Monday, August 25, 2008

What happened to body counts?

I just finished reading the newspaper this morning and most of all was attracted to an AP article. The article was about how the Taliban have killed over 100 Americans in Afghanistan this year. Not suprising news but I understand the thought process and realize the stories appeal.
The reason it is not suprising however is because in 2007 the Taliban killed 210 NATO troops. Now 2008 isn't over yet but there are only a few weeks of good weather left for the Taliban to score media victories this year, so the number may be much lower this year.

However, apart from everything else, I noticed something strange while trying to find numbers for an accurate Taliban death count for 2008. I couldn't find any numbers. All I could find was a 2007 figure of 4,000 Taliban dead. Everybody knows that the Taliban and al-qaeda have been consistently losing both wars, yet they have succeeded in getting media attention for the casualties they cause thus creating a situation that gives the appearance of them being successful when they actually are not.

The point i'm trying to make is that the Taliban keep track of the number of kills they get, and i'd bet even send those figures to major news outlets in the United States. Meanwhile I couldnt find any cumulative figures for Taliban death totals, excpet for the 2007 figure of 4,000 I stated earlier. If that doesnt summarize the war I dont know what does. With one side relying on casualty reports(and small ones at that) to score victories, when the other side doesn't even publish such weekly reports(because it's politically incorrect), I think it's rather easy to see who is really winning and if I wanted to argue it who is more right in their cause.

We've come a long way since Vietnam, well some of us anyway.

Friday, May 9, 2008

And now the end is near

It's now time to look forward to troop reductions(notice I didn't say withdrawls) in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been largely defeated with only the luckiest few still alive, though their abilities are really too weak to cause serious problems, except for the innocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Al Qaeda in Iraq no longer threatens U.S. soldiers because they can no longer accept the kind of losses they take when facing Americans.

The other threat, the Mahdi army, is now trapped in Sadr City, facing either defeat or surrender. Surrender creates an unknown future for Mahdi Army leader, Moqtada al-Sadr. However surrender may be his best option as defeat creates a certain future.

Best of all is that the Mahdi Army has been defeated in Basra by Iraqi forces. The Iraqis planned and executed Operation Knights Charge on their own. The only negative result from battle for Basra was that over 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen(most of whom just completed training) ran during the fight, still they reinforced the area and won the fight. The Iraqis have learned several lessons from this experience and now possess confidence that didn't exist even in Saddams military.

The success of Operation Knights Charge puts the Iraqi Army in the small company of Middle Eastern militarys that have actually accomplished something. Best of all is that Knights Charge was also a political victory. The Iraqi government finally showed some backbone and dealt with the biggest thorn in their side.

Now for the troop reductions. First of all, it's a fliud situation with many dynamics that can only really be underatood by the people in charge, lucky for us General Petraeus is the best man, sorry person, for the job.
Secondly it's hard to do anything until Sadr makes a decision regarding the future of his Mahdi army. Either way the drawdown could potentially be quite large, but it might still take some time, initial numbers maybe small with larger numbers coming at a benchmark(so the politicians can have some glory too). The other possibility is a consistent number of troops being reduced periodically until they are to the established minimum.

Either way, i'll be looking forward to everybody returning home.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Force the Vote

With the general election just six months away, we are sure to soon be facing the issue of low voter turnout. We all know the problem; nobody shows up to vote. The reasons for this are numerous, the most common reason is that young people don't vote, which data tends to support, but all age groups have significant nubmers of no-shows.

Why don't young people vote? Then becomes the question.
As a young person myself, I feel the reason young voters don't participate is that the differences between the candidates and viable options are almost non-existant. Perhpas we're just more cynical?

Part of the problem lies within the system. Neither the Republican or Democratic party has a sense of urgency because they tend to just go in and out like a revolving door. They take turns screwing things up for a few years, then switch and play the good-guy(really just the lesser of two evils), and the process continues, benefiting those involved at the expense of everyone else.

The parties are so similiar why do bother distingushing them. Even if the candidates differ on an issue there's no feeling that they'll do anything. The process is so political and beauracratically bogged down, it's rare for any politician to keep his or her promises. The political process needs a viable third party(sorry Green Party, you just don't cut it). Most people tend to be middle of the road anyway and are turned off by the candidates they are forced to pick from. With a few tweaks and another election cycle or two the libertarian party could be that party.

As for voter turnout, lets force the issue. Everyone must register to vote within two weeks of their 18th birthday, if they don't it's a $100 fine and maybe some community service just because; that choice can be left up to each district. The fines are administered at registration of licenses, passports, college or during tax season, potentially anything could be used to collect the fines. When an election comes around, simply check the voter records to see who voted. Whoever didn't vote receieves a $500 fine, in local or off-year elections the rate could be lowered, but high enough nobody will skip the vote.
I know the ACLU will say this is unfair to poor people, but it's free to register, so go to the nearest secretary of state, post office or school and pick up a registration form.

Last semester I took an International studies class, "Intro to Latin America", and I learned that in Latin America they hold elections on Sundays and close everything down except essential public services. Put voting centers in every neighborhood, or retirement center, so people can easily gather to vote.

The process is a win-win. Not only does particapation reach new heights, but knowledgeable participation increases too. If people have to vote, they will be less apathetic and be more interested in exactly what their options are, which would *GASP* make politicians actually accountable for their actions. Knowing they couldn't as easily slip something past voters they might start behaving themselves.

Pointing the finger at you

The mortgage crisis is a joke. Who in their right mind would even agree to an adjustable rate mortgage(ARM). The name says it all. Who cares if the introductory rate is lower than the fixed rate, it's introductory, it's not going to last. The reason they call it adjustable rate, is because they're going to adjust it. So its no suprise that most of the time they adjust upwards(that's how the lenders make money). To agree to an ARM you must be either naive or stupid.

An example of stupid appeared in the Detroit News a few months ago. The story was about a construction worker making $15 an hour buying a home some around $600,000. I remember something about him buying the house from his bosses brother, so it sounds like his boss is a jerk, but that is no excuse for his plain stupidity. I don't remember whether this had anything to do with ARMs, but it's still a great example. There is no way that someone making $15 an hour could afford a home like that, especially if they intend on eating and paying taxes, let alone the interest on a mortgage of that size. 600,000/15=40,000, it would take this guy 40k hours of work to buy that house, or 1000 weeks which is equal to 19.23 years and again that's pre-tax, pre-food, pre-everything. With people making moves like this it's no reason we're in the midst of a mortgage crunch.

The blame can't be blamed solely on the consumers however. The truth is the banks screwed themselves while trying to screw everyone else, but these people voluntarily agreed to be screwed by not knowing what they were doing, so they only have themselves to blame.

Don't get me wrong it's a terrible problem that will and is having widespread affects. A bailout, however, seems so wrong. These people weren't swindled. The government should do something to help these people get back on their feet, mostly just so these people don't act as an anchor on the entire economy. But in a twist of irony lets give them government loans, and see if they learned their lesson or if they just repeat the same mistakes and carelessly spend/waste their money again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Iraq surge

The surge in Iraq is working. This is no suprise to any one who has observed the war without a bias. However after the surge is complete there will be a problem with battalions available for deployments.
Basically since there are more troops on deployment "now" as part of the surge that means their are less troops to available to replace them when their deployments are over. What it comes down to is the law of averages. You're using more assets "now" and sometime in the near future, because you've used an extra number of troops, you will have to make due will less later on or not give them as much time off as you had done before.
Certainly, if this happens it will create a political uproar. The Democrats will claim that the war cannot be fought under these conditions... However it is the Democrats who already put more stress on the troops by withholding the last budget bill, which forced the DOD to extend tours to 15 months in order to save money on the preparations and logistics bills that come along with deploying troops.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Does Murder Help?

Regarding the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey in Oakland, California.
The "alleged" suspect, Devaughdre Broussard, called himself "a good soldier" for murduring Bailey. Obviously that statement is degrading to real soldiers throughout the world.
My question is, How is murdering someone who was reporting about the Muslim Bakery, where Broussard worked, accomplishing anything? Seriously, what an absolute idiot this kid must be. Someone reports on legitimate issues and instead of, I don't know maybe debating the issue, you decide to murder him. I don't know how much of a devout Muslim this kid was and I'd like to beleive he's a outcast, but i'm having trouble. I'm suprised how little this story is being covered by the MSM, naturally this is typically a sensitive issue to journalists.
It wouldn't suprise me if they don't want to "offend" muslims by covering the story; i.e. PBS's recent documentary. What I don't get is why this still happens, and why don't any moderate Muslims ever appear on the news denouncing these sorts of things. It'll soon be six years since September Eleventh and since that time you only see muslims denouncing this behavior about as often as the seasons change. I cannot believe how many people in this country can't see that we're bending over backwards to give this country to Muslims who would be more than happy to change things to fit their lives.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Government failure?

As the main topic in the news since it happened last week the bridge collapse in Minnesota has spawned something interesting.
Throughout the news reports their have been little snippets of blame placed on the government, both state and federal.
I truly wonder if either did anything wrong?

A bridge has never spontaneously collapsed before, how was either level of government supposed to know such a thing could happen. Since the idea seemed rather distant until last week how can anyone be blamed. The idea of a bridge collapsing here in Michigan seems as distant today as it did last week, before it was of concern. So in the inevitability of increased DOT funds I wonder if it will make any difference. I assume it will just be done out of necessity to show that the bureaucrats care that much.

My justification is that nobody could have foreseen this event and that is how things will continue in the future. Example; here in Michigan the joke is that we have two seasons, winter and construction. This joke defines the annual suffering of having half of our roads and highways lined with orange barrels from memorial day to labor day. With that in mind no Michiganian would ever suspect a bridge would collapse in Michigan. Why? Well let me assure you it's not because of our superior methods of roadwork. It would be a complete suprise because they're always working on the roads, so how could any of them be in disrepair(at least enough to collapse) when they're worked on almost constantly. And i'm tempted just enough to say that the situation in Minnesota was probably not much different.