Saturday, June 26, 2010

CS Monitor analysis of how BP cut corners to have money and create an ecological disaster through their gross negligence

Five crucial moves by BP: Did they lead to Gulf oil spill disaster? - CSMonitor.com
....According to a June 14 letter to BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward from Committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California and investigations subcommittee chairman Rep. Bart Stupak (D) of Michigan, the five important decisions made by BP that lawmakers are investigating are:
1. Well design

On April 19, BP installed the final steel tubing in the well, according to House investigators. They chose a cheaper approach which involved dropping in a full string of casing that lined the well from top to bottom. A BP plan review in mid-April had recommended a more involved approach that would have installed the casing in sections and used “tiebacks” to help prevent gas from seeping up around the steel tubes.
2. Insufficient 'centralizers'

When installing the final steel casing, it is important to run the tube down the center of the wellbore hole, to ensure ease of sealing the casing around its entire diameter. BP used only six centralizers to accomplish this task, as opposed to the 21 recommended by subcontractor Halliburton, according to the House letter to Hayward.
3. Failure to run a key test

BP did not run a nine- to 12-hour procedure called a “cement bond log” to assess the integrity of the cement seal around the well casing, according to the House panel, despite a Halliburton prediction of severe gas flow problems. A crew from subcontractor Schlumberger was on the Deepwater Horizon rig on the morning of April 20 to carry out this test, but they left after BP officials told them they were not needed.
4. Improper mud circulation

Wells are generally filled with weighted mud during drilling. According to the House, the American Petroleum Institute recommends that oil firms fully circulate the mud from the bottom of the well to the top prior to beginning the process of cementing the tube. This allows the testing of the mud for gas influxes and debris removal. BP conducted only a partial circulation of the drilling mud, according to the House Energy panel.
5. Failure to secure wellhead

The wellhead on the sea floor was the last barrier to a dangerous upward-rising flow of gas. BP did not secure the wellhead with a lockdown sleeve that would have prevented it from being blown out by pressure from below, according to the House.

The House Energy and Commerce panel’s letter to BP's Mr. Hayward concluded that “time after time it appears BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense.”...

Econbrowser: Inflation or deflation

Econbrowser: Inflation or deflation?
For the last year and a half my assessment has been that the near-term pressures on the U.S. economy were deflationary, while long-term fundamentals involve significant inflation risks. It's time for a look at the data that have come in over the last 6 months, and time to say that I still see things exactly the same way.

The short-run deflationary forces come from the substantial underemployment of potentially productive labor and capital. I noted in January that, given the high unemployment rate at the time, a traditional Phillips Curve would predict deflation in the CPI over 2010-2011. Six months into the year, that's about how things have unfolded so far. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday that the seasonally adjusted consumer price index for May was at exactly the same value it had been in December.

For the last year and a half my assessment has been that the near-term pressures on the U.S. economy were deflationary, while long-term fundamentals involve significant inflation risks. It's time for a look at the data that have come in over the last 6 months, and time to say that I still see things exactly the same way.





The short-run deflationary forces come from the substantial underemployment of potentially productive labor and capital. I noted in January that, given the high unemployment rate at the time, a traditional Phillips Curve would predict deflation in the CPI over 2010-2011. Six months into the year, that's about how things have unfolded so far. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Thursday that the seasonally adjusted consumer price index for May was at exactly the same value it had been in December.









6-month CPI inflation (quoted at an annual rate), 1947:M1-2010:M5. Data source: FRED
cpi_jun_10.gif





I often hear the idea expressed that all the money that the Federal Reserve has created through its various responses to to the financial crisis has to produce inflation. With the exception of the assets the Fed acquired through the AIG deal, which aren't going anywhere, most of the other special facilities the Fed implemented in the fall of 2008 have been wound down, replaced with long-term holdings of mortgage-backed securities and agency debt.









All Federal Reserve assets, in billions of dollars, seasonally unadjusted, from Jan 1, 2007 to June 16, 2010. Wednesday values, from Federal Reserve H41 release.
Agency: federal agency debt securities held outright;
swaps: central bank liquidity swaps;
Maiden 1: net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane LLC;
MMIFL: net portfolio holdings of LLCs funded through
the Money Market Investor Funding Facility;
MBS: mortgage-backed securities held outright;
CPLF: net portfolio holdings of LLCs funded through the Commercial Paper Funding Facility;
TALF: loans extended through Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility plus net portfolio holdings of TALF LLC;
AIG: sum of credit extended to American International Group, Inc. plus net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane II and III plus preferred interest in AIA Aurora LLC and ALICO Holdings LLC;
ABCP: loans extended to Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility;
PDCF: loans extended to primary dealer and other broker-dealer credit;
discount: sum of primary credit, secondary credit, and seasonal credit;
TAC: term auction credit;
RP: repurchase agreements;
misc: sum of float, gold stock, special drawing rights certificate account, and Treasury currency outstanding;
other FR: Other Federal Reserve assets;
treasuries: U.S. Treasury securities held outright.
fed_assets_jun_10.gif





Although the Fed's balance sheet remains expanded, the potential currency that these operations created still remains parked as excess reserves held by banks or the Treasury. It hasn't shown up as currency in circulation, and I don't see a reason to expect it to soon. The nation's money supply, as measured by seasonally adjusted M1, is only up 1% since December.





I often hear the idea expressed that all the money that the Federal Reserve has created through its various responses to to the financial crisis has to produce inflation. With the exception of the assets the Fed acquired through the AIG deal, which aren't going anywhere, most of the other special facilities the Fed implemented in the fall of 2008 have been wound down, replaced with long-term holdings of mortgage-backed securities and agency debt.

All Federal Reserve assets, in billions of dollars, seasonally unadjusted, from Jan 1, 2007 to June 16, 2010. Wednesday values, from Federal Reserve H41 release. Agency: federal agency debt securities held outright; swaps: central bank liquidity swaps; Maiden 1: net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane LLC; MMIFL: net portfolio holdings of LLCs funded through the Money Market Investor Funding Facility; MBS: mortgage-backed securities held outright; CPLF: net portfolio holdings of LLCs funded through the Commercial Paper Funding Facility; TALF: loans extended through Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility plus net portfolio holdings of TALF LLC; AIG: sum of credit extended to American International Group, Inc. plus net portfolio holdings of Maiden Lane II and III plus preferred interest in AIA Aurora LLC and ALICO Holdings LLC; ABCP: loans extended to Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility; PDCF: loans extended to primary dealer and other broker-dealer credit; discount: sum of primary credit, secondary credit, and seasonal credit; TAC: term auction credit; RP: repurchase agreements; misc: sum of float, gold stock, special drawing rights certificate account, and Treasury currency outstanding; other FR: Other Federal Reserve assets; treasuries: U.S. Treasury securities held outright.
fed_assets_jun_10.gif

Although the Fed's balance sheet remains expanded, the potential currency that these operations created still remains parked as excess reserves held by banks or the Treasury. It hasn't shown up as currency in circulation, and I don't see a reason to expect it to soon. The nation's money supply, as measured by seasonally adjusted M1, is only up 1% since December....

But I do think now would be an excellent time for fiscal reforms that make the long-run math look substantially more responsible. Examples include raising the eligibiity age for Social Security and Medicare, increasing the Medicare copay, budget reform to bring earmarks under control, a plan to ease the government out of responsibiity for implicitly or explicitly guaranteeing U.S. mortgage debt, and reforms at the state and local government level to bring their long-run pension liabilities under control.

British troops prepare for summer battle in Sangin

British troops prepare for summer battle in Sangin - Telegraph
.... Gen Mills said the Taliban had begun to target helicopters with rocket propelled grenades as they come in to land and take off, successfully downing a US Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation of British soldiers in Sangin earlier this month.

“They are looking for the spectacular attack,” he added, “They are looking for those that have an impact on us.”

He said insurgents were also increasing their use of small arms fire, characterised by a British army spokesman as “single shots at range” although he questioned their ability as snipers.

The Royal Marines have abandoned their position on the Kajaki Dam which was taken from the Taliban in 2007 and supplied with a new turbine in one of the biggest logistical operations since the Second World War.

Cpl Mark Wright of the Parachute Regiment was posthumously awarded the George Cross in September 2006 after going into a mine field to rescue another soldier at Kajaki.

Major General Gordon Messenger, spokesman for the British Army, said forces were redeploying “with their heads held high” after helping with the refurbishment of the existing hydroelectric turbines that provide power across the area.

But Tangye, the town at the dam remains little more than a ghost town, with the village’s baker recently returning to serve just two families, and the new turbine is still not working.....

[bth: this article is worth reading just to understand the spin.  A couple of key points.  First the Tabliban controls the area around the dam, they beat the Brits for the territory though it was hotly contested, it is choked off.  Second the huge effort a few years ago to move that turbine into place failed to get it working and the Taliban cut off cement to the dam effectively killing the project.  Third, I have a source that tells me the Taliban have gone to tungsten carbine high power rifle rounds and are firing them from scoped sniper rifles at long range and that this round which is probably Chinese in origin is penetrating our equipment, most likely the helmets if recent testimony by the US marines on helmets is an indication.  Fourth, the Brits are setting up public expectations for a strategic retreat from Afghanistan next year.  Fox flew out to tell Karzai about a month ago.]

Gulf Oil Spill Time-Lapse Video From NASA Satellites Is Haunting (VIDEO)

Gulf Oil Spill Time-Lapse Video From NASA Satellites Is Haunting (VIDEO)

Unbelievable backhoe maneuver

Defence and Freedom

Fascinating 5 meter climb with backhoe

Defence and Freedom

MilPub

Article by Peter Galbraith

David Petraeus Can’t Win in Afghanistan Because of Hamid Karzai - The Daily Beast
.... U.S. strategy depends on having a credible Afghan partner. While President Obama describes his Afghan counterpart as the democratically elected leader of a reliable ally, saying it doesn’t make it so. President Hamid Karzai heads a government ranked the second-most corrupt in the world, where power rests with thousands of warlords, power brokers, and militiamen. While some may hold elected or appointed positions, this is incidental to their exercise of power, which depends on the number of armed men at their disposal or because of the wealth they have been able to accumulate. Karzai holds his office not as the choice of the Afghan people but as the result of a massively fraudulent election, as he himself now concedes.

Americans view the war as a contest between the U.S.-backed Karzai government and the Taliban insurgency. The reality is more complex. In the Pashtun south where the insurgency is strongest, local power brokers and officials have relations with the Taliban, who are tribesmen and relatives. They make deals with each other to run drugs, trade weapons, eliminate rivals, and rig elections. Both sides collaborate in order to profit from massive U.S. expenditures. The U.S. spends hundreds of millions on Afghan security companies who use the proceeds to pay off the Taliban not to attack, or, in some cases, to stage attacks so as to enable the local warlord (a.k.a. security contractor) to hire more men at higher prices.

McChrystal’s strategy entails clearing insurgents from Taliban-held districts so as to enable the Afghan government to establish its administration and eventually take over security and policing from the NATO troops. International donors supplement these efforts by funding economic-development projects. Success depends on the government providing a sufficiently honest administration to win the loyalty of a population that is also enjoying economic gains. The hope is that less committed Taliban will change sides while the population at large turns on the hardliners.

This strategy only works if the Afghan government is capable of providing honest administration. Where local power brokers are in league with the Taliban, it is fatal to cooperate with the government. In too many instances, the nominal government authorities are powerless, corrupt, working with both sides in the conflict, or all of the above. Karzai’s national government cannot remedy any of this. It is corrupt, ineffective, and widely seen as illegitimate. Some senior government officials, including President Karzai, through his half-brother in Kandahar, have their own links to the Taliban.

At General Petraeus’ confirmation hearing, senators should bear down on two questions: Can the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy work without a credible Afghan partner? And is Karzai’s government a credible partner?

The honest answer to both questions is no.

Peter W. Galbraith served as deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Afghanistan in 2009.

[bth: keep in mind that Galbraith was fired from his UN job under pressure from Karzai when Galbraith rightly declared foul in the 2009 Afghan elections. My respect for Galbraith declined markedly later when it was revealed that he had a secret deal regarding Kurdish oil drilling rights.  On balance though Galbraith has been an insightful observer in both Iraq and Afghanistan.]

Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone's McChrystal Profiler, Says Troops Are Happy That General Was Ousted

Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone's McChrystal Profiler, Says Troops Are Happy That General Was Ousted
.... How is that offensive going?

I think it's in trouble, in serious trouble. The fighting is really, really heavy and they've postponed the heaviest fighting till the fall. But it's going to be nasty. This June has been the deadliest month of the war. You have this problem where we told our Afghan partners, if you don't want it , then we don't have to do it, and they said no and we said, well, we're doing it anyway. Now we're in situation where we are eventually going to do it and we don't have the popular support of the locals.

What was your reaction to McChrystal's resignation? And Obama accepting it? Were you surprised?

I was very surprised. I thought Gen. McChrystal was unfireable, that his position was secure. What is telling is that our story demonstrates this tense relationship between Pres. Obama and Gen. McChrystal and the way the WH responded confirms this. They could have swept it under the rug but they drove it... obviously McChrystal's political opponents took advantage of this opportunity to relieve him of his command, though that's just my speculation.

I didn't think Obama would do it. Essentially the story calls him out for being weak and not having control of his Afghan policy. If he had let him stay, it would have confirmed this idea in the story. He had to prove that he was in control. I wasn't sure that he was willing to do that. I was shocked that he was -- not because I don't think Obama is courageous, but because it involved some political drama... It was so fast, both right and left seemed to get together to call for his resignation. There was no one defending McChrystal.

Do you think it was the right decision?

Obviously, I have significant doubts about the [military] campaign anyway. The most important decision is not whether I think Obama made the right decision but whether his firing will satisfy the soldiers. Over here, soldiers were happy that he got fired. I've had a number of people come up to me, I got an email from Marine this morning [Thursday]: 'Hey man, you did great work. All the guys in my company think it's good McChrystal is not there because he was putting our lives at risk...

Petraeus is sort of a genius. He managed to turn what could have been catastrophic defeat in Iraq into a face-saving withdrawal. That's his mission in Afghanistan, to make it look like we didn't get run out. He's a master at playing the game... the soldiers look up to him and respect him.

Will Petraeus continue this counterinsurgency offensive?

Yes. And Petraeus has the ability to communicate this strategy in a way that is more effective... I have a scene in the story [in which McChrystal goes to meet some soldiers in a unit who were angry with the general for putting them in harm's way by limited their range of responses, which led to the killing of one of their own]. The reason those guys are so angry [with McChrystal] is that Corporal Michael Ingram was killed because they weren't allowed to tear down this house [an abandoned home long considered a security risk in the area they were patrolling]. It was a total failure to communicate his vision.

The trash talking has gotten a lot of attention but the more damaging part [of the story] for McChrystal was how the soldiers would be portrayed. He pulled me aside after the meeting [at which McChrystal went to meet with Ingram's unit to hear their concerns and to explain his strategy] and said that for them the wound is still raw. They [McChrystal's staff] were under the impression that I would make the soldiers look like they did not understand counterinsurgency but what was clear to me instead is that McChrystal's command had an issue. They thought he won them over but he didn't. He knew they were angry and upset. I had a quote from a soldier saying, 'We don't even want McChrystal to come here' which I didn't include in the story....

Friday, June 25, 2010

YouTube - America - I Need You

YouTube - America - I Need You

Small Wars Journal: If I Had 5 Minutes with General Petraeus - An Australian Perspective on Afghanistan

If I Had 5 Minutes with General Petraeus - An Australian Perspective on Afghanistan (SWJ Blog)
... 1. Change Coalition Forces rules of engagement - it’s not about troop numbers it’s what the troops do – Yes, counterinsurgency is about winning the population not blazing your way through the enemy. But Pashtun’s and Hazaran’s are tough, resilient and stoic people and the coalition looses all respect when it does not engage the enemy when under continued attack. We experienced this regularly in Ghazni. It was not until two weeks of constant rocket attacks that the Polish, who own the battlespace in Ghanzi, finally responded – even then it was with a helicopter that spent all of 10minutes in the air. In Australia we have a better response to sharks spotted at a beach. Afghans do not think this approach is protecting the population.

2. Have Special Forces infiltrate and cement themselves in “known Taliban” controlled villagers during Winter - There is an operations gap over Winter when senior Talban go off to Quetta and other parts of the Middle East. The Coalition needs to fill that vacuum – I tried to do this with the projects to get them going in Taliban controlled areas so the population was locked in before the bad-guys came back. It works.

3. Assemble special operation development units - They would be special force military engineers, builders and irrigation experts who are embedded in the local community, live in the key tribal areas and work outwards from the main villages where important development projects were taking place. The Special Operations Development units would also directly take care of the labourers and population who are benefiting from the development projects. Locals who take up employment on projects paid for by foreign aid agencies are targeted by the Taliban. One organisation operating out of Gardez has had 85 people killed in the last four months alone.

4. New York Style Zero tolerance areas - There are villages that even the donkeys know are Taliban hide-outs. I drove through many villages with my local staff who would say “this village is controlled by the Taliban.” I met with the Taliban in at least two villagers one of which housed visitors from the Middle East. The US/ISAF forces should adopt a New York style zero tolerance for Taliban - where a village is known to hold Taliban the Coalition forces could even move into that village and get the message to the residents they are there to protect them and to eliminate the Taliban from the village. The Taliban take this approach. They have zero tolerance for village residents being sympathetic to coalition or working on aid projects.

Without the ability to provide security from the insurgents, no amount of improvement in the standard of living was going to convince local tribes to support the [Afghan government]. Once the security situation improved to the level that the insurgents could not mass on isolated villages, the conditions were set to effectively begin reconstruction projects.

5. Replicate the local militia Community Guard Program across Afghanistan - Irregular forces embedded in local communities, including the 100,000 Sunni gunmen paid by the Iraqi government to form “Awakening Councils”, played a crucial role in America’s success in the counterinsurgency war in Iraq. Will Clegg in his 2009 article in Security Challenges also makes this point. Fortunately I got to see them first hand. Most importantly, they supported American efforts to achieve population control by circumscribing collaboration with insurgents and securing local populations. Pashtun speaking community guards working in Pashtun areas and would provide deeper level of intelligence than normal channels.

Finally, with a minute to go in the conversation, I would stress the need to change one of the overriding factors that permeates throughout the military and aid organisations; that is an obsession with imposing Western values on development. The analogy is this: whenever we contemplate life on another planet we think it should resemble humans. Too often aid agencies make Western based judgements about what is good for Afghans and impose processes and systems that are not recognised the local tribal way of doing things....

YouTube - Procol Harum - A whiter shade of pale 1967

YouTube - Procol Harum - A whiter shade of pale 1967

Does Petraeus Mean a Return of Afghanistan Air War?

Does Petraeus Mean a Return of Afghanistan Air War? | Danger Room | Wired.com
... The manual added: “Some of the best weapons for counterinsurgents do not shoot.”

To get an airstrike approved in advance, ground commanders under McChrystal needed to provide multiple sources of intelligence showing that there were no civilians around, proof that there was no other way to go after a target, and a plan to justify the bombing to the locals. Not surprisingly, these requirements rarely came together.

The only bombs that got dropped were those used to protect “troops in contact” — forces in a firefight. And those airstrike requests were granted only after careful consideration.

Battlefield pleas were even turned down when there were no innocents in the area, because of the harm to civilian property. Over all, the number of “munitions expenditures” dropped in half as soon as McChrystal issued his new directive.

The trend line went in the opposite direction, after Petraeus took over the Iraq war in January 2007. Under his leadership, special-operations raids were common. The lethal Task Force ODIN allegedly had a hand in 2,400 insurgents’ deaths. And during 2007, Air Force pilots flew 1,447 sorties that involved dropping munitions. The year before, they flew just 229 of those sorties — about 15 percent of of 2007’s total.

Iraq then was much more violent place than Afghanistan is today. And it demanded a more violent response, the commander believed. As Petraeus told me at the time, the COIN manual “doesn’t say that the best weapons don’t shoot. It says sometimes the best weapons don’t shoot. Sometimes the best weapons do shoot.”

McChrystal’s strict guidelines triggered all kinds of grumbling from frontline troops, who felt hampered in their ability to fight the Taliban. Whether or not Petraeus eases those restrictions is one of many questions to be answered, as McChrystal’s version of COIN gives way to the Petraeus practice.

Pakistan Is Said to Pursue a Foothold in Afghanistan

Pakistan Is Said to Pursue an Afghan Foothold - NYTimes.com
... “The establishment thinks that without getting Haqqani on board, efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan will be doomed,” Mr. Hussain said. “Haqqani has a large fighting force, and by co-opting him into a power-sharing arrangement a lot of bloodshed can be avoided.”

The recent trips by General Kayani and General Pasha to Kabul were an “effort to make this happen,” he said.

Afghan officials said General Kayani had offered to broker a deal with the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and had sent envoys to Kabul from another insurgent leader and longtime Pakistani ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with the offer of a 15-point peace plan in March.

As for the Haqqanis, whose fighters stretch across eastern Afghanistan all the way to Kabul, they are prepared to break with Al Qaeda, Pakistani intelligence and military officials said.

The Taliban, including the Haqqani group, are ready to “do a deal” over Al Qaeda, a senior Pakistani official close to the Pakistani Army said. The Haqqanis could tell Al Qaeda to move elsewhere because it had been given nine years of protection since 9/11, the official said.

But this official acknowledged that the Haqqanis and Al Qaeda were too “thick” with each other for a separation to happen. They had provided each other with fighters, money and other resources over a long period of time, he said.

Also, there appeared to be no idea where the Qaeda forces would go, and no answer to whether the Haqqanis would hand over Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, the official said.

The Haqqanis may be playing their own game with their hosts, the Pakistanis, Mr. Hussain said.

“Many believe that Haqqanis’ willingness to cut its links with Al Qaeda is a tactical move which is aimed at thwarting the impending military action by the Pakistani Army in North Waziristan,” he said.

War Is Boring Zach in Afghanistan: Losing Faith

War Is Boring

.... One soldier tells a story about watching Afghans dig, night after night, on a stretch of road visible from an American observation post. Each night the same thing happens: when soldiers are sent to check it out, the men run; sure enough, the next day an IED blows up in that spot. A few days later, the men are back digging. Instead of shooting them from the safety of their outpost, the soldiers send out MRAPs to intercept them, and again the men run. The cycle repeats.

The choice under COIN, as the next shift at the ECP tells me, is binary. Option 1 is to leave, “like the Russians,” presumably suffering the shame of defeat. Option 2 is to “stay an entire generation, until every fucking person that has this mentality dies.”

Of the officers who spoke on the topic with me, all expressed a clear vision of how to practice COIN in their area of responsibility. Of the enlisted who spoke with me, few demonstrated a clear understanding of COIN — their concerns are different, they don’t have to put much thought into strategy. I once heard someone suggest that the fate of the Afghan war be literally decided by enlisted vote, which would clearly be a terrible idea. But they are the first to receive the feedback of strategic mistakes, and sometimes a worm’s eye view is more accurate than an eagle’s.

[bth: an article worth reading in full. So if a mission can't be reasonably articulated by the enlisted personnel, can it effectively be implemented by them?]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

YouTube - Johnny Cash - Ring of fire

YouTube - Johnny Cash - Ring of fire

Residential housing sales suck

Calculated Risk: New Home Sales collapse to Record Low in May
The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 300 thousand. This is a sharp decrease from the revised rate of 446 thousand in April (revised from 504 thousand).

New Home Sales Monthly Not Seasonally Adjusted Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The first graph shows monthly new home sales (NSA - Not Seasonally Adjusted).
New Home Sales Monthly Not Seasonally Adjusted












Note the Red columns for 2010. In May 2010, 28 thousand new homes
 were sold (NSA). This is a new record low....
New Home Sales and Recessions



New Home Months of Supply and RecessionsNew Home Sales Inventory

Calculated Risk: Estimate of June Decennial Census impact on payroll employment: minus 243,000

Calculated Risk: Estimate of June Decennial Census impact on payroll employment: minus 243,000...So my estimate for the impact of the Census on June payroll employment is minus 243 thousand (this will be close). The employment report will be released on July 2nd, and the headline number for June - including Census numbers - will almost certainly be negative. But a key number will be the hiring ex-Census (so we will add back the Census workers this month).
Census workers per week

[bth: so when I was in DC about 2 weeks ago a congressman told me that come Nov 3 Obama was going to come out strongly against inflation. Inflation? I asked him was he concerned about a double dip recession as I saw no inflation in the economy except in healthcare. He said no. ... Unfucking believable. We're still in negative job creation especially in the private sector but congress and the administration are going to fight inflation?]

msnbc video: BPs live stream of oil leak

msnbc video: BPs live stream of oil leak

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Why General McChrystal Must Go and Why Obama will be judged as a Truman or a Carter president.

Google Image Result for http://www.mises.org/images4/MacArthurTruman.jpg


Three issues with McChrystal.

First he has repeatedly exercised bad judgment in his current position.  Gold Star families like ourselves were strongly outspoken in support of the Pat Tillman family in their clarion call about this time last year with regard to McChrystal's appointment.  McChrystal was a central figure in the Pat Tillman coverup.  He in fact gave Tillman a Silver Star which is reserved for bravery in the face of enemy fire when he knew - knew - that Tillman had been killed by his own men with no enemy in sight.  He also exercised bad judgment last Fall in Europe when he gave a speech in London that bottled up President Obama and then when Obama met with him subsequent to that McChrystal showed up in BDUs instead of a dress uniform for no other apparent reason that to diss the President.

Second we are having a crossing the Rubicon moment here in American politics.  It happened between McClellan and Lincoln, it happened between Truman and MacArthur who thought of himself as an American Caesar. Now we have it between President Obama and Gen. McChrystal.  President Obama walks out of this clash today as either a Harry Truman or a Jimmy Carter.  As I see it Obama has no choice but to fire McChrystal if he wants to remain an effective commander in chief of the armed forces.

Third, we have spent an entire week now talking about McChrystal's media strategy and not his military strategy in Afghanistan - a strategy that is likely failing at the moment.  For gold star families that have received a knock at the door, especially those dozen that received it this week, they should not have to turn on the TV today to see dysfunctional and juvenile behavior from the general leading their loved ones in battle.  We have too many - in fact hundreds - of suitable generals that are willing to served their country in an honorable and professional manner waiting in the wings to put up with this kind of nonsense.

EyeSight Tech Brings Hand Gesture Control To Android Platform - HotHardware

EyeSight Tech Brings Hand Gesture Control To Android Platform - HotHardware

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The DEW Line

The DEW Line

Breitbart.tv » AZ Cops Threatened by Drug Cartel Snipers at Border

Breitbart.tv » AZ Cops Threatened by Drug Cartel Snipers at Border

RANGER AGAINST WAR


I was in DC about 10 days ago and when a discussion of the economy and job came up this cartoon pretty much captured the politicians' statements - 'slowing the rate of decline", "fewest jobs lost in April since President Bush was in office", etc.

YouTube - Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

YouTube - Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

U.S. indirectly paying Afghan warlords as part of security contract

U.S. indirectly paying Afghan warlords as part of security contractThe U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.

The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and "dramatically undermine" larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.

The report describes a Defense Department that is well aware that some of the money paid to contractors winds up in the hands of warlords and insurgents. Military logisticians on the ground are focused on getting supplies where they are needed and have "virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided" for the local truck convoys that transport more than 70 percent of all goods and materials used by U.S. troops. Alarms raised by prime trucking contractors were met by the military "with indifference and inaction," the report said.

"The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking," Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) wrote in an introduction to the 79-page report, titled "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan."...

In testimony shortly after Obama's strategy announcement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that "much of the corruption" in Afghanistan has been fueled by billions of dollars' worth of foreign money spent there, "and one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

Military officials said that they have begun several corruption investigations in Afghanistan and that a task force has been named, headed by Navy Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, director of logistics and supply operations for the chief of naval operations and former head of the Baghdad-based joint contracting command for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, communications chief for U.S. and NATO forces in Kabul, said that the entire Tierney report has not been examined but that Dussault will be "reviewing every aspect of our contracting process and recommending changes to avoid our contribution to what is arguably a major source of revenue that feeds the cycle of corruption."

The U.S. military imports virtually everything it uses in Afghanistan -- including food, water, fuel and ammunition -- by road through Pakistan or Central Asia to distribution hubs at Bagram air base north of Kabul and a similar base outside Kandahar. From there, containers are loaded onto trucks provided by Afghan contractors under the $2.16 billion Host Nation Trucking contract. Unlike in the Iraq war, the security and vast majority of the trucks are provided by Afghans, a difference that Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has praised as promoting local entrepreneurship.

The trucks distribute the material to more than 200 U.S. military outposts across Afghanistan, most of them in the southern and eastern parts of the country where roads are largely controlled by warlords and insurgent groups. The report found no direct evidence of payoffs to the Taliban, but one trucking program manager estimated that $1.6 million to $2 million per week goes to the insurgents.

Most of the eight companies approved for the contract are Afghan-owned, but they serve largely as brokers for subcontractors that provide the trucks and security for the convoys, which often contain hundreds of vehicles. According to the congressional report, the U.S. officers charged with supervising the deliveries never travel off bases to determine how the system works or to ensure that U.S. laws and regulations are followed.

The report describes a system in which subcontractors -- most of them well-known warlords who maintain their own militias -- charge $1,500 to $15,000 per truck to supply guards and help secure safe passage through territory they control. The most powerful of them, known as Commander Ruhullah, controls passage along Highway One, the principal route between Kabul and Kandahar, under the auspices of Watan Risk Management, a company owned by two of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's cousins.

Overall management of who wins the security subcontracts, it said, is often controlled by local political powerbrokers such as Karzai's half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the Kandahar provincial council.

Relatively unknown before U.S. forces arrived in Afghanistan in fall 2001, Ruhullah is "prototypical of a new class of warlord in Afghanistan," the report said. Unlike more traditional warlords, he has no political aspirations or tribal standing but "commands a small army of over 600 guards."

The "single largest security provider for the U.S. supply chain in Afghanistan," Ruhullah "readily admits to bribing governors, police chiefs and army generals," the report said. In a meeting with congressional investigators in Dubai, he complained about "the high cost of ammunition in Afghanistan -- he says he spends $1.5 million per month on rounds for an arsenal that includes AK-47s, heavy machine guns and RPGs," or rocket-propelled grenades. It added: "Villagers along the road refer to him as 'the Butcher.' "

Despite his "critical role," the report said, "nobody from the Department of Defense or the U.S. intelligence community has ever met with him," other than special operations forces who have twice arrested and released him, and he "is largely a mystery to both the U.S. government and the contractors that employ his services."

Defense regulations and laws promulgated following difficulties with private security contractors in Iraq limit the weaponry that contractors can use and require detailed incident reports every time shots are fired. But such reports are rarely, if ever, filed, investigators said.

Another trucking contractor described a "symbiotic" relationship between security providers such as Ruhullah and the Taliban, whose fighters operate in the same space, and said that the Taliban is paid not to cause trouble for the convoys. "Many firefights are really negotiations over the fee," the report said.

Among its recommendations, the report calls on the military to establish "a direct line of authority and accountability over the private security companies that guard the supply chain" and to provide "the personnel and resources required to manage and oversee its trucking and security contracts in Afghanistan."

[bth: Two points of note. First, the enemy control our supply line which is like having a thumb on our neck - we will never be allowed by our enemy to grow strong enough to win militarily in Afghanistan when our supply lines are controlled by our enemy. The bigger our foot print the bigger our supply needs and the more costly the whole thing becomes. Second, look about 3 or 4 postings down at an article and book excerpt by the journalist that was imprisoned by the Taliban after he entered Pakistan's Northwest territory. He says that his interviews with Pakistani military officials told him that their plan was to have the US pay for the Taliban in Afghanistan. So if I'm putting this article and that together, I'd say that our logistical gratuities are paying for our enemies. Like a dog on a leash, the harder we pull the tighter our logistical chain gets.]

Poll Finds Deep Concern About Energy and Economy

Poll Finds Deep Concern About Energy and Economy - NYTimes.com
Overwhelmingly, Americans think the nation needs a fundamental overhaul of its energy policies, and most expect alternative forms to replace oil as a major source within 25 years. Yet a majority are unwilling to pay higher gasoline prices to help develop new fuel sources....

[bth: an article and poll well worth studying.  I think the American public is further along in its thinking that the politicians which is usual for a sea change.  People are more interested in jobs than energy policy and prices, but that doesn't mean that they aren't interested in reducing oil imports or better enforcement of environmental regulations.  Further politicians like Obama need to get a back bone and stand up and say that we don't get something for nothing, that an energy policy that reduces foreign consumption and increases domestic production means higher energy prices at the gas pump.  People know it, and they will accept leadership that they trust.  Do they trust Obama or the others in Washington?]

Gen. Stanley McChrystal coming to Washington to explain anti-administration comments

Gen. Stanley McChrystal coming to Washington to explain anti-administration comments
KABUL -- The top U.S. general in Afghanistan was headed to Washington early Tuesday for an impromptu White House meeting, after apologizing for an upcoming magazine article that portrays him and his staff as flippant and dismissive of top Obama administration officials involved in Afghanistan policy....

[bth: McChrystal is proving to be the wrong man for the position.]

Top Afghan war general appears to deride Biden

Top Afghan war general appears to deride Biden - STLtoday.com
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. war commander in Afghanistan told an interviewer he felt betrayed by the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

An article out this week in “Rolling Stone” magazine depicts Gen. Stanley McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to convince even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.


A band of McChrystal’s profane, irreverent aides are quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

McChrystal himself is described by an aide as “disappointed” in his first Oval Office meeting with an unprepared President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. “I was selling an unsellable position.”

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. And the White House’s troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

The profile, titled “The Runaway General” emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal’s tight circle of aides this spring.


It includes a list of administration figures said to back McChrystal, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and puts Biden at the top of a list of those who don’t.

The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

Biden initially opposed McChrystal’s proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

If Eikenberry had the same doubts, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ’I told you so.’”

There was no immediate response from Eikenberry. The Associated Press requested comment through an aide after business hours on Monday in Kabul.

Eikenberry remains in his post in Kabul, and although both men publicly say they are friends, their rift is on full display.

McChrystal and Eikenberry, himself a retired Army general, stood as far apart as the speakers’ platform would allow during a White House news conference last month.

“Rolling Stone” interviewed troops frustrated by McChrystal’s strict rules for combat that are intended to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

At one outpost, a soldier McChrystal had met earlier was killed in a house that the local U.S. commander had repeatedly asked to destroy. The request was denied, apparently out of concern that razing the house would anger locals whose allegiance the U.S. is trying to win.

“Does that make any (expletive) sense?” Pfc. Jared Pautsch asks. “We should just drop a (expletive) bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself, ’What are we doing here?’”

[bth: I don't know if this qualifies technically as insubordination but I do think it shows a high disregard and disrespect for civilian leadership.  Further, these are just stupid comments by a general and his staff that should know better.  I rank this with the disrespect he showed Obama during their meeting in Europe last fall.  This is foolish and suggests to me that he is not the right man for this job.]

Military in Iran seen as taking control

Military in Iran seen as taking control - Washington Times
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Sunday that Iran's government is becoming a military dictatorship, with religious leaders being sidelined and, as a result, new sanctions could pressure Tehran into curbing its illegal nuclear program.

"What we've seen is a change in the nature of the regime in Tehran over the past 18 months or so," Mr. Gates said on "Fox News Sunday."

"You have a much narrower-based government in Tehran now," he said. "Many of the religious figures are being set aside."

The defense secretary said Iranians "appear to be moving more in the direction of a military dictatorship."

Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, "is leaning on a smaller and smaller group of advisers," he said. "In the meantime, you have an illegitimate election that has divided the country."

"There's no doubt that Iran's military and security forces are playing an active role in running the regime," said a U.S. official familiar with assessments on Iran. "Religious leaders like Khamenei continue to make key decisions and rely on the vast security apparatus to carry them out."

Since Iran's 2005 presidential election, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) expanded its control over the national economy. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former IRGC officer, has appointed many retired IRGC officers to posts in Iran's government bureaucracy. The IRGC also began to control more oil contracts and asserted itself in Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear technology.

"Right now, the Revolutionary Guard is everywhere," said Mohsen Sazgara, a founder of the IRGC who now lives in the United States and backs Iran's democratic opposition, the Green Movement. "They control the economy, the news agencies, radio and television; they own several newspapers and the security forces and intelligence forces. They have secret prisons, and they control the puppet Ahmadinejad."

Mr. Gates said that added economic pressures on top of the militarization "has real potential" of pressuring Iran into complying with international controls on its nuclear program....

[bth: so is Iran moving toward a military dictatorship more or less a good thing?]

Brazil is dropping role in Iran nuclear dispute

Brazil is dropping role in Iran nuclear dispute | Antiwar Newswire
Brazil's foreign minister says his country's active support of Iran in its dispute with the West over its nuclear program is being scaled back after the U.N. Security Council decision to move for a fourth set of sanctions.

"We will help whenever we can, but of course there is a limit to where we can go," Celso Amorim told reporters on the sidelines of an official visit to Austria.

Brazil and Turkey last month brokered an Iranian nuclear fuel-swap deal in hopes that they would at least delay new U.N. sanctions, but the new penalties were imposed nonetheless.

Iran said Monday it has banned two U.N. nuclear inspectors from entering the country because they disclosed to the media the contents of a "false" report on the country's disputed nuclear program before the U.N. nuclear watchdog reviewed it....

[bth: this is very surprising after so much political capital was invested by Brazil's leaders in their foray with Turkey recently. Why is Brazil backing up?  What am I missing?]

U.S. author calls Afghanistan war "pointless"

U.S. author calls Afghanistan war pointless | Reuters
Journalist and veteran Afghanistan expert Jere Van Dyk is intimate with the war-torn country, after spending 45 harrowing days in 2008 jailed there and terrified he would be killed.

His new book "Captive, My Time As A Prisoner Of The Taliban," published by Henry Holt's Times Books imprint, recounts his experience.

His captivity gave him plenty of time to think about prospects for the military struggle in Afghanistan, where the United States has been bogged down in a messy war since 2001.

"They (the Taliban) will never give in," Van Dyk told Reuters in an interview, adding, "There is fundamentally no difference between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban -- they are all deep down Pashtuns."

The Pashtuns live in a series of tribal regions that lie along the mountainous border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Van Dyk, who lives in New York, has written for many publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and has traveled in Afghanistan and the region since the 1970s, reporting for CBS, CNN and other broadcasters.

Van Dyk also lived Afghanistan's mujahideen resistance in the 1980s during their war with the Soviet Union and wrote the book "In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey."

Van Dyk said Pakistani military sources told him their goal was to use U.S. money to support the Taliban and help them take back Afghanistan, thus spreading Pakistan's sphere of influence and distracting the Taliban from fighting in Pakistan itself.

"Pakistan is using the Taliban to further their own geopolitical goal, which is to prevent Pashtun nationalism from rising again," he said.

Pakistan has denied a recent report by the London School of Economics that alleges enduring ties between its intelligence agency and the Afghan Taliban. The report said the agency not only funds and trains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement's leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations.

To end the conflict, Van Dyk proposes Washington confront Pakistan. "I would go directly to Pakistan and say, 'Stop funding the Taliban, stop using American money to kill American soldiers, cease your ultimate goal of taking over Afghanistan .... and then we should pull out," he said....

[bth: I dont' understand his comment that the Pakistan government is using the war to prevent Pashtun nationalism.  It would seem that that is occurring as a result of the war or put differently that the Taliban are likely proponents of that tribal nationalism as opposed to being a safety valve.  What am I missing that explains this seeming contradition?]


Al-Qaida warns of new attacks deadlier than before - Yahoo! News

Al-Qaida warns of new attacks deadlier than before - Yahoo! NewsCAIRO – Al-Qaida's U.S.-born spokesman warned President Barack Obama Sunday that the militant group may launch new attacks that would kill more Americans than previous ones.

In a taunting, 24 minute message that dwelled on Obama's setbacks, including the loss of Massachusetts Senate seat to the Republicans, Adam Gadahn set out al-Qaida's conditions for peace with the U.S., including cutting support for Israel and withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Gadahn said that if you compared the number of dead Muslims "with the relatively small number of Americans we have killed so far, it becomes crystal-clear that we haven't even begun to even the score," he said, dressed in a white robe and turban.

"That's why next time, we might not show the restraint and self-control we have shown up until now," he said. Even if al-Qaida was defeated, "hundreds of millions of Muslims" would still fight the U.S., he added...

[bth: one wonders if Al Qaida might mean it this time; as we draw down in Iraq does al Qaeda become less relevant?

Former Israeli top spy calls for strike on Iran

Former Israeli top spy calls for strike on IranIsrael should launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent arch-foe Iran from going nuclear, a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency said on Monday.

"I am of the opinion that, since there is an ongoing war, since the threat is permanent, since the intention of the enemy in this case is to annihilate you, the right doctrine is one of pre-emption and not of retaliation," Shabtai Shavit told a conference.

Shavit, who served as chief of Israel's foreign spy agency from 1989 to 1996, was speaking at a conference held at the hawkish Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.

"To use retaliation as the main strategy means to sit idly and wait until the enemy comes to attack you," a university statement quoted Shavit as saying.

"But we are dealing with an enemy that plans all the time and waits for the opportunity to arise in order to attack, so what is the point, even morally, to wait and do something only when we are attacked," he said. ...

[bth: my concern is that Israel is trying to goad the US into doing its Iran attack for it; that we will be subjected to false intel or false flag operations to make this happen and that our withdrawal from Iraq will stimulate this event as too many people - friend and enemy alike - want our presence there. It is cheaper and easier for them to have the US do their fighting for them.]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sharp rise in Army deaths from small arms fire prompts inquiry into Taliban snipers - Asia, World - The Independent

Sharp rise in Army deaths from small arms fire prompts inquiry into Taliban snipers - Asia, World - The Independent...American General James Conway, however, recently told the US House Armed Services Committee: "Right now, the biggest threat in Marjah is not necessarily the IEDs for our killed in action. It is the sniper that takes a long-range shot and can penetrate our protective equipment, particularly the helmet."

He said the Marine Corps was pressing the defence industry to come up with a helmet that can withstand a 7.62mm round from the AK-47 assault rifles favoured by insurgents....

[bth: one solution would be to enforce quality standards for the helmets we currently procure. There have been a repeated series of QA issues with US made helmets where the Kevlar content was short changed and the amount of resin was increased to keep the weight up and hide the fact that the helmets were defective. People need to go to jail over such things but to date not one has]

Afghanistan Pullout Set For July 2011, But 'Conditions-Based'

Afghanistan Pullout Set For July 2011, But 'Conditions-Based'WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.

President Barack Obama's chief of staff said an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds.

"That's not changing. Everybody agreed on that date," Rahm Emanuel said, adding by name the top three officials overseeing the policy girding the war: Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

Petraeus, the war's top military boss, said last week that he would recommend delaying the pullout if conditions in Afghanistan warranted it. Days after the date was announced in December, Gates pointedly said it was not a deadline.

Emanuel's remarks reflect the White House view that Obama must offer a war-weary American public and Congress a promise that the nearly nine-year war is not open-ended. The problem, congressional Republicans and some military leaders say, is that a fixed date encourages the Taliban-led insurgency and undermines U.S. leverage with Afghan leaders.

Gates pledged Sunday that some troops would begin to leave in 13 months, but he was more cautious.

"We clearly understand that in July of 2011, we begin to draw down our forces," Gates said. "The pace with which we draw down and how many we draw down is going to be conditions-based."...

[bth: it looks like we have been hoodwinked about the time line.]

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pentagon renews domestic spying

Pentagon revives Rumsfeld-era domestic spying unit | Raw Story
The Pentagon's spy unit has quietly begun to rebuild a database for tracking potential terrorist threats that was shut down after it emerged that it had been collecting information on American anti-war activists.

The Defense Intelligence Agency filed notice this week that it plans to create a new section called Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records, whose purpose will be to "document intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counternarcotic operations relating to the protection of national security."

But while the unit's name refers to "foreign intelligence," civil liberties advocates and the Pentagon's own description of the program suggest that Americans will likely be included in the new database.

FICOR replaces a program called Talon, which the DIA created in 2002 under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as part of the counterterrorism efforts following the 9/11 attacks. It was disbanded in 2007 after it emerged that Talon had retained information on anti-war protesters, including Quakers, even after it was determined they posed no threat to national security....

[bth: I am growing very disenchanted with Sec. Gates and Pres. Obama.  I do not want the Pentagon spying on Americans.]

Comanche territory outlined

Is the third front - the attack on Iran - being stage set?

US, Israel Warships in Suez May Be Prelude to Faceoff with Iran - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Israel National News
Egypt allowed at least one Israeli and 11 American warships to pass through the Suez Canal as an Iranian flotilla approaches Gaza. Egypt closed the canal to protect the ships with thousands of soldiers, according to the British-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds al-Arabi.

One day prior to the report on Saturday, Voice of Israel government radio reported that the Egyptian government denied an Israeli request not to allow the Iranian flotilla to use the Suez Canal to reach Gaza, in violation of the Israeli sea embargo on the Hamas-controlled area....

US manufacturing crown slips

FT.com / China - US manufacturing crown slips
The US remained the world’s biggest manufacturing nation by output last year, but is poised to relinquish this slot in 2011 to China – thus ending a 110-year run as the number one country in factory production.

The figures are revealed in a league table being published on Monday by IHS Global Insight, a US-based economics consultancy.Last year, the US created 19.9 per cent of world manufacturing output, compared with 18.6 per cent for China, with the US staying ahead despite a steep fall in factory production due to the global recession...

[bth: I don't see anything reversing the slide.]

Comanche Trace

Pakistan, Afghanistan begin talks about dealing with insurgents

Pakistan, Afghanistan begin talks about dealing with insurgents
SLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Afghanistan and Pakistan are talking about how to make peace with insurgents fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including one faction considered the coalition forces' most lethal foe, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials.


The discussions reflect the beginnings of a thaw in relations between Kabul and Islamabad, which are increasingly focused on shaping the aftermath of what they fear could be a more abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops than is now anticipated. But one element of the effort -- outreach by Pakistan to the militia headed by the young commander Sirajuddin Haqqani -- faces opposition from U.S. officials, who consider the al-Qaeda-linked group too brutal to be tolerated.



At Pakistan's suggestion, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the chief of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, made an unprecedented trip last month to Kabul to discuss with Afghan President Hamid Karzai a wide range of possible cooperation, including mediating with Pakistan-based insurgents.



Several weeks ago, Pasha and Pakistan's army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, returned to continue the discussion. There is no agreement between the two nations, but a Pakistani security official said the outreach to insurgents is "not a problem."...


[bth: so the end game is going to be a negotiated settlement.]

Japan Has 'Priority' On Rights To Mine Afghanistan Mineral Deposits, Says Hamid Karzai

Japan Has 'Priority' On Rights To Mine Afghanistan Mineral Deposits, Says Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said this week that Japan -- not the U.S. -- takes priority over other nations when it comes to mining his country's vast mineral deposits.

Karzai made his proclamation during a five-day visit to Japan. Over that same time period, news reports surfaced that Afghanistan and Pakistan planned to negotiate with U.S.-NATO enemies, the U.N. reported that insurgent violence is surging, and Reuters tried to parse the Pentagon's mixed messages over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

During an appearance at Japan Institute for International Affairs, Karzai focused on his country's mineral deposits. He Pointed to Japan's status as Afghanistan's second-biggest donor, and reasoned that Japan should enjoy special access to Afghan resources with estimated values that range from $1-3 trillion dollars.

"Morally, Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past few years," Karzai told the institute.

"What . . . we have to reciprocate with is this opportunity of mineral resources, that we must return at the goodwill of the Japanese people by giving Japan priority to come and explore and extract," Karzai said....

[bth: well at least it isn't China which reportedly paid $30 million in bribes for the world's largest new copper find in Afghanistan last year.]

Pakistan begins its annual shake down

Pakistan tells U.S. lack of money may harm anti-terror war
SLAMABAD, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani warned Saturday that public support to the anti-terror war could be badly affected if the international community particularly failed to start delivering over their pledges to help Pakistan provide relief to the ordinary people and to undertake projects in the affected areas.

The Prime Minister made these remarks while talking to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special U.S. Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan who called on him in the Prime Minister's House, a statement from the PM office said.

Gilani termed the public support in war against terror as vitally important and stated that while the time was fast running out on his Government's rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the areas cleared from militants, the committed assistance, at the Tokyo Donors Conference held more than a year ago, was yet to be delivered by the donor countries.

"This delay had further accentuated the economic and energy crisis in Pakistan and the extremist elements were taking advantage of that situation," Gilani told the U.S. envoy.....

[bth: so now we begin the annual negotiation - to continue the war on terror, the west must pay Pakistan money ...  OK I get this part.  But there is a persistent rumor believed true in some circles that Pakistan has Mullah Omar in custody and is negotiating with him.  Now honestly, I can't imagine a scenario suitable to the US where he was let go.  On the contrary I'd suggest handing him over to the US would be one of the milestones the US would need to withdrawal from Afghanistan.]

'Improvised bomb incidents up 94 percent in Afghanistan' - Yahoo! News

'Improvised bomb incidents up 94 percent in Afghanistan' - Yahoo! News

KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan has seen an "alarming" 94 percent increase in incidents involving homemade bombs in a year, a report by the United Nations secretary general said on Saturday.

Ban Ki-moon said "security incidents" have risen significantly in Afghanistan as US-led forces make a push in the south and militant activities have grown in southeast and eastern regions.

"The rise in incidents involving improvised explosive devices constitutes an alarming trend, with the first four months of 2010 recording a 94 percent increase compared to the same period in 2009," the report to the UN security council said.

Improvised bombs have made up one third of reported incidents of violence in Afghanistan this year while suicide attacks are happening at a rate of about three a week, it said.

It added that suicide attacks involving more complex planning have doubled from last year to roughly two per month.

"The shift to more complex suicide attacks demonstrates a growing capability of the local terrorist networks linked to Al Qaeda," the report said.

Assassinations of civilians by insurgents aiming to take control of urban populations have also increased 45 percent from last year, to a rate of seven a week, mostly taking place in Afghanistan's south and southeast, it added.

NATO troops and Afghan security forces have for weeks been engaged in a surge of counter-insurgency operations around the southern city of Kandahar, aimed at re-establishing central government authority there...

[bth: one could argue that an increase in troop presence alone explains this trend but that is not the case. IED's are initiated by the enemy and they are up 94%, assassinations are up 45%, they are also initiated by the enemy. In short while we have more troops and more chances of contact with the enemy, the enemy has been on a multi-year trajectory toward doubling in strength - as measured by their attacks - an an annual basis.]