. etc. We need to communicate with the greater community called America. People on the edge of protest, people on the other side of protest need to be swayed by these demonstrations. They don't need to come away from news broadcasts commenting, "What are those crazies talking about? Iraq or god-damned unions?"

But that is the message that is too often dished out. It's Marketing 101 folks! Many of us were teens and young 20-somethings when we were active against the Vietnam War, often too enthusiastic and emotional for our own good - though we certainly did help to end a terrible war. Those of us that are now in our late-40s to mid-60s now know better...don't we? Many of us have advanced college degrees. We've had successful careers. No doubt many in marketing or advertising, working for Proctor & Gamble, even Wall Street. Come on folks, we know how to sell! Just as we are supposedly telling Bush and friends that we can do better - in almost anything it seems - we should be walking the walk, don't you agree?




Tuesday, September 27, 2005

REPUBLICAN POVERTY

During a press conference on September 26, President Bush reiterated his War on Poverty for the United States. No doubt a war that he will enthusiastically fund in the manner in which he funds his B&B (bombs & bodies) wars.

Bush emphasized home ownership as integral to his "ownership society" philosophy. He also emphasized the importance of faith-based programs in prisons (%#$$^()??????). Hmmm. I see now. The solution to poverty in America is to send all poor people to prison in order to learn from faith-based, prison-based programs. I see. Then, upon their release, they'll be able to obtain ready financing for new homes. Okay....

Republican presidents like poverty. They seem to like it a lot. A review of Census Bureau data for the period 1960 - 2004 provides some anecdotal support for that conclusion. Now granted, economic environments change - high inflation to low inflation, variances in unemployment, the effects of energy prices etc. But reviewing a 44-year period ain't all that bad a start for analysis.

There are six readily identifiable Republican/Democratic presidential eras from 1960 - 2004, three Democratic and three Republican. True, you might retort that Democrats were in control of Congress for the vast majority of those periods, specifically the House, 1960 - 1995, the Senate, 1960 - 1981, 1987 - 1995. But the president provides, or should provide, leadership and motivation. And under Republican presidents, poverty in the United States doesn't appear to have been a priority.

The following data represents the changes in the number of Americans below 125% of the Poverty Level:

DEMOCRATS
1960-1968 Presidents Kennedy/Johnson:
# down 18.7 million; percent change -34.2%; change as percent of U.S. population -40.1%
1976-1980 President Carter:
# up 5.1 million; percent change +14.5%; change as percent of U.S. population +8.4%
1992-2000 President Clinton:
# down 6.9 million; percent change -13.8%; change as percent of U.S. population -20.8%

REPUBLICANS
1968-1976 Presidents Nixon/Ford:
# down 0.4 million; percent change -1.1%; change as percent of U.S. population -8.2%
1980-1992 Presidents Reagan/Bush:
# up 9.9 million; percent change +24.4%; change as percent of U.S. population +8.8%
2000-2004 President Bush:
# up 6.1 million; percent change +13.9%; change as percent of U.S. population +9.6%

The legacy is that over the 44-year period, America experienced quite different aggregate trends in poverty. Under Republican presidents, 15.6 million more people enjoyed the benefits of poverty and near-poverty. Under Democratic presidents, 20.5 million people were missing from these roles of poverty.

To be sure, there are many more metrics for measuring poverty and financial quality of life. In subsequent posts, they'll be addressed.

Many Republicans are quick to blame Democrats' for the alleged failures of various domestic programs - they spend too much, they spend too little (usually too much, though under Bush, Republicans have shattered all records for government bloat). But Democrats have often been in control of Congress, regardless of which party controlled the White House. So what's the difference? Do Democrats deliberately pursue deconstructive legislative policies when the opposition party sleeps in the White House? Do Democrats secretly urge bureaucrats to go slack on their jobs and obligations depending on who is in the White House? I hardly think so.

Doesn't it all seem to come down to B&B vs. B&B? "Bombs and bodies" vs. "Bread and butter?"








Monday, September 26, 2005

WAR IS BIG BIZNIZZ - OUR BUSINESS

Let's face it. If you're going to waste money on missteps, you might as "well" (pun intended) waste hundreds of millions of dollars of it.

Missteps Hamper Iraqi Oil Reconstruction, an article in today's LA Times by T. Christian Miller, highlights just how "well" (pun intended) Bush and his minions - or shall we say the minions and their Bush - are misstepping with your tax dollars...oh and mine as well. Can you say Billion(s)?

Another article, hmmm also by T. Christian Miller, also in the LA Times but on July 30, 2004, Iraq Funds Are Focus of 27 Criminal Inquiries, highlighted hundreds of millions of dollars more of our tax dollars - some $600 million - frittered away. Hey but when you're running a government with hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars of our childrens' and grandchildrens' tax dollars, who's counting?

A May 9, 2005 article in the Washington Post, written by Griff Witte, Ability to Track Costs in Iraq May Be Difficult, Report Says, reminds us that all of this Bush "friends and family" expertise and no-bid contracting is just darned expensive. The article outlines some important information that, gee wiz, I hope someone in Congress cares about.


RED INK....IS IT SOMETHING LIKE RED ICE?

Oh you'd like to know like what? Well the one that we've heard ad nauseum, that as of April 2005 only about 25 percent of the $18.4 Billion allocated by Congress for reconstruction in 2003 had been spent. Or that many projects were on track to cost 50-85 percent more than budgeted? Don't ya just love all that red ink? We must. As us folks with accounting and CFO experience know all too well, them thar CEO's - those would be the dudes that are runnin' our government (into the ground?) - loves to spend them dollars, even if they don't have them, and often they don't much care how they're spent. Lots of 'em spends their (our) dough on season tickets to the NHL. Hmmm....to see the red ice you think? Probably keeps the Harvard and Yale MBA crowd in their comfort zone.

But really! Who IS counting? So far we are just talking pocket change, friends. David R. Francis, in a commentary titled More costly than 'the war to end all wars', in the Christian Science Monitor on August 29, 2005, notes that Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, estimates that the Bush/Iraq War could cost us a bit more staggering $1.4 TRILLION. Now we're talkin' friends! I can get excited about TRILLIONS, can't you?

A great deal of work went into Bilmes' projections. Apparently a whole lot more than went into planning for post-war Iraq. It's not just "B&B" - bombs and bodies. But you and I know that this is all way too big and complicated for the Bush Adminstration to figure all out, tarnayshun! Better to forget about the dollars - it's only money (albeit yours and mine and the kids and unborn fetuses, etc.) - and focus on what we are really accomplishing "over there." DEMOCRACY! LET FREEDOM RING! - except if it results in democracy as seen by Islamic eyes and experiences, and even if it's at the end of an M16 barrel.





BUSH'S NEW & IMPROVED POST-RITA/KATRINA ENERGY POLICY

“We understand there’s been a disruption in supply. We’re doing everything we can to help with the supply disruption.”

Wisdom from our beloved Fuehrer on a sunny Monday morning, September 26, 2005. NOW THAT ONE IS PURE PRICELESS BUSH! Is there something “subliminiminimal” in that statement? Hmmm? No one could have made that one up! Yes, I'll bet he’s helping with the supply disruption, alright. No of course not, he isn’t the cause for the devastating hurricanes; even Bush isn’t quite that powerful or blustery. But he and his energy policymakers - or shall we say 'friends and family' - have surely enjoyed watching these past four years and eight months while we the U.S. has become increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources.

I suppose Karl Rove doesn’t much care what lack of wisdom arises from his President’s lips now that Dubya can no longer run for elected office. Rove is probably looking down the pipeline at his choice for puppet to run for president in 2008; either that or a very lucrative book and movie deal. But have they both thrown in the towel on yet another Republican win in the 2006 Congressional elections? If, in fact, Dubya has returned to the ways of his youth - when he didn't have his finger a heartbeat away from a nuclear trigger - and found comfort in his friend Jim Beam, well ya hoo! Them Dems, them totally honest and forthright, vote their consciences for war and Supreme Court justices, Dems, well they may have a good shot at recapturing the federal government.

But back to energy policy. Recall that Bush's previous energy policy was an invasion of Iraq? This morning, Der Fuehrer announced his brilliant new and improved energy policy.

“We can all pitch in by being better conservers of energy,” he began. Here we go, the old “don’t buy gas you don’t need” speech. He wasn’t quite finished, though. Bush briefly outlined the merits, of all things, of carpooling and mass transit. Quite stunning in his insight, he stated, “We need additional refining capacity” for oil and gas. Oh and lest I forget, “nukuler” power!

Of course all of this chatter was not the result of months or years of deep intellectual consideration by the brightest minds in America. Nor, I might add, was it likely the result of tireless cigar-smokery by his 'friends and family.' Nope. It was merely the result of his need to salve our little worries in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which took a large number of Bush & Company’s oil and gas operations offline.

Shall we take a brief look at "energy policy" over the past decade or so?

The following data have been culled from our very own Energy Information Administration.

1992 - imported crude oil and related supplies accounted for 40.9 percent of total U.S. supplies.

1996 - imported crude oil and related supplies accounted for 46.4 percent of total U.S. supplies.

2000 - imported crude oil and related supplies accounted for 52.9 percent of total U.S. supplies.

2004 - imported crude oil and related supplies accounted for 58.4 percent of total U.S. supplies.

2006 - imported crude oil and related supplies accounted for 57.3 percent of total U.S. supplies.


By far the largest driver of U.S. oil demand has been good ole' "wheels on the ground" transportation. Over the 14-year period, gasoline consumption has increased 26 percent. We often point fingers towards Washington and Detroit for lax fuel economy standards - while we rush to buy the biggest and thirstiest SUVs mind you. But take a look at this: the winner in oil demand growth is NOT gasoline but transportation diesel - demand up 47.8 percent over the same period. Certainly this isn't a function of Americans filling their garages with smoke-spewing, bird-choking diesel Volkswagens. It's a function of economic growth and commercial activity.

Take ground transportation out of the mix, and over a 14-year span, oil demand has increased a very modest 13 percent. This includes jet fuel, by the way. The airline industry has been far more diligent in pressing for higher fuel economy than us motorists, or even American industry that relies on trucks to move the goods for that matter.

If we had the will to insist upon higher fuel economy standards over that period, our oil demand could be as much as 9 percent lower than it is today. That's a big number! And oil imports could be as little as 53 percent, not 57 percent. Granted, if you're not an economist or securites analyst, these numbers may not seem like much. But consider this. That's as much as $42 Billion a year at $60/barrel oil. And we all know that gasoline and diesel fuel actually cost more than just the $60 for the crude stock. So add in other refining and transportation expenses, taxes, and profits, and yer talkin' serious bucks folks. $100 Billion perhaps? Why that could pay for 20 months of killing in Iraq...or reconstruction along the Gulf...or important steps towards universal healthcare coverage...or...or...lower interest rates? Reduced need for Middle East oil? No need for Iraq oil?

Now I'd say THAT'S the beginning of a real energy policy, wouldn't you? Toss in the carpooling and mass transit, well that's just a dusting of sugar on the cake.

"Nukular" power? We can't even safely dispose of the waste from our existing plants. Nor have we shown that we are safely guarding existing facilities from potential terrorism. And, sorry, we can build all the "nukular" power plants we want (assuming anyone wants one in their backyard). None of their power will power your automobile or SUV. So it's clearly a red herring anyway, isn't it?

But we all know that the focus of a new Manhattan Project must be conversion to new forms of energy that are suitable for transportation, in particular. Hydrogen fuel cells, preferably NOT based on hydrocarbon fuel sources (but if they get us substantial improvements in fuel efficiency...), biofuels (including vegetable oils), and I won't cease banging the drum for sound development of shale oil reserves in my own western part of the country. With 1.5 - 1.8 Trillion equivalent barrels of oil in that rock, and with advancements in current technologies, we are staring at about 200 years of possible oil reserves at current demand levels. In just Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Certainly we need to be sensitive to Mother Earth in developing this resource.

As the old saw goes, "where there's a will, there's a way."











Sunday, September 25, 2005

WEEKEND RECHARGE

It's the weekend, Time to recharge and explore. Time to review the world around us, to spend time with families and friends. Time to release the week's tensions and troubles.

Time to consider what needs attention in the days to come.

I'll return on Monday. Vakil