Archive for March, 2009

It’s patriotic to want more ‘bang for the buck’

You know, stories like this leave me angry and frustrated:

“Development costs for the Pentagon’s major weapons systems soared last year, helping drive overruns that are “staggering,” the Government Accountability Office said in a report released yesterday.

The costs to research and develop fighter jets and other programs have been rising steadily. Last year, they were 42 percent over initial estimates. That compares with 27 percent in 2000, when the cost of the portfolio of programs was half of what it is today…

The figures reflect a weapons development and procurement system that is woefully broken, analysts say, and one that President Obama has vowed to begin to correct.

(GAO analyst Michael J. Sullivan said that) because most major weapons systems involve costly advanced technologies and investments in factories and workers, and have no commercial market, contractors typically demand that the government cover their risk by reimbursing them for unanticipated costs in …

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Trend in Pakistan looking dangerous

Watching events out of Pakistan, I’ve grudgingly come to the conclusion that before Barack Obama’s first term is over, we will probably have American troops fighting on the ground in Pakistan in significant numbers. I’m putting together a piece, probably for Sunday, explaining why.

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating such a step and I do hope I’m proven wrong. But it seems to be where we are inexorably headed, given the apparent inability of Pakistan’s government to defend itself and its possession of nuclear weapons. That is a far more dangerous challenge than that posed by Iran, for example.

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Barack Obama’s Wild Adventure, Overseas Edition

With Barack Obama headed overseas for the first time as president, David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy has a nicely done scene-setter proposing that the Europeans will see not one but three Obamas: “Barack Obama, media superstar, Barack Obama, president of the United States and Barack Obama, leader of the free world.”

“Barack Obama, media superstar, is likely to be in his element, flashbulbs popping, and throngs of spectators lining the streets to catch a glimpse of him. He is the most famous man in the world, telegenic, charming and, oh yes, an African American. For most of the countries in attendance at the G20 meeting, the thought of an ethnic minority rising to the level of political success Obama has achieved is unthinkable and the world is titillated by that, the boldness of his story and his charisma (and with some luck, they are learning something)….

Barack Obama, president of the United States, has a tougher job on his hands. He has to balance domestic political …

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Petraeus makes stance on torture clear

What he said:

“We think that for the military in particular, that is a line that cannot be crossed…. It is hugely significant for us to live the values that we hold so dear and that we have fought to hard to protect over the years.”

H/T to Abu Muqawama, a military/foreign policy blog where one of the more familiar anonymous commenters, a senior military officer, put it even more bluntly:

“I’d rather lose a thousand Iraqs than have the US military rotted from within by torture, a sin that spreads indiscipline and festers like a cancer in the soul of a democracy.”

UPDATE: The field manual referenced by Petraeus is available here:

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Obama makes his move on Detroit

The Obama administration has pressured longtime General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner to resign, and he has done so. That high-profile decision — the first of several as the government tries to force Detroit to restructure itself — will no doubt generate complaints that the federal government is overreaching.

Let’s review the situation:

First, the federal government is not requiring GM to fire its CEO. It has no such power or authority. Instead, the federal government is pressuring GM to fire its CEO AS A CONDITION FOR GETTING TENS OF BILLIONS OF FEDERAL BAILOUT DOLLARS.

That’s a very important difference.

In private enterprise, a distressed company facing bankruptcy will often beg outside investors to rescue it with an injection of cash. However, the company understands that the bailout will come with conditions. The outside investors or lendors will almost certainly demand changes in company operation and management. They may want control of the board. They may insist on a new …

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Ga. Legislature descends into tax-cut madness

The state of Georgia is furloughing 25,000 employees, and in months to come school districts face the prospect of laying off teachers and crowding more children into each classroom.

Cities and counties face cuts in police, fire and 911 personnel, and legislators can’t seem to find a way to fund a statewide trauma-care network that would save up to 700 lives a year.

Around the state, prosecutors are being forced to take unpaid furloughs. Every day they’re not on the job, another 500 criminal cases back up unprosecuted. Many will end up being dismissed.

Oh, and did I mention that our roads still don’t work, our SAT scores still suck, and that even before the recession hit, our state mental-health system was so poorly funded and badly run that it drew federal attention as a threat to those it serves?

Nor is the problem temporary. Revenue projections suggest that in the next few years, the state could face annual budget deficits of a billion dollars or more.

Confronted by a …

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For the history books now, but….

From the Washington Post:

“When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of …

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Hooray! Score one for persistence … so far

From the NYTimes:

FARGO, N.D. — After a week of piling sand on top of sand on top of sand to hold back the Red River, which has risen to levels never seen before in North Dakota and Minnesota, there was cause for optimism on Saturday. The river, which had been rising last week at a rate of three feet a day, unexpectedly slowed down and even appeared, according to new National Weather Service predictions, to recede.

“For the time being, it has crested in Fargo,” said Patrick Slattery, a National Weather Service spokesman, who warned, however, that all sorts of factors — warmer weather, ice chunks, snow predicted next week — could change the forecast once again.

“It’s still in major flood, and it will be in major flood stage for several days, if not a week,” Mr. Slattery said of the river. “That means the danger is not completely over, but the threat of it getting worse for the time being has slacked off.”

Still, people in Fargo, who have experienced what one resident described …

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Not quite a depression

A rainy Saturday.

Spent with Turbotax.

It promises to be such a lovely day.

(What time does basketball start?)

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Swingin’ on home with the great Joe Williams

Back in the Vegas days, we’d see Joe Williams at some of the jazz clubs around town; sometimes we’d see his old Basie buddies Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Harry “Sweets” Edison too. They’re all gone now.

I doubt if Harry and Eddie are playing with Basie here, but they still do cook, yes they do.

Oh, and by the way, Joe Williams hailed from Cordele, Ga.

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