Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Danger of long deployments

Via Tristero a Reuters story concerning the high levels of post-traumatic stress being seen in infantry units that returned from Iraq and Afganistan in 2003. The New England Journal of Medicine is reporting that roughly 20% of combat infantrymen who served in Iraq in 2003 (this is an assumption on my part here) are suffering from PTSD.

One of the key determinants that the Walter Reed Hospital doctors found was the number of firefights that an individual was in during their deployment. The threshold seemed to be approximately five firefights. This is a bad sign for future PTSD cases as I expect to see a higher case load for two reasons.

We have seen that the United States has had more "significant acts" of resistance against the US military in the past three months. This just means more firefights and a higher probability that an one individual is involved in more than five fire fights. Secondly, the US has extended the tours of duties for the 1st Armored Division and the 2cd ACR. So there most likely were soldiers in these units who at 12 months into their deployments had seen two or three firefights, and now between the increase in time and increase in violence, have passed the threshold of five.

Now what does this mean? I really don't know how much more we will be spending on mental health care for veterens but it will be above whatever the current baseline is. I also don't know how many veterens will ask to be discharged because of their suffering and agony. I also don't know how many veterens will have to deal with this agony for their entire life. I don't know the quantitative effects, but I know that they are out there.

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Hoeffl getting hit in the nads

The Pennsylvania Senate race is from the Democrats' perspective the top race of the second tier pick-up opportunities; it is not an Illinois or an Alaska. There has been a reasonable chance of a pickup if the party maintains unity, runs a strong candidate who does not make too many if any mistakes and sees Specter spend a lot of political capital repairing the bridges buckled if not burned during a bruising primary campaign. Well if I need to handicap the chances of a Democratic pick-up, the odds just got signficantly longer this afternoon.

Former Congressman Klink (D=PA) has announced that he will be leading a "Democrats for Specter" committee. Klink is a conservative Democrat from the western part of the state. His former district has elected Melissa Hart (R-PA) for the past two cycles, and she is pretty conservative. Klink represents a large enough chunk of the state Democratic Party to give Specter some breathing room despite his low re-elect numbers. This race just got to be a lot tougher.

Globalization

Stories like the following one that Peter Goodman of the Washington Post writes and blogged by Ragout are why I support globalization. Large increases in third world urban wealth create economic growth and new jobs for the extremely poor in the rural hinterlands. The cities will be far ahead economically of the countryside, but there will be significant long term improvements in the rural standard of living also.

Here's another fascinating story about how a $50 generator has revolutionized life in a poor village.

Two hours' walk farther upriver, in the village of Shuizhuang, the age of hauling buckets lingers. Electricity did not arrive here until last December. The five families of the village pitched in about $10 each to buy the tiny generator. They limit its operation to minimize wear and tear: Electricity is strictly an 8 p.m.-to-midnight affair.

Still, the changes have been significant. Once, villagers devoted about three days of every month to climbing up into the mountains and harvesting pine branches they used as torches.


This village is now wealthy enough to go and get a two fold productivity enhancer. First they have better light to work, relax and enjoy at night. It is more consistent, less flickering, and has a lower risk of burning down the house than their previous method of night time illumination. This is not that bad of an improvement in their standard of living. Next they are able to achieve a 10% increase in labor inputs to other tasks now because their torch collecting activities are no longer needed. I am not an agricultural expert, but this probably means some combination of more food produced, better maitenance of the existing capital stock, slightly more specialization of labor, slightly increased educational opportunities, and some increase in other forms of capital.

This village's story has been played out tens of thousands of times throughout India and China. The standard of living for the rural poor has increased due to the dispersion of technology throughout the world. This is what we need to continue to encourage.

Employment

The Fester unemployment index fell this morning to the lowest level in three weeks. Strong growth in the food service industries is replacing moderate growth in the kids with arts and crafts industry. However, partisan sniping democrats are alleging that the quality of jobs created this week are significantly below the baseline jobs in the professional services industries. The Republican Party says "shut up and be happy that you have a job lucky ducky."

Good Attitude

Steve Gilliard once again distinguishes himself and proves why I like reading his work so much with the following quote.

Now, normally, the only Yankee fan pictures I'd like to see are the one where they cry in defeat to either the Red Sox in the AL Championship or the Mets in the World Series.


He should be a Red Sox fan because we are the truest of anti-fans once our hopes have been dashed and bungled in September. We know how to cheer strategically with a singular goal of seeing the Yankees lose to anyone including the Pirates, White Sox and Expos. I don't care if those teams win another game the entire year, I just want them to beat the Yankees on general principle.

And oh yeah, Steve has another insight:

even though they root for the wrong team, they aquitted themselves well. I think Michael Moore is going to be a very rich man at the end of this summer.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

False Frames

Morat over at Skeptical Notion is onto something pretty important on the political implications of the early transfer of sovereignity to Iraq, or at least the semblence thereof. The Bush administration has been making the transferrence of sovereignity as an important milestone and inflection point of US policy to Iraq. This sale has primarily been aimed at the American public, and more importantly at the undecided voters who are iffy on the economy and negative on the war in Iraq. Bush and Rove are hoping that the US news networks will drop Iraq liked they dropped Afganistan as soon as there was someone else nominally responsible.

However Morat points out that the difference here is that there is nothing else to distract American public opinion; there are no other wars to be waged both because public opinion will not allow that to happen and that the military is fundamentally tapped out right now and is having trouble meeting committments in Haiti, much less interevene in Sudan to prevent genocide and anarachy. There is no booming economy, or least one that all can experience. There is nothing to distract the American people from the fact that there are 140,000 US troops in Iraq with the inactive reserves being mobilized, tours extended, National Guard units being called up for eighteen month mobilizations and more American soldiers and Marines dying.

This observation by Morat is similiar to one I made concerning the capture of Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration, to use the words of Matt Stoller are forcing "an artificial narrative conclusion on a situation that is far from over. As such, Americans expect troops home, and will be angry when their expectations are not met." I agree with Morat that the American people will be confused when they see the next large rotation of American soldiers leaving for another tour of duty, and this prompts me to be curious as to why Bush and Rove have decided to at first make such a big deal about an arbitary date and then secondly hurry up and fundamentally push any positive PR aside.

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British Troops cuts

There is some informed speculation that the Blair government will be announcing signficant troop and equipment cuts for the British military in the next couple of months in order to effectively pay for operations in Iraq. Four infantry battalions, six escort ships and forty strike fighters are the speculated cuts; this is 10% of the infantry, 20% of the escorts and 10% of the tactical airforce. Blair supporters are arguing that these changes are being made in order to create a more expeditionary force; I can buy that on four of the six warships, but not on the airsupport or the reduction of light and medium infantry battalions.

I am just mentioning this report because it seems that the British Defence Ministry is a good predictor of what the Pentagon will be saying in the next three to six months. This was first seen by their ready admittance that there was an insurgency and security problem in Iraq during the summer of 2003, and then followed up by the revelation that the British are stratigically immobile until 2007, and now the basic fact that the Brits are running out of money to pay for everything. The Pentagon is already facing resistance from Bush and the Republican party for their spending needs and desires. It will only get worse no matter who is in office next year.

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Space elevators

Now this is cool, or at least it is cool for me, a self professed nerd with a lifelong fascination with space and bad science fiction ideas. Scientists are projecting that given roughly ten billion dollars in funding, that they could create a working space elevator that can move thirteen tons from sea level to orbit by 2020. This is a pretty interesting idea that has been batted around for at least a century and is key to many good novels that I enjoyed as a teenager. If the marginal costs of operation are pretty low ($100 a pound verus $20,000 per pound by Shuttle the high initial capital costs will bring significant savings very quickly for manned missions into space because at that point space ships can become true space ships in that they never need to enter the atmosphere but can dock or orbit near the space elevator. The opcon would be to for the ship to grab crew, supplies and fuel, go out and service the satellite and then come back, with the crew descending on the elevator. This would be a crucial step in colonizing the solar system, which is something that I want to see by the time my grandkids are my current age.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Ramadi

I am being lazy right now because I do not want to register for comments over at Needlenose. On June 21, 2004, four US Marines were killed in a swift ambush and their equipment was plundered in the town of Ramadi. Ramadi is on the Euphrates River, upriver from Fallujah and it has been the seen of some intense fighting in the past year including a series of ambushes that killed twelve US Marines in early April. It is not a friendly town.

On the same day (6/21/04) a US Marine was captured and is now threatened with execution.
Now what happened here?

Swopa at Needlenose is wondering what is happening there. One of Swopa's readers offers an interesting theory that the captured Marine may have been captured instead of killed because he was a Muslim. Interesting, although I am not sure if this theory holds that much water because the insurgents in Iraq of almost all ideological and theological persuasions have shown no previous compunction against killing fellow Muslims. Some will take significant efforts to avoid intentionally killing civilians, while others will not, so I think that this is a weak(ish) theory.

Now Yankee Doodle Dandy from Daily War News has some experience in these matters and his educated opinion is the following.

Having had some experience in this field, I also suspect this patrol was actually a Marine intelligence operation that went very, very wrong. Soldiers with a native language ability are almost always seconded to intelligence or civil affairs duties. A five-man patrol in a hostile area like Ramadi makes little tactical sense – assuming the insurgents hold no other captives.


Now this makes some sense if we are to assume that the reports of increasing tactical and strategic sophistication are true. If this assumption holds, then the insurgents probably figured that they could grab a prisoner to interogate for intelligence. This is an assumption come out of my ass, but to me it sounds like a reasonable add-on analysis to what Yankee Doodle is reporting.

UPDATE The New York Times is reporting that the Marine who has been captured went AWOL, so that invalidates the entire last paragraph of my analysis. (6/30/04)

fester

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What changes

So the United States decided to transfer "sovereignity" to Iraq two days early. What difference will this make? Not much, for it is telling that they decided to do the transfer, in secret and at the Green Zone because they were and are still extremely concerned about security. Without security there is nothing, and the only organized forces in the country that can provide a limited degree of localized security is either the international military forces that no one in the country wants around, or the political militias. So why will things change? They won't even if martial law or emergency rule is proclaimed because the facts on the ground are limited and unfavorable.

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Respecting the Greens

The Green Party has nominated a long time party member for President. I don't know who he is, and I expect him to be competing with the Natural Law and Constitution Party candidates for fourth place. That is cool with me, and I have to respect the Greens for backing someone who they actually agree with instead of Nader who is less Green and more ego. This also means that I need to go to the theater where I saw Fahrenheit 911 yesterday and sign the ballot access petition for the Green Party. I told the guy that I would sign if and only if Nader had no possibility of using the Green Party line here in Pennsylvania. I don't care if a Green is elected county auditor of somewhere; hell it is good for the state for races to be contested, so I'll sign for their right to offer a candidate, but they'll never get my vote.

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Friday, June 25, 2004

This Puzzles me too

I was reading Tacitus this morning and he has a relatively "old" post up about the Bush re-election campaign. In it he says that the real re-elect number is whether or not people trust Bush more than Kerry on what Bush has defined as the central theme of his presidency; the war. Well right now, people trust Kerry more than Bush. And I agree completely with Tacitus when he says the following:

which is why the refusal to win that war is so puzzling to the likes of me.


I strongly disagree with Tacitus that this was a war that needed to be fought. I also strongly disagree that Kerry's proclamation that he is not a wild eyed ideologue with strong missionary impulses who does not do nuance is turning the American people off of his foreign policy. Howeer, I can not understand in this case, and in the case of an economic stimulas package that would have actually worked, why the Bush administration has chosen to be so incompetent in execution when competence works in their own best self-interest of being re-elected which would allow, from my point of view, an even greater screwing over of my generation and the bottom 90% of the country. Why is Bushco incompetent in achieving their stated policy objectives even when it should benefit them to be competent?

Update: Via Dan Drezner an example that shows the Bush Administration can be competent when it allows the experts the space needed to do their job. Therefore, it is not a congenital incompetence, but something else.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Underwhelmed

I am completely underwhelmed by the NBA Draft. The Celtics selected at least two reaches and one long term project. I know none of these names. The best player in college basketball slid behind a high school senior.

When do the Patriots report to training camp?

More troops to Iraq?

MSNBC is reporting that the Pentagon is considering increasing troop levels in Iraq by another twenty five thousand soldiers in the next month if the country does not experience a monsoon of rose petals greeting their liberators. So where are these troops going to come from? Good question, and I am going to shamelessly speculate right now. Remember, I have no inside information or insight here, just public resources and my propensity to stick my neck out, so take this analysis for what it is worth.

The first option and the easiest logistically is to further extend the two brigades of the 1st Armored Division, the 2cd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the Marine battalions that are rotating on a shorter term than the Army. These troops are already in place, they know the terrain and they are acclimated to the region. At the same time, the US could accelerate the deployment of the intended replacements (2 Marine Battalions, 2cd Brigade, 2cd Infantry Division, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment w/2 squadrons, and the 1/509th Parachute Infantry Regiment). This would be an increase in troop strength of 15,000 men that could be ready to go by August 1, 2004. The biggest downside to this rotation plan is that morale is sure to crater in the 1st Armored Division and the 2cd ACR becuase they will have been in theatre for at least eighteen months by the time that they eventually deploy back home. However, this might have a perversely positive effect for the rest of the Army's re-enlistment picture as more soldiers who are coming to the end of their enlistment will have the following mental conversation: "Due to stop loss I'm in the Army until I'm dead, wounded too severely or peace breaks out . The army is offering bonuses for a 3 year re-enlistment... I'm going to be in the army for another 3 years no matter what papers I do or do not sign... my kids need braces, so I'll sign and take their money."

The second option is one that is discussed in the Baltimore Sun and that is to speed up the deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division while allowing the 1st Armored and the 2cd ACR to come home in August or September. The biggest delay is the time needed to ship heavy equipment from Pearl Harbor and Savannah, Georgia to Kuwait City. The 3rd Infantry and 1st Brigade/25th Infantry would not replace any of the OIF-2 forces but would act as supplements to these units. The OIF-2 forces would see their tours extended and replacement by as of yet non-mobilized National Guard units in January-March 2005.

The third option is a twist on the second option, but it would be quicker in adding two or three additional brigades. However this option is a much more complicated and risky. Units with similiar equipment to the 1st Armored Division and the 2cd ACR may do a "hot-swap" where lets say a mech infantry battalion from the 3rd Infantry Division flies into Kuwait, rendezvous with a mech infantry battalion from the 1st Armored. The new battalion takes all the returning to home battalion's equipment, does a weeks worth of maitenance and familiarization training and then deploys to Najaf. This plan would get the extended stay units out of theatre relatively quickly, however it is logistically difficult as the incoming units are deploying with damaged and tired equipment that they have not trained on. This is a move of desperation.

The final option for finding more troops is to send the single airborne brigade from the 82cd Airborne Division that is rested back to Iraq, send the 172cd Airborne Brigade from Italy into Iraq and send several partially trained National Guard brigades to Iraq.

The US military is out of boots. That means we need an exit strategy. I don't know what one is. I have some ideas, but nothing that can be implemented in the current political climate. What about you?

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Iraq Brain Drain

A couple of days ago I was pointed to this post by RiverBend which discusses the new transitional government in Iraq and a wide variety of other things. The other things interested me; specifically this passage concerning a university professor:
My mother's cousin is renting out his house, selling his car and heading out to Amman with his three kids where, he hopes, he will be able to find work. He is a university professor who has had enough of the current situation. He claims that he's tired of worrying about his family and the varying political and security crises every minute of the day. It's a common story these days. It feels like anyone who can, is trying to find a way out before June 30.


Over at a D-Kos diary comment I wrote about my basic fears concerning a brain drain in Iraq. Iraq had one of the most educated populations in the world, and most likely the second best educated workforce, behind the Palestinians, in the Arab community. Iraq faces the curse of institutionally poor but resource rich countries in that the primary means of income can be controlled by force and that the real value is rent which tends to accrue to a small minority of individuals/parties. The only economic solution to avoiding this trend is to diversify the economy of Iraq. The best way of adding value to an economy is to let the nerds and the geeks and the innovators tinker in an environment that allows them to do so reasonably safely. Safety is defined as basic physical security of course, but also a legal framework that allows for the collection of rewards for innovations. Well if this is an anctedote can be generalized, the nerds and the high human capital individuals are leaving the country.

The situation does not look better for Iraqi college graduates according to this report by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Unemployment is still extremely high and the few jobs that are available for the 70,000 graduates are government jobs that pay poorly. This could lead to future problems as I wrote yesterday at D-Kos:

oor, pissed off and underemployed males, especially those with some education, are likely to be effective at fighting back at what they perceive to be the cause of their problems... see 15 Saudi males who ran themselves into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9-11-01. If there is a significant brain drain out of Iraq, we will have created the root conditions for another generational cadre of potential terrorists


These college graduates are in a world where there is no security, no real economic hope, gathering schisms of loyalty and a government that wants to impose emergency powers or martial law on signficant portions of the population enforced by either an inept Iraqi national army, or more likely, the private militias of the major political powers. Yeah, this is an environment where students and recent graduates can become quickly radicalized....which is not a good thing for either current US interests or future US interests.... so how do we stop the brain drain and employ the young educated Iraqis? I don't know.

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Interesting Polling Data

I am looking at the Washington Post/ABC News Kerry-Bush poll, and it is a doozy. The headline numbers both in the two way and three way races are damm good for Kerry and support the notion that the Harris Poll's Reagan Bounce was either an outlier or an extraordinarily short bounce. The internals are even better; Bush and Rove failed to paint Kerry as less trustworthy.

However the interesting thing that I think that we will need to keep in mind is the geographic breakdown of support. The Post has a convienent demo breakdown available for both the two and three way race. Here is the three way race:

East Midwest South West All
Bush 30% 42% 53% 42% 44%
Kerry 58% 47% 42% 51% 48%
Nader 10% 9% 4% 5% 6% (other/don't know/not voting excluded)

Each candidate has strength in one area, with Kerry possessing a commanding lead in the north East, and Bush having a double digit lead in the South. However that is the interesting thing, Bush has no other real strenth in the nation. The worst Kerry region's support is equal to the second best Bush regional percentage. If we remove the best score, Bush averages a 38% across the country, while doing the same for Kerry results in a 46.6% across the country. Bush will roll up large majorities in Texas and South Carolina and Mississippi, but he is weak everywhere that is competitive. We must remember that looking at the horse race numbers that the opinions of people in California and Texas are not marginal deciders. It is the opinions of people in the Midwest and non-California west which will decide this election, and Kerry has strength there.

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On not creating a future cadre

Right now I am unemployed. I have been running around with my head cut off the past two weeks getting some job applications out there for running around money and it looks like something may be coming in soon. That job won't be a great job, it will be a temp position, but it should pay the rent and the student loans. I won't be thrilled about it, but it is sufficient as I look for a permenent position.

However, it was not my first choice. I had figured that I am politically active, partisan, living in a swing state, reasonably intelligent and had a significant amount of free time available, that I would have liked to have worked on a political campaign. I have applied for several campaign internships and development programs. I heard back from one this morning and I was disgusted.

Now don't get me wrong. The person that I spoke with sounded knowledgable, professional and empathetic. The training sounded great. The work sounded great-- the placements would be in swing districts and I would be matched with an experienced mentor. The work would be ninety and hundred hour weeks for the next five months. All of this sounds great. And then we started talking financials. This is where I became disgusted. For working roughly a man year, I would be in line to receive a $2,000 stipend before taxes, or $100 a week for food. I would be required to pay for my own relocation and my own vehicle (which I do not own) and I would have no healthcare coverage. Basically I would be losing money in order to work a 100 hour week. I'm sorry, I can not afford to work for free, and at this point, I politely excused myself from further consideration.

This is a case of the Democratic Party and allied groups being pennywise and pound foolish. The Democratic Party is the party that has an core committment to ensuring the equality of opportunity for all individuals. It is the party that concerns itself with the lower and middle classes. It is a party whose young voters are less likely to have trust funds available for their self-exploration. It is a party that is shooting itself in the foot because it expects the next generation of county campaign committee members to starve in order to learn. I am not asking for a lot here, just that the party uses some common sense and realize that the only young people who can afford to work for five months at a net loss once business expenses and food has been deducted from their paycheck are individuals who can reliably count on their parents to fund them. And those parents tend not to be reliably Democratic voters... so why should their offspring be the lifeline of the future?

River City Idea

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has an interesting article from yesterday that examines the potential consolidation and merging of thirty nine Allegheny County municipalities that lie in the Mon Valley. This new municipal government would be called River City and have responsibility for roughly 250,000 people.

I like this idea, but I think that it is extremely impracticable because none of the Mon Valley communities are in great fiscal shape; there are only differing degrees of respectable to horrendous fiscal solvency. Some, like Monroeville and Edgewood are in pretty good shape, whileMcKeesport are solvent while others such as Homestead are and have been functionally bankrupt for the past decade or more. There is definately a mishmash of services and a high level of duplication on the administrative side of the budget among these thirty nine cities, towns, boroughs and townships. Coordinated planning and a large professional development staff would bring gains to the region. I know for a fact that a signficant factor that leads to Pittsburgh receiving almost twice as much Community Development Block Grants per capita is that there is a small corps of professional grant writers at the URA and the County Department of Economic Development who have cultivated long standing relationships with state DCED and the federal government. They know what they need to write and what boxes they need to check off in order to get money. I know for a fact that the Mon Valley communities as a whole do not have this consolidated expertise. There is some expertise at the County Department of Economic Development and at the Mon Valley Iniative and at the individual municipalities, but it is not common and it is concentrated in only a few areas.

However good this idea is from a fiscal perspective, we still have strong local affiliations and ties. As the article quotes Dean Bradley, Dravosburg Council President "It sounds like something out of Russia. That's not going to fly here. It will never happen." The smaller muncipalities of which Allegheny County has dozens, fear that they will be swamped in influence by the communities that have more than 20,000 residents. They will be because that is where the votes are.

Finally, the largest problem that I have with this consolidation is that it is not the right size. It would be either too large or too small. It is too large because there is not enough of commonality of interests in all of the communities involved to go together. Comparatively well-off Monroeville and Edgewood do not want to be subsidizing Homestead or Rankin. Additionally the problems in Monroeville are signficantly different than the land use problems in Homestead (Monroeville has too many people wanting to use the land, Homestead has too many abandoned buildings). It is too small because one of the core tenets of Orsfield's theory of metropolitanism government is to draw the richer outer suburbs into a general tax base for the central city. The rich suburbs in Allegheny County are further west and north of the proposed River City. If you believe that a merger can save everything (I believe a merger can help, but it is not the sole solution) then you need to get the communities where there is signifant wealth involved. River City does not do that.

Instead, my policy recommendation would be to continue working on bilateral and trilateral mergers and cooperation agreements. The agreement between Munhall, Homestead and West Homestead concerning the Waterfront development could be an effective model. Allow for creative and collaborative zoning while discouraging beggar they neighbor bidding games and we may actually see an improvement in reality instead of the theoretical River City proposals. I like the idea, but it just is not practical at this time.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Interesting for creative class theory

Via Dan Drezner a link to a Institute for International Economics (large PDF policy briefing by Marcus Noland and Howard Pack has some interesting evidence for the creative class theory of economic development that has been put forth most explicitly by Richard Florida...

The IIE brief examines the economic problems in the Middle East in general and it came up with three reasons for economic weakness. Two are traditional economic reasons; an unwillingness to close inefficient factories and traditional nationalism/cultural conservatism that restricts the free exchange of goods. Nothing too exciting or interesting here. However the third reason is a relatively high intolerance of homosexuality. IIE, as Florida also does, is not saying that gays are more productive workers or anything like that. Instaed they are making a more subtle argument that tolerance of strangess within a society as represented by the proxy of tolerance of homosexuality, is a good measure of a society's ability to innovate and to experiment with different ideas that will later produce economic growth.

so what is the policy solution? Do we send the Pittsburgh Rennaiscance Choir to Mecca? Hell no, that would just piss people off and probably encourage a lot of shooting. But the United States can support Arab gay rights groups, and encourage our allies to not crack down on gay rights and "otherness" within their own societies. It is a long slow process to deal with root causes, but it is a path forward.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Coalition of "Later"

Well Japan has announced that they consider their peacekeeping mission to be completed by July 1, 2004. Therefore they may withdraw their contigent of 500 non-combatant soldiers in the next month. However PM Koizumi will try to take the upper house elections as a mandate for a continued deployment.

Thailand will be pulling its battalion out of Iraq this September. (Thanks to Daily War News.

Bulgaria is assuming that it will be pulling its light infantry battalion from the Polish led division by Christmas.

The only good news on troop deployment is that the British are sending an extra infantry company in the current rotation of forces. The Royal Marines use four companies in a battalion rather than the three company battalions that the British Army has as its standard of organization. However when the good news is about an extra company when the real question is how does the United States find extra divisions (~40 combat companies) or corps, then it really is not that good of news.

UPDATE South Korea has agreed to send in their promised two battalions of infantry. The first deployment will occur in August while the main force will arrive in September.

Japan will be maintaining their troop levels as part of the UN multinational force. Koizumu claims that these forces will be non-combatant, but that is a load of BS because their base is in the Shi'ite south where there is an uptick in base mortarting, IED attacks and all the other fun that the US has had to deal with in the central part of the country. It is not a safe zone.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Army Chief of Staff okay with Troop levels

The LA Times is reporting that General Shoemaker, the highest ranking Army officer on active duty, is satisfied with the total number of soldiers that the Army has on active duty. This is interesting because he is making claims that the army has a deployment plan that will keep an individual soldier deployed no more than one year in three, but the math does not work out. Already the 3rd Infantry Division has orders to deploy to Iraq for the third rotation of forces into the theatre. Their deployment date is mid-to late fall. Many soldiers from this division will have already fought their way to Baghdad when they are again deployed. The numbers don't add up unless OIF-3 is completely a National Guard rotation, but that is unlikely because we are not seeing enough units called up for training at this time to fill out the order of battle.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Conflicted

Colorado may have an initative on the Nov. 2 ballot that would allocate the state's electoral votes proportionally. I am not sure of the exact formula but the most likely distribution is five or six electoral votes for Bush, and three or four electoral votes for Kerry; or roughly the net pick-up of Kerry winning New Hampshire this year (which I think is very likely). I like the proposal but I am conflicted.

I like the proposal for the same reasons that Kos does; it would both be a strong incentive for candidates to pay attention to non-swing states because there would be value in them, and it would also suck up some serious Bush/Cheney time and money. However, this old "fairness" good governance wonk in me has a nagging little voice in the back of my head that says "Shouldn't the rules be consistent throughout the game, so if there is a change, make it for 2008, and not now... as the FEC did in their decision to put off ruling on 527s and 501(c) political groups"

Monday, June 14, 2004

Military Recruiting

Phil Carter at the Intel Dump has a good analysis of a new New York Times article that shows the difficulties of recruiting that the Army and more specifically the National Guard are facing. As one recruiter said, the US Army has never been an all-volunteer force in wartime, so there is no direct experience in recruiting during active combat. Volunteers filled the majority of authorized personal slots during the Vietnam era, however some percentage of these volunteers joined the military in order to dodge the draft and decrease the odds of being ordered into the infantry. Operation Desert Storm was too short a war for recruiting to be a problem. The last division sized unit was out of the theatre within a year of the first division sized deployment. That is not the case with the current war in Iraq.

Modern Viking in his D-Kos diary, links to this Rockey Mountain News story about re-enlistment rates for units that have returned from Iraq. All units except for the 3rd Infantry Division are signficantly beneath their quotas. The 3rd Infantry Division has authorized cash bonuses up to $10,000 for a three year re-enlistment. The 2cd Cavalry Regiment (Light) has been authorized to make the same payments.

I hate being right on this matter, but if trends continue as they seem to be, the United States Army will be a compartively hollow force by the end of 2006 as its training units will not be able to train because they are patrolling Baghdad, the senior institutional memory of mid career NCOs are leaving, and the National Guard is emptying out as deployed units hollow out as veterens retire and few active duty retirees enlist in the Guard.

So why are Republicans good for national security again?

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Agreed

I agree completely with Jesse at Pandagon that the United States needs to charge Hussein with something in the next two weeks in order to uphold the slight chance that we as a nation still believe that we are a nation of laws.

Jesse says "but we don't throw the law to the side because someone's really, really bad. It's that law, that system of rules and regulations, that makes us justified and right in prosecuting and punishing those people who do evil things."

This administration has squandered the vast majority of the international goodwill which flowed to the United States on September 11th. It has been callous in its treatment of detainees, contempous of international law regarding the treatment of prisoners, and openly mocking of the United Nations except when the United States needs to be bailed out. Acting as this country would have acted just four years ago is not a large step, but it is a step in putting the shovel down in order to stop digging the hole that Bush has created for us. Do the right thing. And guess what this time, the right thing is fricking easy, so just do it for expedience.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Cleaning up

Unfortunately, Hesoid at Counterspin is closing up shop. This prompted me to clean up my blogroll and remove some blogs that I either do not read on anything approaching a monthly basis or have not seen a recent update.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Quick Thoughts

May Reagan rest in peace. I was too young to care about the "optimism" that seems to be Reagan's great legacy to the American political psyche. All I know is that I will be paying off the debt that was run up under his policy regime for the rest of my life. But fading away into the ether of memory loss and Alchzeimer's is not a pleasent way to die. May he rest in peace.

I wonder what the Wellstone memorial bashers will be saying on Friday afternoon.... cheap hypocrisy is my guess.

I am completely outraged at the torture justification legal memo (Caution, large PDF) becuase I believe that the language used in this memo is language appropriate for a state where "l'etet c'est moi" is an operational phrase instead of a quaint anarcharism.

Do I expect anything dramatic to happen from this revelation? No, as the press will soon go into "he said, she said" mode which will allow for confusion to be injected into the "debate" over whether or not a president has the right to decide what laws he wants to follow. All I expect is a little more "drip, drip...."

More later as I get my thoughts recollected.

Looking for work

Well, I am looking for work again as a grant that my previous employer was expecting is not coming through. So if anyone in Pittsburgh is looking for a young, highly motivated individual who has very strong quantitative analytical skills and an ability to translate Math to English, please e-mail me so that I may send you my resume.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Been Busy

Sorry for the paucity of posts right now. I have been busy with work, and I have a new hobby right now, getting back into shape. There is a pretty good gym a couple of blocks from my house, and my goal is to get back down to the body composition I had when I was living in Paris. The weight is only about five pounds, but it was a whole lot more muscle back then. So I have been spending a good chunk of time at the gym and then walking. Right now I really do not have any good ideas (905 posts into this blogging thing) so I am planning on light to non-existent blogging for a week or two in order to refresh and rethink. If I write anything interesting it will be over at the Swing State Project or in the diaries at Daily Kos.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Dumb Question

Can anyone tell me how to get off of the shared liberal/progressive mailing lists. I want to support all of the causes that are sending me (expensive) direct mail pieces but right now even with two incomes, I have pretty much spent my political budget for the year. The best that I can do is to try and save the organizations that I like the $.37 it takes to contact me in order to beg for money. Any idea how?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Meaningless of June 30th

There are some who are still convinced that a "successful" handover on June 30th will turn President Bush's electoral chances around. They are dreaming for June 30th will neither be successful nor a handover. As it is right now, the Bush administration is willing to do anything to put a non-Bremer face on the occupation and they are willing to be knowingly rolled to do so. However this will not matter as the United States nor the hastily and poorly trained Iraqi security forces that are at least nominally allied to the United States can provide effective security. There have been at least three car bomb attacks near the Green Zone in the past twenty days. These attacks have been aimed at the heart of American power in the country and they have been successful. Until security can be provided, there is no chance of a handover being more than a political token.

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