Showing posts with label War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War. Show all posts

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Veterans, the Living Wage, and the McNamara Fallacy


In the first post for the eighth year of the blog I was going to reflect on the Ken Burns film about Vietnam.  My first impression was how little things have changed since then with all of the protests.  The second thing that jumped out at me was President Johnson's defense secretary's obsession with collecting data (mostly body counts) to determine who was winning the war.  This is called the McNamara fallacy and is discussed below.



In my blog and my other writings I use statistics to enlighten people and to shed light on various social phenomena.  For example, for the Hill Talk, I looked at various variables which may predict the magnitude of the increase in the living wage for the cities/counties that have passed such ordinances.  

The graph below shows the strongest predictor which is the percentage of veterans in that city/county.  As the percentage of the veteran population increases by one percent, the amount of the living wage decreases by an expected 59 cents.  This relationship accounts for 28% of the variability in the amount of the living wage passed. 


The mean % veterans of the 38 living wage entities is 5% while the US as a whole has 6.2% of its population who are veterans.  Case in point Seattle, WA passed a $15/hour living wage ordinance while nearby Tacoma, WA passed a $12/hr wage.  Tacoma has 9.34% of its population as veterans while Seattle has less than half at 4.54%.  All of the cities that have passed a $15/hour wage or higher have % veterans that are lower than the US as a whole.  Six of the nine cities/counties with wages $15/hr or higher are in California.  

If one spends too much time looking at the leaves and the twigs on a tree, one can miss the surrounding forest.  This is basically what the McNamara fallacy is.  New findings with statistics can reveal important features of the forest as I believe this analysis has with regard to the forest activists must navigate to pass a living wage ordinance.  

The percentage of veterans in a city/county was the most robust variable negatively associated with the amount of the living wage increase after considering the % poverty, the % foreign born, the % change in the population, the % uninsured, the % in poverty, median household income, median housing value, and the % with a high school education or higher.  The full data set used in this analysis can be seen here.  The amounts of the minimum wage increases were found from the National Employment Law Project or NELP.  The demographic information on the cities/counties that have passed these ordinances was found from the Census Bureau at Census.gov.

Unlike McNamara and later Donald Rumsfeld and their ilk, I do not claim to have a full grasp of the whole forest surrounding the Fight for $15.  Further research is needed to fully understand the forest.  An argument could be made that it was the arrogance of men like McNamara and Rumsfeld that created the large population of veterans in the US.  One would think that if anyone could use a raise the veterans could.  A significant portion of the homeless population are veterans.


**Related Posts**


What do Living Wage Cities Have in Common?





Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Sands of the Middle East are Changing once Again



The above video gives a good overview of how the sands of the Middle East have changed since the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 AD.  Conquering powers come and go as can be seen (This happens in other places in the world as well of course).  Is ISIS the latest conqueror?  It now controls Eastern Syria and Western Iraq and has been engaged in a fierce battle in the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobane.  Kobane is just two miles from the Turkish border where the Turks have hesitated to intervene.  The Turks may not care for ISIS but they are also concerned about troubles with their own Kurdish population.  


The interests of all these groups, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Iranians, Israelis, Yazidis, and others are complex and cannot be resolved with bombs.  Outside military intervention by the US and other countries only makes matters worse.  


ISIS would not exist without the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. al Qaeda's roots go back to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  The Islamic Republic of Iran's roots date back to the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government there in the 1950's and the subsequent support of the Shah who brutally suppressed his people.  The people of the Middle East have been better off when they were free of outside intervention. 


**Update**


A Fox News poll has come out saying that a majority of the US Public now favors sending US troops into fight ISIS.  Polls can be used as propaganda tools as well as to inform the public.  A CBS/NYT Poll from Sept. 19 shows that a 62% of Republicans support sending ground troops into Iraq where 39% of the total population do (Kevin Drum from Mother Jones added the expletive).  Are Republicans itching for a new war in the Middle East, at least if Jeb Bush is elected in 2016?


 
**Related Posts**

The World Wars and Today's Wars 

 

9/11 Aftermath Survey

 

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)

 

Glenn Beck Is Going To Hold A Rally In Israel This Summer Called 'Restoring Courage'

 

What is Sanity?

Friday, June 13, 2014

The World Wars and Today's Wars

Much was made of the 70th anniversary of D-Day last week which was the beginning of the end for Hitler's Third Reich (along with Stalingrad in the east for the Soviets).  Much less talked about in the US is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I coming up this summer.  The beginning of the war was also 99 years after Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo.
The History Channel produced the graphic at the bottom to go with their documentary 'The World Wars' which shows the 'War to End All War' in numbers which was the first air war as well as the first as the first to use chemical weapons and tanks on a large scale.  An estimated 14.6 million were killed (8 million soldiers and 6.6 million civilians). 

We still live with it's consequences today and it's hard to find anything good that came of the war for anyone.  What attention there is on WWI in the US has mostly focused on how men like Hitler, Churchill, Mussolini, and Stalin, who were prominent in WWII, became battle hardened during it and rose to power in it's aftermath. 

Less reported is how the Middle East was carved up after the British and French seized it from the Ottoman TurksBy the Sykes-Picot agreement Syria and Lebanon became colonies of France while Iraq, Jordan and Palestine fell under British rule.  Winston Churchill became secretary of the colonies and brutally put down rebellions by the Kurds in Iraq.  This conquest was later glorified in films like Lawrence of Arabia.  British Petroleum (now BP) was created in this period.
Today Iraq is being carved up by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria with funding from Saudi Arabia.  The third picture above shows the lands in Iraq and Syria that they control.  Robert Fisk of the Independent reports that this is the beginning of the end for the Sykes-Picot agreement.  Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Assad family in Syria, Kings Hussein and Abdullah of Jordan, and of course Israel have all done their part to brutally hold it together but it is a shotgun marriage that could not last forever.  Saddam Hussein became a pariah when he violated the Sykes-Picot agreement by invading Kuwait  Iraqi Sunnis are now abandoning their army and joining ISIS while Iraqi Shiites are likely to side with Iran.

George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq created a power vacuum in Iraq which ISIS was finally able to exploit just as Hitler and Stalin were able to capitalize on in their countries after WWI (the History channel documentary on the world wars interviewed the top hawks from the Bush administration such as Cheyney, Rumsfeld and Powell plus Senate hawk John McCain).  How all this will play out is anyone's guess with the US, Iran, and other outside powers weighing their options.  With an estimated hundreds of thousands (the precise number may never be known) dead in Iraq and Syria since 2003 could this be a resolution or an escalation of the conflict?  I don't know the answer to this question but the less further bloodshed there is, the better for all sides.


**Related Posts**


Hitler, Napoleon, and Stalin: Outsider Despots

 

Measuring Democracy in the World?

 

The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context

 

9/11 Aftermath Survey

 

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)

 

What is Sanity?

 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hitler, Napoleon, and Stalin: Outsider Despots

Much has been written about the similarities between Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte.  Hitler was an Austrian who was a failed artist who was abused as a boy.  Through cunning and luck he rose from obscurity to become a heinous dictator of his adopted county, Germany.  

Napoleon was a Corsican who had once tried to write a novel.  Corsica had been conquered by France the year before he was born from Florence.  After being sent to a military school in France and being shunned there, he returned to his homeland to fight for it's independence he was shunned there as well.  He then returned to France at the height of the revolution in the military and, also through cunning and luck rose to become First Consul of the Republic and then it's emperor.  


There is a third despot who was also an ethnic outsider who rose through the ranks to become a despot in the Soviet Union.  Josef Stalin (born Josef Dzugashvili) was an ethnic Georgian who was a bank robber and had once studied in the seminary.  He became part of the communist party and rose through the ranks to become the leader after Lenin's death also through cunning and luck.

There are differences between the three men of course.  Hitler and Stalin were genocidal ideologues but Napoleon was only interested in personal glory.  Napoleon and Stalin could be thought of as enlightened despots (though far more despotic than enlightened) who modernized their countries in the same way as Frederick, Catherine and Peter the Great by improving literacy and education (though Stalin did it far more brutally).  Hitler, on the other hand, improved the economy, but did little to improve on Germany's past intellectual achievements by expelling scientists like Einstein and banning books.  

Hitler and Napoleon of course were insatiable conquerors of Europe and North Africa who were both done in by invasions of Russia.  Hitler and Stalin were allies at first in WWII.  They carved up Poland and Stalin attacked Finland at the outset of the war.  Stalin wisely switched sides when Germany invaded the USSR in 1941.  

Stalin expanded territory some but he knew his limits.  He already had the world's largest multinational empire and preferred to expand his sphere of influence by supporting insurrections and coercing neighboring nations like China, Korea, and eastern Europe.  In the end this may have made his influence far more long lasting and sinister than either of the other two.

Stalin's rule was followed by a period of seeming stability but his empire eventually did break up almost 50 years after he died.  Napoleon's rule was followed by a restoration of the Bourbon monarchy which was followed by periods of revolution.  This led to his nephew becoming Emperor Napoleon III in 1848 until 1872 when France finally became a republic  after Germany deposed him.  Hitler's rule was followed by a partitioning of Germany and the rest of Europe into the prosperous and free west and the dictatorial east and the .  This partitioning ended in 1989 when Stalin's regime ended in 1989-1991.  

**Update** 

The Daily Show has a good piece on American and Russian conceptions of themselves and each other. 

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bradley Manning and Wikileaks


This week the trial of Private First Class Bradley Manning begins for leaking information to the website Wikileaks.  I have seldom spoken of Wikileaks or it's founder Julian Assange on this blog because other topics have motivated me and because Assange being ensconced at the Ecuadorian embassy to hide from being extradited to Sweden for questioning on a rape allegation which may or may not be trumped up is not something on which I can comment.  I don't think Wikileaks is about Assange anymore than Democracy Now! is about Amy Goodman or this blog is about me.    I have no way of knowing if the allegation about Assange is true but I believe it is a distraction from the purpose that the site he founded serves.


Manning on the other hand has made the meaningful sacrifice for what he believes in just as Daniel Ellsberg (featured in the video above) did in the early 1970's when he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press.  Ellsberg faced trial and dirty tricks by the Nixon Administration and was lucky to be acquitted.  Manning may not be so lucky.  He has already plead guilty to one of the charges where he could face 20 years in prison.  This suggests a greater sacrifice that Assange is willing to make.  It may be better in the long run for Assange to face the music.

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9/11 Aftermath Survey

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'Tis the Season for Women in Racing and the Military

Memorial Day has many traditions, picnics, parades, fireworks, and the like to remember our war dead.  One of the most prominent traditions since 1909 is the Indianapolis 500.  Much was made of the fact that Tony Kanaan finally won the race after years of trying.  Less noted was that after Danica Patrick left the Indy series for NASCAR there were four women racers (all international) out of 33.  Two of them finished, 15th and 17th, out of 20 cars that completed all 200 laps.

Danica Patrick did race on Memorial Day however in the Coca Cola 600 race in the NASCAR series which was won by Kevin Harvick.  Patrick was the only woman racer in the predominately white male field and finished 29th after her boyfriend bumper her into a wreck in lap 311.  She finished 385 out of 400 laps.  The chart below shows she lost about 10 places after the crash.  Her best finish was 8th in the Daytona 500 this year. 

Also at this time of year is horse racing's triple crown, The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and The Belmont Stakes.  The Derby winner Orb finished fourth in the Preakness meaning there will be no triple crown winner for another year since 1978.  In that race there was a rare female jockey,  Rosie Napravnik finished third or showing in horse racing terminology being the first woman to do so in any triple crown race.  She will ride a different horse in the Belmont on June 8.



 
As these sports become more inclusive and more mechanized, the talent pool becomes larger to choose from leveling the playing field.  In 1947 when the color line was breached in Major League Baseball, the talent level was raised there and it is very unlikely that the 0.400 batting average level will ever be eclipsed and Roger Maris' and Hank Aaron's home run records were only eclipsed by Barry Bonds with the help of drugs.  The women horse and auto racers don't need to use drugs because they're not doing the bulk of the work.  They're, just like the male racers, just telling the cars and horses where to go.  Women in team and individual sports where they cannot compete against the men still struggle for more attention.  The Olympics are now the best showcase for women's other sports.

Just as sports has become more mechanized, the military has and women have played a more prominent role with the costs becoming more evident as well though not necessarily equally distributed.  Before stepping down, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted restrictions on women in combat. Congressional hearings are being held to ensure that they are treated fairly.
 

**Update**


The Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh is having screenings of the film Band of Sisters from May 31-June 6 and one of the Invisible War (trailer seen above) at the FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE 4836 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213  on Monday, June 3 at 5:30.
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Olympic Medal Counts Still Reflect National Power (or the Need for it)
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Monday, December 31, 2012

Will Our New Secretary of State be Swiftboated?

Now that the election is over President Obama has been reshuffling his cabinet.  One position he will have to fill is Secretary of State as Hillary Clinton is stepping down, possibly to run for President in 2016 if her health allows.  His first appointee, UN ambassador Susan Rice, was withdrawn due to controversy over the Benghazi, Libya attack.  She was replaced with 2004 Presidential nominee John Kerry. 


Right now he seems to have smooth sailing in the Senate with the country focused on the fiscal cliff and New Years celebrations.  There is always the possibility of eleventh hour "swiftboating" when the confirmation hearings heat up.  Back in 1971 John Kerry, then 27, debated the Vietnam War with fellow swiftboat veteran John O'Neill on the Dick Cavett show.  John O'Neill  would go on to head the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth which campaigned against his 2004 run for the White House and may have planted enough doubt in voters minds to cost him the election.  Below are the first two video clips from the Cavett show.  The whole show can be watched here.  Former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel has also raised controversy with his appointment as Secretary of Defense with many of his GOP colleagues threatening to block his appointment.  Right now he seems a better candidate for swiftboating but the the original swiftboaters haven't given up on Kerry.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Using the Disabled as a Prop for a Larger Racist Global Agenda


Rick Santorum, Glenn Beck and the right made an effort to show that they can still flex their muscle now that the election is over by campaigning against the UN treaty on the Disabled which failed yesterday in the US Senate to make the needed two thirds majority of 67 by 6 votes.  The treaty in the US is mostly symbolic because the Americans with Disabilities Act covers most of this territory but it is significant in much of the world.  This rejection also does not affect the treaty in other countries. 

The greater significance of this action is to still show the same contempt for international cooperation that impedes US 'sovereignty.'  This is a token victory which may be reversed after the new Congress is sworn in in January.  The rhetoric above resembles that of the southern states to protect their sovereignty in the Civil War.  

An Anti-War March in 2005
Another Anti-War Marcher in 2005

The Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq without UN authorization is definitely a more extreme case of the right showing contempt for global democracy than this one.  Remember "freedom fries" replacing French Fries in Congressional Cafeteria?  That one resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and created possibly millions more disabled Americans and Iraqis over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist at the time of the invasion.  Now we're hearing the same rhetoric now over Syria and Iran.  The average Iraqi is a better judge of how democratic their country is now than any pundit on Fox News.

Santorum again uses his youngest child Bella in his arguments against the current treaty just as he did against the health care law while many lower status children and adults with disabilities need these types of protections.  Santorum and Beck even call the UN disabled treaty 'fascistic.'  Doesn't anyone see that this is all really a ploy to subvert real democratic processes among nations?  The scale may differ but the intent is the same.  Many other global issues such as terrorism and climate change require global cooperation just as the states have to cooperate to solve national problems. This contempt for the UN is really thinly veiled racism.


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Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 Aftermath Survey

On December 31, 2004 I was at a spiritual retreat for New Years Eve.  We were having a discussion about moral dilemmas.  An older woman wearing a mink coat was asking about how much money she should give to those who were killed in the Indian Ocean Tsunami which had just happened.  She had said that she was saddened that 200,000 people were killed.  I had pointed out to her that  about that many people were killed in the Iraq War which began in 2003 according to a survey estimate which came out before the 2004 election.  She responded "yes but that has made us safer."

At the start of the Iraq War according to a Washington Post Poll (Sept 2003) 69% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 attacks when there was no evidence to support it, only rumors and fear.  A few of those who disagreed with this belief had alternative theories that it was the Bush administration who was behind the attacks which can be taken apart with some logic.  Fear is a powerful tool for overriding people's logic even about matters of life and death.  

The Aspen Ideas Festival had an interesting discussion of a recent survey of changes in US attitudes in the last decades.  The results can be summarized as the country has lost it's sense of optimism and it will be hard to turn around.  Many do not believe the death of Osama bin Laden will have a positive effect for the safety of Americans.  It aired on C-SPAN.  I cannot embed the video here but I can link to it below:


The key findings from the survey of 2017 individuals with half of them on the phone can be seen below. I will let you draw your own conclusions unlike the lamestream media.









 **Update**

Noam Chomsky gives an interview on how things have changed since 9/11.





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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Debt Ceiling Duel or Duet?

In these times of economic anxiety the political parties and the news media are playing a cynical poker game with our nation's resources. The latest manifestation of this struggle is the battle over the debt ceiling which is the limit on the amount of money the federal government can borrow. At a healthcare meeting in January, Congressman Mike Doyle D-PA told us that this was the coming partisan battle just after President Obama caved in to Senate Republicans on the Bush tax cuts to get the passage of START treaty, an unemployment extension, the 9/11 first responders health care bill (which would have been unnecessary with a real universal Medicare for all system in place), and the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal bill for LGBT's in the military.  Since 1917 the ceiling has been raised many times with little fanfare but this time it's being used to bargain for cuts in entitlement social programs (not in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya) like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid or tax increases on the rich.  The deadline for talks is August 2.  Economist Jeff Madrick has a good discussion of the ramifications if no deal is reached.



Unlike other doomsday deadlines, such as the May 21 deadline for the rapture, this one appears to have at least some credibility.  The government would not be able to borrow and spend any more money and social spending would come to a halt which would hurt many of the most vulnerable of society.  Republicans are committed to making a deal this time with President Obama to only have spending cuts on social programs.  In return for some concessions on taxes Obama has signaled a willingness to make some concessions on entitlements.  Last weekend he also announced that Elizabeth Warren would not be nominated to head the Consumer Protection Bureau which she helped found as a way of appeasing those on the far right in the Senate.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed giving the President the authority to arbitrarily raise the ceiling without approval from Congress thus eliminating the need to raise taxes and unpleasant spending cuts.  Whether the compromise is constitutional or not is another matter but it may be the best outcome for those on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for now.   A real deal for economic justice still eludes millions in the US and billions around the world. 



Obama could have let the Bush tax cuts on the rich expire last December without Congressional action and he might have more bargaining power now. Time will tell if the deals he makes are worth the big compromises.  Elizabeth Warren is now considering a run for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat against Scott Brown.  If she does run will he really get behind her as he runs for reelection?

**Update**

Mother Jones magazine has a good explanation of the background and political chess game surrounding the debt ceiling.  Republicans in the House seem to be intransigent to McConnell's plan.   The government is scheduled to run out of money on August 2.

What's Happening With the Debt Ceiling Explained


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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Concussions

The human brain is a very fascinating yet very fragile thing. It floats in sea water inside your skull. It computes calculations more complex than a Cray super computer all powered by about 20 watts of electricity. By itself it has the consistency of jelly. To be able to handle it and study it's structure, it has to be treated with a chemical called formalin which makes it smell really bad.

Any bump on the head can cause injury to the brain. The skull and the cerebrospinal fluid can absorb the shock of most minor bumps and brain cells can reorganize connections that may be damaged. Where there are more serious hits on the head, it can bump against the skull and cause bruising. Depending on how often and how frequently it happens the damage can be temporary or permanent.

Wearing a helmet can absorb the force of a harder hit but no amount of covering is full proof. A hit on the head can send ripples through the brain similar to shaking a bowl of jello gelatin. Unlike the damage caused by a stroke or a tumor, it tends to be diffuse throughout the brain rather than to one specific area.

The psychological effects of concussions tend to be subtle and can be hard to recognize. In the past, the advice was just to take an aspirin and get over it. In recent decades neuopsychological testing has been able to identify these deficits and track them over time. They often include memory, reaction time, judgment, and movement in the short to long term. For a review of symptoms and treatment see this link at the Mayo Clinic.
This injury in sports is being recognized by the National Football League (NFL) as James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been fined over $100,000 (while at the same time being paid millions for doing the very same thing) this year for hits that at worst in the past before would just draw a penalty. He may or may not be a scapegoat but at worst he is just one small facet of a much larger problem. In the NFL the players in general are bigger, faster, and stronger now than they were in the past. In the 1980s William "the refrigerator" Perry was considered a very large defensive lineman at 330 pounds (152 Kg) but now that is an average weight for his position. During that time the brain is just as fragile as it was in the past and helmets cannot adjust to new conditions. In it's drive for greater profits, the NFL is also considering making the season longer which would only make the problem worse.

The long term effects of repeated concussions can be serious. When one is younger the brain can recover from hits faster and more completely but each time it happens it gets harder to recover. Most famously Muhammad Ali kept boxing longer than he should have and now suffers from Parkinson's disease. Another sport associated with concussions is soccer (or football for my international readers) where the cumulative effects of headers over years leads to cognitive problems later in life.

The military is now recognizing the long term effects of concussions which are now becoming more common as bombs are becoming more powerful and prevalent.


Protective gear can only do so much to protect from the shock of a hit on the head. The best way to prevent concussions is to reduce the hits.



**Update** 


As the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare for the new season their star player, Sidney Crosby continues to have headaches from concussions he received playing last year which caused him to miss most of the season and all of the playoffs.  He continues to have headaches almost a year later and may affect his play again this year.  I know many fans are frustrated when they see Ben Roethlisberger returning from a concussion just two weeks after being hit but  no two brains are alike.  He can't risk putting his long term health in jeopardy.  There are more important things in life than hockey.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)

In all of the happy talk about Chilean miners, the important discussion about health care, national debt, and the economy, and the stupid banter about witches and Nancy Pelosi there is one issue that has been neglected, foreign policy (more pressingly the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan). There is little discussion on the news outside of the Chilean miners of events outside of the US now. Are we so numbed by the gloomy news here that, as John McCain says, we just want to "build the dang fence" to keep illegal aliens out?

Both parties basically agree on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the exceptions of a few real "mavericks" in each. Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, and Ron Paul and son Rand have voiced some brave objections from both sides of the aisle to these and other foreign US escapades but are often easily marginalized as "flaky." Another well known real maverick who once teamed up with faux maverick McCain is Sen. Russ Feingold who is now trailing in his bid for reelection. This near unanimity continues even though polls indicate that these wars are at least as unpopular as the health care bill but for different reasons.

iCasualties.org has kept a running total of the US dead in Iraq (4,425) (combat operations have supposedly ended there but 50,000 troops and tensions remain as there is no functioning government) and Afghanistan (1,342). The number of Iraqi and Afghan dead are harder to ascertain. The website Iraq Body Count has kept a running total of civilian deaths there since 2003 that are documented in the public and stand between 98,000 and 107,000. This estimate could skyrocket as the website WikiLeaks is preparing to release about 300,000 previously classified documents from the Iraq war (all for weapons of mass destruction and an al Qaeda/9-11 connection that didn't exist and oil that did). WikiLeaks has already released about 70,000 documents detailing civilian deaths in Afghanistan which are harder to count because of the rural nature of the country. At least there, there was a real al Qaeda/9-11 connection but the principal offenders have not been caught and the country is in shambles.

**UPDATE** 

Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War, discusses the upcoming Wikileaks disclosure of classified Iraq documents.



This is a short review of the two wars we are fighting. These are the longest the US has fought and need to end as soon as possible. What happens abroad does have an impact at home. These wars have cost us in the trillions of dollars (and will cost us for years to come as our past wars have, the final bills for World War I were just paid when the last vets passed away) and have generated far more debt that the stimulus ever could. Plus the suffering these wars have caused abroad could lead to retribution at home as nearly happened this year with the Times Square and the Christmas underwear bomber but were thwarted by alert bystanders.

For more authoritative analysis of US actions in the Middle East and South Asia than I can give, visit Juan Cole's blog at Informed Comment, Tom Engelhardt's at TomDispatch, and Robert Fisk's column's at the Independent Newspaper.

**Update**


A new poll of Afghan citizens show that 27% of them see attacks on NATO troops as justified which is up from 8% from last year. It sampled 1,700 citizens from all regions of the country. Doing a representative survey there presents many challenges that would not be found here having few phones, little electricity and a population with a low literacy rate but these numbers, while still not a majority, are still troubling.



Poll: More Afghans say insurgents are justified

In the southern provinces of the country, where the Taliban is the strongest, a survey indicates that the vast majority of the population have never heard of the 9/11 attacks and don't understand why NATO is fighting there.

Study: Few Afghans know about 9/11, reason for war