Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Few people actually think of this, but the cost of driving your own automobile is prohibitive:
LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwire - April 4, 2008) - The Automobile Club of Southern California's 2008 edition of "Your Driving Costs" shows the cost of driving a passenger vehicle in the United States has increased 1.9 cents per mile in the last year and now averages 54.1 cents per mile.
"While the cost of some driving expenses declined since the start of 2007, higher gasoline prices have more than offset these savings and pushed the overall cost of vehicle ownership and operation higher this year," said the Auto Club's Automotive Research Center Manager Steve Mazor. In 2008, AAA estimates it will cost $8,121 to own and operate a new passenger car driven 15,000 miles per year. This compares to $7,823 per year in 2007; or 52.2 cents per mile.
Posted by Greyhair at 10:55 AM
Thomas Powers has written a fine piece on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He gives a fine overview of the wars, how we got into them, how we screwed them up and how the U.S. has shifted from international diplomacy to military intervention.
I found this to be a frightening assessment on Afghanistan:
The CIA officer Anthony Arnold, who was stationed in Kabul before the Russian invasion, thinks the penalty of failure [for the Russians after they invaded Afghanistan] went beyond immediate losses and humiliation to include the actual collapse of the Soviet state itself. They were weaker than they knew, Arnold thinks, but the Russians did not give in easily: they killed more than a million Afghans, bombed villages to rubble, machine-gunned herds of sheep from the air, and drove as many as a fifth of all Afghans out of the country, across the border into the safe haven of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Nothing worked and the war ended when the last Russian troops and trucks drove back across the Friendship Bridge into Tajikistan in 1989. It is true that the mujahideen got plenty of material help from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, but it was the Afghans who fought the Russians to exhausted frustration, and have gone right on fighting among themselves ever since.This is the nut the U.S. is up against in Afghanistan.
The real point of Powers review is that we're in a quagmire that seems to dictate one of two solutions, without much in between:
We are committed in Afghanistan. We are not ready to leave Iraq. In both countries our friends are in trouble. The pride of American arms is at stake. The world is watching. To me the logic of events seems inescapable. Unless something quite unexpected happens, four years from now the presidential candidates will be arguing about two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one going into its ninth year, the other into its eleventh. The choice will be the one Americans hate most—get out or fight on.Ugly huh? I think he's right. The next President will be faced with cleaning up Bush's mess, and enduring consequences put into motion by Bush. Like everything else in George Bush's life, someone else will have to be the adult and clean up after the brat. If it's President McCain, I think the outcome is precisely as Powers describes. The remaining question is will President Obama have the guts to get out?
Posted by Greyhair at 10:35 AM
You may (or given our media, may not) have heard that there has been a major battle going on inside Baghdad. U.S. troops ... and oh yeah, Iraq military ... have "surrounded" Sadr City and have been attacking regularly inflicting a whole lot of casualties among the 2+ million residents.
It appears the Iraqi government and al Sadr have reached a new "agreement" for a ceasefire. Juan Cole summarizes:
The al-Maliki government and the Sadrists pulled back from the brink in Sadr City on Saturday. PM Nuri al-Maliki had demanded that the Mahdi Army militia that serves as the Sadrist paramilitary give up its arms and dissolve itself. The compromise simply states that the Iraqi security forces would be allowed in to Sadr City to search for suspected medium and heavy weapons. The implication is that the Mahdi Army may continue to exist and may keep its light weapons (e.g. AK-47s), though it has to pledge not to walk with them in public.Ok. I'm sure the Mahdi militiamen will all hand over their large weapons. Right.
The siege of Sadr City is to be lifted and the major roads in and out of it are to be unblocked, according to the agreement.
But this is the key graf in Cole's description:
Reading news about Iraq is like watching Bill Murray's 'Groundhog Day' in which you have to live through the same day over and over again. So the US and Iraqi governments have announced a new campaign against Sunni radicals in Ninevah province, especially Mosul. Take a look at this article, published late last January: "Thousands of Iraqi army soldiers reached the northern city of Mosul on Sunday in preparation for what the government said would be a major offensive there against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, along with other Sunni militants."Or rather as I like to say, lather, rinse, repeat. And the war goes on and on and on.
You have a sinking feeling that al-Maliki is recycling old announcements in a futile attempt to distract the public from his climb-down in Sadr City. Al-Maliki left for Mosul Saturday along with a few cabinet members and close advisers. Curfews have been announced in some Mosul neighborhoods.
Posted by Greyhair at 10:19 AM