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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reminder: what disarmament looks like

North Korea just agreed to return to the six party talks and President Bush said he was pleased about this diplomatic development.

Just in case these talks lead to any kind of success, let us not forget what the Bush administration has previously said about dictators and their weapons of mass destruction. Please keep in mind, North Korea is now a nuclear-armed state.

In January 2003, the administrationp produced a document called "What Does Disarmament Look Like?"

Referencing past successes (South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan), the White House (and Condi Rice) said:
The world knows what successful cooperative disarmament looks like. When a country decides to disarm, and to provide to the world verifiable evidence that it has disarmed, there are three common elements to its behavior:

* The decision to disarm is made at the highest political level;

* The regime puts in place national initiatives to dismantle weapons and infrastructure; and

* The regime fully cooperates with international efforts to implement and verify disarmament; its behavior is transparent, not secretive.
Those standards provide analysts a way to evaluate whatever outcome might emerge from the six party talks.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Luke warm, but not cold, Duck

Lately, most of my IR-themed posts have been at the Duck of Minerva:
  • The post on October 27 was about the "Film class -- week 10." We viewed "Wag the Dog" and talked about Clinton's impeachment and the Iraq war justifications.
  • October 28, you can find my "Afghanistan war reconsidered." While that conflict was widely viewed as a legitimate exercise of self-defense, the Bush administration decided to risk everything and make war on Iraq.
It is 8 days until the midterm elections. If you know any swing voters, try to work Iraq and Hurricane Katrina into every conversation you have.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The rats are abandoning ship

It looks like a lot of flacks from corporate America stuck a finger in the air and figured out which way the political winds are blowing this fall. From The New York Times, October 28:
Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress.

The shift in political giving, for the first 18 days of October, has not been this pronounced in the final stages of a campaign since 1994...
In 1994, of course, the Democrats lost 52 seats in the House. It was the greatest shift in power in that chamber since 1946. The newspaper provided a simple graphic which summarizes the data on corporate PAC giving.

In the last decade, corporate political action committees typically gave 27.2% of their funds in October to Democrats, 72.8% to Republicans. Republicans maintained control of the House throughout all those elections.

This October, these same corporate PACs are dividing the money 43% to 57% in October. Some corporations have already started giving 60 to 70% of their money to Dems. The article mentions PACs from Pfizer and Lockhead Martin, for example. Sprint, UPS and H-P have also increased contributions to Dems by at least 15%.

Finally, the article also notes without irony that the freshmen members of Congress will likely have new corporate "friends" after the election -- many offering, for example, to help retire campaign debt. If a hypothetical Speaker Pelosi hosts events between election day and the beginning of the new Congress, expect them to be crowded and economically productive.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Death Penalty Panel

Tonight at 7 pm, I'm moderating "Views On Justice: A Panel Discussion on the Death Penalty.” This is from the sponsors:
The panel will be discussing the ethics of capital punishment, how fair it is in practice, if it should be abolished or reformed, and other relevant issues surrounding the death penalty.

Speakers Include:

•David Harshaw, an attorney for the Dept. of Public Advocacy and a member of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

•Dr. Ricky Jones, Chair of the Pan-African Studies Dept. at the University of Louisville

•Jo Ann Phillips, Executive Director of Kentuckians’ Voice for Crime Victims

•Rev. Charles Sweeney, Pastor of the Full Gospel Neighborhood Church and a member of Kentuckians’ Voice for Crime Victims
If you are interested in attending, the event will be at the University of Louisville in Strickler Hall, room 102.

Again, the event is at 7 pm, Thursday, October 26.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Weight for a new energy policy

This news from AP gives new meaning to conservation. As reported in today's Boston Globe:
Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960 because of their expanding waistlines. Simply put, more weight in the car means lower gas mileage.

Using recent gas prices of $2.20 a gallon, that translates to about $2.2 billion more spent on gas each year.
Here are some of the details from the study, which is set to appear in the October-December issue of the peer-reviewed Engineering Economist:
The obesity rate among U.S. adults doubled from 1987 to 2003, from about 15 percent to more than 30 percent. Also, the average weight for American men was 191 pounds in 2002 and 164 pounds for women, about 25 pounds heavier than in 1960, government figures show.

The study's conclusions are based on those weight figures and Americans' 2003 driving habits, involving roughly 223 million cars and light trucks nationwide.
Sheldon Jacobson and Laura McLay estimate that each additional pound of average passenger weight increases gas usage by 39 million gallons. The total increase, however, is under 1% of the amount of gas consumed.

This is one time that it pays to be below average.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Latest Quacks

Recently, at the Duck of Minerva, I made these blog entries:
  • October 19, "Film class -- week 9." The class viewed Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and discussed the power of ridicule.
  • October 15, "Film class -- week 8" focused on comedian Stephen Colbert's monologue at the 2006 White House Correspondent's Association dinner. It was fall break, so we didn't actually have time to watch a feature. Discussion centered around the role of the court jester.
  • Friday the 13th I assigned some "Weekend homework" based on provocative questions raised in a leader's speech at the 2006 UN session.

I've been grading a lot of papers, which partly explains the light blogging here.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

World Series note

I am not a big Tiger fan by any means, but I typically root for the AL team in every World Series.

This kind of mediocy drives me crazy. From the AP:
The Tigers got [Sean] Casey from Pittsburgh on July 31, the trading deadline, for Brian Rogers, a fringe prospect. Casey gave Detroit the left-handed bat it desperately needed and muchneeded help at first base, where Chris Shelton fizzled after a strong start.
For the season, Casey hit .272, with a .336 OBP and .388 slugging average. That latter figure is pathetic for a first basemen.

Casey was acquired by Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline and had a .715 OPS in August and .611 in September. Those would be bad totals for a middle infielder or weak-hitting catcher. First base is a prime slugging position.

Chris Shelton was the young first baseman sent down to the minors when Casey was acquired. Shelton's weak May was basically the equivalent of Casey's August (.703 OPS) and his weaker June (.642 OPS) was better than Casey's September. Shelton had a tremendous April (1.186 OPS) and a July (.730 OPS) that was better than his own May/June, and better than Casey's August/September. On the season, Shelton's OPS was .806. In 2005, in a comparable amount of playing time, it was .870.

It was bad enough that the Tigers traded for a mediocre old talent like Casey, but it is unfathomable that they did not activate Shelton for the World Series. Casey is hurt and cannot even play first defensively:
With Sean Casey still hurting with a left calf injury, Detroit considered activating backup first baseman Chris Shelton for the World Series. But under the Byzantine system regulating postseason roster changes, they would have had to drop infielder Ramon Santiago to promote Shelton, a change manager Jim Leyland wasn't willing to make.
On the season, Santiago hit .225 with a .244 OBA and .263 slugging average. He had 80 at bats, while Shelton was a starter for four months.

The Tigers are also carrying utility infielders Neifi Perez and Omar Infante, so it is not as if Santiago is vital to backup a middle infield spot.

I hope the Tigers don't find themselves short a bat in one of these games.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Iraq update: the situation on the ground

The other day, I talked about Iraq at a local event on the Middle East and Afghanistan after 9/11.

Much of what I said would be familiar to my readers. However, I did compile some fairly up-to-date information about the war. Here's a selection:
  • US resources are under increasing strain: The Congressional Research Service has determined that the Iraq war is now costing $2 billion per week. That's double the cost of the war during the first year and up 20% from last year.
An independent assessment, based on British military intelligence, said, “Based on current usage, there are enough stocks of illegal explosives to continue the same level of attack for 274 years without re-supply.”
In case you've not been paying attention, October 2006 is the deadliest month of the war for US troops since 2004 -- and the total number of troop deaths is about 2800 now.
At least 914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than a third of them since sectarian bloodshed increased early this year, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.
750,000 are internally displaced, the rest have fled to neighboring states.
The political and security situation in western Iraq is grim and will continue to deteriorate unless the region receives a major infusion of aid and a division is sent to reinforce the American troops operating there, according to the senior U.S. Marine intelligence officer in Iraq [Colonel Peter Devlin].
Without the deployment of an additional division, "there is nothing MNF- W can do to influence the motivation of the Sunni to wage an insurgency," the report states, according to a military officer familiar with the assessment.

MNF-W stands for Multinational Force-West, which is the formal name of the U.S. Marine command. A division generally numbers about 16,000 troops....The assessment describes Anbar as a region marked by violence and criminality. The region generally lacks functional governments and a respect for the rule of law.
The report adds: The Sunnis' "greatest fears have been realized."

That insecurity is a recipe for extending the insurgency indefinitely, eh?

Note: Hat tip to Rob at LGM for the IED data.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pop culture update

I'm not much of a reggae fan, but I heard a cut today that I liked: "Light Up Ya Lighter" by Michael Franti & Spearhead.

Here's a taste of the lyrics, which reveal the song's anti-war themes:
Fire, fire, fire, light up ya lighter, fire fire fire
Armageddon is a deadly day, Armageddon is a deadly way
Tell me President tell if you will,
How many people does a smart bomb kill
How many of em do you think we got,
The General says we never miss a shot
And we never ever ever keep a body count,
we killin so efficiently we can’t keep count
The track appears to be available here.

I heard the track on the sampler CD in last month's Paste.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Iran and Iraq: my take

At 3 pm today, I'll be particpating in an academic forum and teach-in panel on "War, Politics & Security after 9/11."

My topic is "US foreign and security policy towards Iran and Iraq." I'll be posting some of my latest thoughts either here are at Duck of Minerva.

I have 20 minutes, plus responses in Q&A.

This session is part one of two on "The Middle East and Afghanistan after 9/11." There's a session featuring other panelists on "Israel, Lebanon and Palestine" at 5:30 pm.

Panelists are supposed to consider these questions: What’s wrong? What’s right? What now?

For those in Louisville who can attend, it is open to the public as well as students and faculty: Ekstrom Library Chao Auditorium.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The smoking gun...

...apparently involved ingesting some funky mushrooms.

The John Yarmuth campaign needs to make this clip central to the local congressional eleciton: See this Anne Northup clip from March 6, 2006. She was interviewed by WHAS-11's Mark Hebert.

In the clip (you have to watch a commercial first), Northup claims that Saddam became a haven for al Qaeda after Afghanistan fell. "The new port in the storm, the new country of Qaeda...Saddam Hussein made them welcome."

All lies, which we knew in 2002 -- and not even the neocons were going this far before the war. She's saying this in March 2006!

Oh, and she doesn't think Iraq was a mistake.

Hat tip to

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Midterm election countdown: 23 days

It is three weeks and two days until the 2006 midterm elections. The latest issue of PS includes two different political science studies, using different methodologies, which conclude that the Democrats will pick up 22 seats in the House. Apparently, the latest polling also suggests a solid Democratic victory -- though it seems premature to talk of a "landslide."

Republicans, of course, are not going to roll over and play dead. As Karl Rove warned back in January, they see their trump card as terrorism.

I expect some effort in the coming weeks to raise the level of fear. Basically, they will return to their strategy that seemed to be working for them (well, President Bush's approval ratings increased anyway) around the fifth anniversary of September 11. Their message really was that Americans are "safer," but "still not safe."

As James Fallows implied in the September Atlantic Monthly, raising the level of US fear is all too easy:
Any of the dozens of ports, the scores of natural-gas plants and nuclear facilities, the hundreds of important bridges and tunnels, or the thousands of shopping malls, office towers, or sporting facilities could be the next target of attack. It is impossible to protect them all, and even trying could ruin America’s social fabric and public finances. The worst part of the situation is helplessness, as America’s officials and its public wait for an attack they know they cannot prevent.
Are the Democrats ready for the electorate to be reminded, selectively of course, about some of these facts?

Back in January, I offered what I still think is a good game plan for the Democrats. Talk about Iraq in a very blunt way.

If anyone from the John Yarmuth campaign is reading -- I think this could work to defeat Anne Northup as well.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

UK: not-so-willing?

BBC, October 12:
The head of the British Army has said the presence of UK armed forces in Iraq "exacerbates the security problems".

In an interview in the Daily Mail, Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, is quoted as saying the British should "get out some time soon".
Danatt had this to say about the legitimacy of the ongoing war:
Sir Richard told the newspaper: "We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear.

"As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren't invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time."

He added: "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."
I'd say the clock is ticking down now...

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

650,000 "excess" deaths

The Washington Post is reporting a finding on October 11 that is already the subject of great discussion (nearly 200 blog links so far):
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred....

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.
The study was overseen by the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This is the same group that previously said that 100,000 Iraqis had died in the first 18 months of the war. While that study was controversial, the group stands by its methods:
Both this and the earlier study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called "cluster sampling," is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.

While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.

"We're very confident with the results," said Gilbert Burnham, a Johns Hopkins physician and epidemiologist.
In addition to referencing the death certificates (90% were produced), the newspaper also quoted a couple of independent experts as well to support the veracity of the claim:
Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years, called the survey method "tried and true," and added that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have."

This viewed was echoed by Sarah Leah Whitson, an official of Human Rights Watch in New York, who said, "We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy" of the survey.
The Bush administration will be asked, yet again, to explain just how much the US is helping Iraq.

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Saucy duck

Recently, on the Duck of Minerva, I blogged:

Sorry for the lack of new blogging here. It was fall break in Louisville and my family made a trip out of town to visit more kin.

Just before leaving, I gave a 75 minute essay exam and those blue books have commanded much of my time as well.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

North Korean bomb?

The North Korean government is reporting a successful nuclear test. Given the time difference, it occurred on Monday morning, October 9.

Likewise, South Korea is confirming an explosion in northeast North Korea that measured 3.5 on the Richter scale. That is generally consistent with a small atomic bomb. Moreover, in Seoul, President Roh Moo-hyun has also called an emergency security council meeting.

While the talking heads on TV try to figure out who to blame for the congressional page sex scandal, keep in mind that it is easy to assign blame for this foreign policy disaster.

North Korea gained access to weapons grade fuel after October 2002, just months after President Bush said that the regime was part of an "axis of evil."

I won't claim that the neocons were sleeping, but it does appear as if they heads stuck, somewhere else.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Yankees lose!

Last Sunday, Scott Lemieux wrote:
Could the Tigers win one goddamned game against the Royals? Yeesh. The first round is just going to be a massacre.
In comments there, I was more hopeful:
I'm a full-blooded Yankee-hater myself and I think it's premature to count out the Tigers.

Anything can happen in a short series.

Who among us thought the Angels had much of a chance versus the Yanks in 2002?

Who thought KC had much of a chance vs. the Tigers last week? This is from the game preview KC-Detroit, Sunday, September 24: "The Tigers are 13-1 against the Royals, outscoring them 109-52 in the season series."
Just as I predicted, by the way, KC went exactly 62-100 on the year.

So, despite the fact that I expected my favorite team to lose 100 games, and they lost 100 games, there's still something to celebrate.

Yankees lose!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pakistan ISI behind Mumbai attacks?

The Times of India reports that investigators in Mumbai have concluded that the terrorists responsible for the 7/11 bombings were produced by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence:
The [Indian] home secretary was assured that the ATS [anti-terrorism squad] had sufficient evidence to prove that the arrested persons were actually trained in Pakistan by ISI, said sources in the ministry.
Apparently, they have quite a bit of evidence:
The Mumbai cops are learnt to have told [home secretary] Duggal that the evidence was based on the accused persons’ movements, intercepts of their cell phone conversations, the proof of their participation in Lashkar-e-Taiba camps run by Azam Cheema, at the behest of ISI in Pakistan, receipt of funds via hawala transactions and detection of RDX at the residence of one of the accused.
Pakistan's President Musharraf called the finding "regrettable."

If ISI is behind the bombing, it is terrible for regional security. Relations between India and Pakistan have long been poor, to say the least. These nuclear-armed rivals have fought multiple wars and still dispute the fate of the Kashmir.

Note that The Times of India has been claiming for 5 years that the ISI was implicated in the 9/11 attacks on the US.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Building social capital

Dawn Sagario, who writes a Workbytes column for the Des Moines Register recently reported this interesting news about the workplace:
Drinkers earn 10 to 14 percent more at their jobs than nondrinkers, economists Bethany Peters and Edward Stringham found.

"As long as you're not drinking into excess, then it's a good thing," said Stringham, an associate professor of economics at San Jose State University.

...The findings, published by the Journal of Labor Research and Reason Foundation, showed that men who drink earn 10 percent more than those who abstain; for women drinkers, it's a 14 percent boost over nondrinkers' pay.
Don't go overboard. Stringham notes research finding that those who consume between 21 to 38 drinks per week will make less money than a nondrinker.

Re: social capital. Male drinkers who go to bars at last once monthly take home 7% more than those who don't. That finding doesn't hold for women. Hmmm.

The data came from the General Social Survey, which had 8000 respondents.

This is a followup to "Go ahead, clean your plate."

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Midterm fever

Catch it:

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball.

Charlie Cook's Political Report.

Midterm Madness from The American Prospect.

Did you know that even the State Department has a page?

By the way, related to that next-to-last link, congratulations to Rob Farley of the Patterson School and Lawyers, Gun$, and Money for his new gig at TAPPED.

Turns out that TAPPED isn't about beer.

Can we assume he's blogging for the big bucks now?

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Today's lunch: warm Duck

Recently, at the Duck of Minerva, I blogged:

October 3, "Revolt of the Generals" about the retired military leaders who dissent from current US policy in Iraq -- and in the management of the Pentagon.

September 29, "Film class -- week 6." We viewed "Breaker Morant."

September 26, "'Outrages upon human dignity'" about President Bush's hypocritical attack on the phrase "human dignity," even as he frequently uses that phrasing.

September 25, "Should progressives be happy about Iraq's successes?" The title explains itself.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Iraq's new "green" zone

Apparently, some on-the-ground officials in the US military want to go green. From the Christian Science Monitor, September 7:
Memo to Pentagon brass from the top United States commander in western Iraq: Renewable energy - solar and wind-power generators - urgently needed to help win the fight. Send soon.

Calling for more energy in the middle of oil-rich Iraq might sound odd to some. But not to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, whose deputies on July 25 sent the Pentagon a "Priority 1" request for "a self-sustainable energy solution" including "solar panels and wind turbines."

The memo may be the first time a frontline commander has called for renewable-energy backup in battle. Indeed, it underscores the urgency: Without renewable power, US forces "will remain unnecessarily exposed" and will "continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties," the memo says.

..."Without this solution, personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rate," the memo says. "Continued casualty accumulation exhibits potential to jeopardize mission success."
The current diesel generators are hot and loud, and make it easier for foes to find US forces. The Army is following up on this request and hopes to find a company to ship nearly 200 frontline renewable energy power stations to Iraq ASAP.

The CSM article is filled with details about how renewable energy might be to the military's advantage -- less need to carry heavy batteries, lowered fuel costs over the long-haul, increased ability to redeploy forces currently assigned to carry fuel, etc.

I missed this story when it originally appeared, but the environmental group World Watch brought it to my attention.

Incidentally, this is not them military's first venture into green energy. The Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, recently started using four large wind turbines and they now provide 25% of the electricity there.

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