Post Iraq

A day to remember our fallen predators

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Last year I decried sad and tacky memorials for gang members and advised to take the advice of lower status memorials (street gang rather than military gang) and “stop violence” before robots take it over.

This year I’m embracing the future. Below, a heroic predator defending the freedom of U.S. citizens by killing Afghanis. Not pictured: similar heroic service over Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Syria, Philippines, and elsewhere.

MQ-1 Lethal Presence

Apparently 4 of your brothers have been shot down and 11 died in accidents while on combat missions. Hundreds more brothers and cousins have fallen in other accidents.

Sorry if it was all for lies, delusion, and lack of a non-bullshit peace movement.

The Killing of Abu Sayyaf (according to unreliable, one-sided, and conflicted sources)

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Read The Killing of Osama bin Laden or a summary on the English Wikipedia entry for Seymour Hersh.

Then read Abu Sayyaf, an ISIS Leader, Killed in Syria by Special Forces, U.S. Says. The part after the last comma is backed up by the article:

Pentagon officials said
One American military official described
the Pentagon’s description
A Defense Department official said
The official said
(The accounts of the raid came from military and government officials and could not be immediately verified through independent sources.)
officials said
American officials said
The White House rejected initial reports
said Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokeswoman
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said
Officials said
Defense Department officials said
a Defense Department official said
the official said
the official said
the Defense Department official said
Defense Department officials said
officials acknowledged
officials said
Mr. Carter said
the senior United States official said

Why bother to publish this story? Why is the disclaimer of verifiability buried in a parenthetical instead of a banner at the top of the article highlighting multiple issues, a la Wikipedia?

The article closes with a conjecture from a former C.I.A. analyst that anyone could have made.

I’m not complaining about anything new; recently reading the Hersh article made me want to skim the article on the apparent killing of Abu Sayyaf, and the opportunity to update the title of Hersh’s article made me want to write this blog post.

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).