One Hundred BILLION Dollars!

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It has nothing to do with a nuclear-armed drill, or liquid-hot mag-ma however.

The US has spent $100 billion on contractors since 2003. And as we know, it was well accounted for, and spent prudently. Right?

The Pentagon’s reliance on outside contractors in Iraq is proportionately far larger than in any previous conflict, and it has fueled charges that this outsourcing has led to overbilling, fraud and shoddy and unsafe work that has endangered and even killed American troops. The role of armed security contractors has also raised new legal and political questions about whether the United States has become too dependent on private armed forces on the 21st-century battlefield.

This article has the scoop. Contractors outnumber troops on the ground.

The cover image from Paul Verkuil’s book really says it all. There are the billions, right on that table.

Paul Verkuil is an expert in administrative law and professor at Cardozo. His book was a huge wake-up call, and I really hope message gets out!

Just Change the Caption!

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Few newspaper pieces are so (ready for this one?) metatextual as this one about photograph manipulation.

Remember Iran’s swarms of test missiles? Remember how there were really only two? Does it matter anymore how many there were, since you saw an intimidating picture with a bunch of missiles?

Photoshop analysis by Charles Johnson, Little Green Footballs

Photoshop analysis by Charles Johnson, Little Green Footballs

As it happens, seeing something is usually enough to ingrain it in your mind, even if you know that it is false.

Better yet, don’t bother with the task of digital alteration:

The rest of the article includes a fascinating interview with digital expert Hany Farid. And yes, they bring Godzilla into it. Definitely worth a read.

The US has been at it too, especially during the Cold War. And that kid thinks that JFK is hilarious, apparently.

Free Trade = Good for Human Rights

Susan Aaronson, author of Trade Imbalance gave an opinion piece on NPR’s Marketplace yesterday afternoon.

Human rights groups may protest the Columbian free trade agreement, and point to Columbia’s shoddy record of human rights. Ok, yes, it’s shoddy. But should we wave a stick at it and hope it improves?

Aaronson points out that what many protesters fail to notice is that the agreement has built-in protections for human rights. This deal, in danger of failing, could be just what the critics should be rooting for.

Lynch and Singh at the Hudson Institute

Did you miss Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh‘s presentation at the Hudson Institute July 22?

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It was only a matter of time…

The folks at Slate have been so kind as to put together a Venn Diagram of The crimes committed by the Bush Administration. Oh, where to start?

Though you can follow the chart well enough from here, I’d suggest you click on it for the interactive version. It fills one with a strange kind of righteous irritation.

Well, the good kind.

All those memos on torture were documented by someone, you know. Karen Greenberg and her colleagues did a lot of research legwork documenting torture in the administration.

Meanwhile, Laura Donohue has assembled a great resource detailing loss of civil liberties in the administration’s war on terrorism.

Obama, the Optimist on Trade

Today’s Financial Times offers commentary by Susan Aaronson, a scholar who analyzes the murky relationships between trade and human rights. In it she poses the question: if both candidates are pro-trade, what else will they do with their policies?

Around the world, the press has portrayed the 2008 US presidential election as a choice between freer trader John McCain and “protectionist” Barack Obama. That traditional paradigm has helped the media simplify the differences between the two men. However, such these labels do not accurately describe either candidate. And it does not fully portray the candidate, Mr Obama, who has the more optimistic vision of trade.

The conventional wisdom labels Mr McCain as a freer trader because he supports three bilateral trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration. Mr Obama, in contrast, has come out forcefully against these agreements. Moreover, because Mr Obama states that he wants to review the effects of existing trade agreements, the press has found him to be unenthusiastic about trade liberalisation. (It is important to note that the US is already conducting a similar review of the World Trade Organisation.) Finally, Mr Obama has support from many US unions, which traditionally have taken a protectionist stance.

In fact, both men are pro-trade; they each support using trade agreements to open markets and create economic efficiencies. But the two have different perspectives regarding what trade agreements should do, what rules these agreements should include, and whom these agreements should directly benefit.
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Obama and the Third Bush Term — A Competent One

In recent days Barack Obama has sought to establish bluer water between himself and John McCain over Iraq.

Did he succeed?

Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh

Obama and McCain duel over foreign policy in this NY Times article

Yes, he has succeeded to a degree. He has made it clear that Afghanistan will be the first front in his revised war on terror. By wrapping up Iraq quickly – most US brigades, save for a residual force, to depart with sixteen months – he is promising to redirect US violence on the Taliban. McCain, alternatively, says that the Iraq war should not be judged according to a timetable established in a US electoral campaign. If winning takes time then time it shall take. The war on terror is not a debate between Iraq-firsters and Afghanistan-firsters. It is a global war on multiple fronts that demands attention to all those fronts.

Two features are worthy of note. First, despite what elements of his domestic base may be hoping, a President Obama is not seeking a withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East theater. Rather, he is pledging to redeploy American troops so as to better advance the war on terror. His initial caution over the Iraq liberation was not grounded in a leftist pacifism. It was, instead, the product of his empiricism. The Iraq war was a tactical misstep which he is pledged to correct. But the essential strategy of Bush’s war on terror has not been disavowed. President Bush stands accused by the Illinois senator not for being a warmonger but for being an incompetent war monger. ‘Make me commander in chief,’ Obama is saying, ‘and I will make violence abroad more effectively. Pakistan watch out.’
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