Post Iraq

Suppose they gave a war on terror and a few exposed it as terror

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

I do not recommend anyone join the murderous institutions of the U.S. security state (and the minimum age for making such a grave error needs to be raised, worldwide). Those who do not are everyday heroes. Those who make the mistake of joining a criminal network and, realizing at least in part what they have done, seek to expose its systematic criminality, are extraordinary heroes, e.g., Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

Obviously Manning should be freed and granted something with more meaning than the so-called Nobel Peace Prize, and Snowden should remain free. Both tremendous uphill battles that I fully support.

But punishment of murderers is also necessary. I look forward to the U.S. submitting to the International Criminal Court, and many officials and contractors of the Bush-Obama regime being tried.

An unlikely dream, yes. But unlike the saying this post plays on, leaking does not require unanimity. Unfortunately the nature of the terror war has been in full view for a long time and I don’t expect new revelations to change anything.

Speaking of dreaming, I hold some hope that those who see a little into the future (i.e., the dominance of computation) might have an outsized impact on increasing the probability of a slightly better future. Unfortunately the security state is making us look like clowns, even while we laugh at their awful slide designs.

10 years

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

2003-03-19 you did not stop the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Don’t feel bad about not going to protests if you didn’t. Those are bullshit spectacle. Stopping war takes years of good politics; I don’t mean whatever you think constitutes goodness on petty “domestic” and “economic” issues.

You are responsible for mass murder and torture of some hundreds of thousands.

That will cost you not the $50 billion estimated by U.S. regime supporters, nor the $700 billion estimated by some in 2005. No, nearly $4 trillion. Not the usual 10x underestimate of financial war costs, but nearly 100x:

Total US federal spending associated with the Iraq war has been $1.7 trillion through FY2013. In addition, future health and disability payments for veterans will total $590 billion and interest accrued to pay for the war will add up to $3.9 trillion.

I haven’t written about the steady progression of these numbers for years because they cease to be news, I have purposefully followed current news less and less, and the non-financial tragedies you’ve inflicted are far more outrageous.

But a 10 year anniversary seems an occasion to raise the issue again, even if I missed it by several days due to aforementioned not following the news.

What have you done to exonerate yourself of the crime of mass murder? A martyr won’t absolve you, so the least you could do is to help save Bradley Manning.

“You” is not limited to U.S. citizens. The world, including its states, is highly interdependent, and voter/elected politician only one channel of responsibility.

Oppose “your” and all security states and all their theater and propaganda, including hate of people in other jurisdictions. All lies and delusion. This has to be the beginning of what I referred to as good politics above.

International law should mandate much higher standards for military personnel

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The U.S. army says it will reduce personnel from 570k at the peak of the Iraq occupation and 558k as of March to 490k in 2017 in part by lowering the number of personnel with “moral, medical and criminal” problems.

Way too small a reduction if the U.S. is to stanch its long-term decline resulting from maintaining an empire. But nevermind that. Using criminals as occupiers is an invitation to atrocity — as is using teenagers as occupiers. U.S. policy, indeed that of all nations, ought eliminate any possibility of military employment for criminals and those under 21 years of age. Any other policy ought be a violation of international law.

Too little, too late, perhaps, depending on how quickly human military personnel are replaced by robots.

Perhaps of more longstanding relevance (it could include drone actions) invasion/occupation ethics also ought be a matter of international law.

The market euphemistically known as the community of nations must do a much better job of self-regulating…or else!

Have a good upcoming weekend, including those in places where Memorial Day is observed.

Occupation ethics

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Philippe Legrain:

British troops are dying in Afghanistan because the government deems the Taliban such a terrible threat.

Yet those who flee the Taliban and the war are denied asylum in this country.

This is an outrage.

The outrage applies to the U.S. with some multiplier (also in Iraq). The least an occupier could do is to offer speedy asylum. However, I don’t think asylum is enough — invader/occupier jurisdiction citizenship, granted on demand, should be the baseline.

Another trillion dollar fraud

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Glenn Greenwald’s September 20 piece on the decision processes leading to the Iraq invasion and the current bailout is right on:

I don’t pretend to know anywhere near enough — in terms of either raw information or expertise — in order to opine on the necessity or lack thereof of The Latest Plan in terms of whether the alternatives are worse. But what I do know is that an injustice so grave and extreme that it defies words is taking place; that the greatest beneficiaries are those who are most culpable; and that the same hopelessly broken and deeply rotted institutions and elite class that gave rise to all of this (and so much more) are the very ones that are — yet again — being blindly entrusted to solve this.

Of course the non-financial toll of the Terror War makes it a far greater tragedy, but the financial tab of each will be of the same order of magnitude — US$trillions.

Although the US$0.7 trillion number being cited is apparently made up, Barry Ritholtz’s guess that it could end up costing US$1.5 trillion is entirely plausible, given the systematic underestimation by politicians of wars and public works. Ritholtz’s upcoming book on bailouts will presumably have data on the misunderestimated (really) cost of bailouts. Watch his brief WSJ video interview or on his own blog.

Stop the bailout, which will only prolong the pain and . Instead take this “crisis” as an opportunity to eliminate all of the various politically imposed causes of expensive housing.

If the rent seeking dinosaurs of finance die I look forward to new mortgage products designed to hedge risk rather than play chicken with politicians (see beginning of post for how well that turns out). Incidentally, see a recent post on what current housing futures say.

Memorial Day (U.S.)

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Another year, another fine day to honor draft dodgers, deserters, and anyone with enough sense to not join the murderous gangs sponsored by any jurisdiction.

Some say it is a fine day to criticize politicians (emphasis added):

One would hope that this day, above all others, would be a time for condemning those whose lies and failures resulted in thousands of their fellow citizens being killed.

Though it may annoy to see the current temporary dictator strut with former murder gang members/slaves, now hilariously motorcycle gang members, the above leaves me with two reactions, following.

First, boredom. What day does not pass for a good day to criticize hypocritical politicians? I reserve this day for honoring those who have not taken part and those who got a clue and got out. If anyone must be condemned today, let’s keep it on the level of those actually doing the killing. Take for example this so-sad story of a gang member and gang recruiter who killed himself:

“He told me he kicked down over 1,000 doors,” Maxey said. “He was the lead guy, the first one to go in, and most of the time it was the wrong place. There would be terrified old people and little kids sitting there.”

Good riddance.

Second, the author of the first quote above is part of the problem, for buying into nationalist rhetoric. If he really had to dwell on the higher ups, he should have written this:

One would hope that this day, above all others, would be a time for condemning those whose lies and failures resulted in thousands of murders.

Bond prices on historical and contemporary civil war outcomes

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Did Johnny Reb have a Fighting Chance? A Probabilistic Assessment from European Financial Markets (PDF) by Kim Oosterlinck and Marc D. Weidenmier looks at Confederate gold bonds traded in Amsterdam from August 1863 through the end of the war, taking bond price (probability of repayment) as the probability of Confederate victory (meaning survival as an independent state that could service its debts).

A very interesting new window on history, one that is crying out to be applied to other situations were a government faces an existential threat, as the authors point out:

Although this study has focused on the American Civil War, the methodology employed in this paper could easily be applied to several other historical or modern day episodes to provide some insight into the evolution of victory probabilities during a period of civil war/revolution. The methodology might be particularly interesting to apply to a communist revolution given that Marxist regimes generally repudiate a country’s debt obligations and do not recognize international capital markets. For example, it might be interesting to know the evolution of victory (defeat) probabilities during the Spanish Civil War or the Cuban Revolution of the 1960s. Another possibility is to use the technique to estimate the probability that the thirteen colonies would win the American Revolution. The methodology could also be extended to estimate the probability of a victory by Germany during World War I or the Nazis during World War II. Applying the methodology to the world wars would be more complicated given that it is not clear whether the recovery value of the war bonds would be zero in the event of a defeat. We leave these items for future research.

What do bond prices say about contemporary Iraq? I don’t see any nice graph over time, but apparently current prices imply an 80% chance of default over the lifetime of one issue (through 2028), and apparently the “surge” hasn’t improved bond investor outlook.

Interesting, but survival of a government willing to repay past debts is way too coarse for most policy decisions and the probability of various policy decisions are not disaggregated. For these reasons prediction markets contingent on policy implementation and electoral outcomes are badly needed.

Via Robin Hanson.

1 trillion dollars, 1 million lives, 1 fraud

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

What Does Iraq Cost? Even More Than You Think. by Tyler Cowen cites sources putting the direct financial cost to the U.S. government at over $1 trillion, though Cowen’s point is that taking into account opportunity costs, the price is higher.

I don’t believe I’ve posted about this trillion dollar fraud since January 2006. I just have to point out yet again that there’s nothing unusual about Iraq: advocates of war routinely underestimate the costs by a factor of ten (which makes such estimates fraudulent, in my estimation).

Immigration

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

is a hot topic of late. I haven’t had time to write about it, so here’s a linkdump as I close tabs.

Iraqis who can are leaving Iraq, but they face severe restrictions on living and working elsewhere in the region, and the U.S. is only accepting a trickle. Tragedies abound in this NYT magazine piece, almost all worsened by anti-immigrant policies.

Landlords are beginning to be drafted to uphold apartheid in the U.S., following increased anti-employment raids.

Immigration up, unemployment down in Spain.

How much of a jerk do you have to be to oppose immigration? has been linked by many, but read if you haven’t:

Both Alex Tabarrok and Dani Rodrik have come out in favor of immigration into US on the basis that the relevant “moral community” one should consider is the world and not just the US natives. It might be the case that immigration from Mexico into US lowers the wages of the unskilled workers here (the extent of this effect is subject to some controversy, see the previous post on Ottaviano and Peri). However, the increase in the migrants’ wages is so large that support for immigration is still justified.

This kind of argument provokes the expected response from the expected folks, roughly along the lines that we should care more about native workers – the citizens – then the migrants – the non-citizens. Ok. But how much more? Let’s put on our annoying-economist hat and consider the question; if you consider a foreign national to be only 1/2 a human being (alright, alright, only 1/2 as “important”) as a native citizen, are you justified in opposing immigration? After all, it takes a real jerk to argue that foreign people’s welfare should not count at all. Suppose the foreigners are only 1/10th as important? Surely, if natives’ welfare counts for ten times as much as that of foreigners, we would be justified in banning immigration since it may adversely affect the wages of the unskilled in US? Well, let’s see…

Nathan Smith’s freedom of migration category has lots of good stuff.

CNN needs to fire Lou Dobbs.

Philippe Legrain’s Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them will be available in the U.S. June 21.

Should we end global apartheid? in today’s NYT magazine:

Indeed, Pritchett attacks the primacy of nationality itself, treating it as an atavistic prejudice. Modern moral theory rejects discrimination based on other conditions of birth. If we do not bar people from jobs because they were born female, why bar them because they were born in Nepal? The name John Rawls appears on only a single page of “Let Their People Come,” but Pritchett is taking Rawlsian philosophy to new lengths. If a just social order, as Rawls theorized, is one we would embrace behind a “veil of ignorance” — without knowing what traits we possess — a world that uses the trait of nationality to exclude the neediest workers from the richest job markets is deeply unjust. (Rawls himself thought his theory did not apply across national borders.) Pritchett’s Harvard students rallied against all kinds of evils, he writes, but “I never heard the chants, ‘Hey, ho, restrictions on labor mobility have to go.’ ”

I never understood the appeal of beginning chants with “Hey, ho”, but let’s get on with ending apartheid and destroying nationalism anyway. Atavistic prejudice, indeed.

Speaking of which, I am not fond of the term immigration, which gives special status to political borders. Migration is better. I prefer moving or relocation, regardless of distance or jurisdictions involved.

Memorial Yay

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Again this (U.S.) I honor , deserters and others not stupid enough to be darwinized at the command of their parentlandjurisdiction’s politicians.