Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Thing I Told You a Year Ago....

Though I desperately hate reducing myself to proving to you how right I have been for over a year now by providing shallow news commentary, I just can't resist when a few tidbits cross my path. I have not spoken about the shift in view of who our enemy really is (islam and muslims not just some make-believe 'radical' group) but if you've listened to talk radio or TV editorial news, then you may have noticed similarities in today's rhetoric and what I had been saying more than a year ago. Eventually the world wil lcome around to my point-of-view ;)

One of the many aspects of Iraq that you, as a regular reader of my blog, new first handedly last year......

From my military Early Bird news site:

New York Times
October 25, 2006
Pg. 1

Idle Contractors Add Millions To Iraq Rebuilding
By James Glanz

Overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq, according to a government estimate released yesterday, leaving far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis.
The report provided the first official estimate that, in some cases, more money was being spent on housing and feeding employees, completing paperwork and providing security than on actual construction.
Those overhead costs have ranged from under 20 percent to as much as 55 percent of the budgets, according to the report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. On similar projects in the United States, those costs generally run to a few percent.
The highest proportion of overhead was incurred in oil-facility contracts won by KBR Inc., the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, which has frequently been challenged by critics in Congress and elsewhere.
The actual costs for many projects could be even higher than the estimates, the report said, because the United States has not properly tracked how much such expenses have taken from the $18.4 billion of taxpayer-financed reconstruction approved by Congress two years ago.
The report said the prime reason was not the need to provide security, though those costs have clearly risen in the perilous environment, and are a burden that both contractors and American officials routinely blame for such increases.
Instead, the inspector general pointed to a simple bureaucratic flaw: the United States ordered the contractors and their equipment to Iraq and then let them sit idle for months at a time.
The delay between “mobilization,” or assembling the teams in Iraq, and the start of actual construction was as long as nine months.
“The government blew the whistle for these guys to go to Iraq and the meter ran,” said Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the inspector general’s office. “The government was billed for sometimes nine months before work began.”
The findings are similar to those of a growing list of inspections, audits and investigations that have concluded that the program to rebuild Iraq has often fallen short for the most mundane of reasons: poorly written contracts, ineffective or nonexistent oversight, needless project delays and egregiously poor construction practices.
“This report is the latest chapter in a long, sad and expensive tale about how contracting in Iraq was more about shoveling money out the door than actually getting real results on the ground,” said Stephen Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense in Washington.
“These contracts were to design and build important items for oil infrastructure, hospitals and education, but in some cases more than half of the money padded corporate coffers instead,” he said.
Although the federal report places much of the burden for the charges squarely on the shoulders of United States officials in Baghdad, the findings varied widely over a sampling of contracts examined by auditors, from a low of under 20 percent for some companies to a high of over 55 percent.
One oil contract awarded to a joint venture between Parsons, an American company, and Worley, from Australia, had overhead costs of at least 43 percent, the report found. One contract held by Parsons alone to build hospitals and prisons had overhead of at least 35 percent; in another, it was 17 percent.
The lowest figure was found for certain contracts won by Lucent, at 11 percent, but the report indicates that substantial portions of the overhead in those cases could not be determined.
The report did not explain why KBR’s overhead costs on those contracts — the contracts totaled about $296 million — were more than 10 percent higher than those at the other companies audited. Despite past criticism of KBR, the Army, which administers those contracts, has generally agreed to pay most of the costs claimed by the company.
Melissa Norcross, a spokeswoman for KBR, said in a written reply to questions, “It is important to note that the special inspector general is not challenging any of KBR’s costs referenced in this report.”
“All of these costs were incurred at the client’s direction and for the client’s benefit,” she said, referring to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the oil contract.
But a frequent Halliburton critic, Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, disputed those assurances. “It’s incomprehensible that over $160 million — more than half the value of the contract — was squandered on overhead,” Mr. Waxman said in a written statement.
The majority leader of the same committee, Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican, declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for Parsons, Erin Kuhlman, said the United States categorized overhead and construction costs differently from contract to contract in Iraq, making it difficult to make direct comparisons. “Parsons incurred, billed and reported actual costs as directed by the government,” she said.
In Iraq, where construction materials are scarce and contractors must provide security for work sites and housing for Western employees, officials have said they expect the overhead to be at least 10 percent, but the contractors and American officials have grudgingly conceded that the true costs have turned out to be higher.
But even the high of 55 percent could be an underestimate, Mr. Mitchell said, because the government often did not begin tracking overhead costs for months after the companies mobilized. He added that because of the haphazard way in which the government tracked the costs, it was not possible to say how well the figures reflected overhead charges in the entire program.
The report’s conclusions were drawn from $1.3 billion in contracts for which United States government overseers actually made an effort to track overhead costs, of the total of $18.4 billion set aside for reconstruction in specific supplemental funding bills for the 2006 fiscal year.
When all American and Iraqi contributions are added up, various estimates for the cost of the rebuilding program range from $30 billion to $45 billion. Language included in the Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Bush last week, states that the inspector general’s office will halt its examination of those expenditures by October of next year.
Maj. Gen. William H. McCoy, who until recently commanded the Persian Gulf region division of the Corps of Engineers, disputed some of the inspector general’s findings in a letter appended to the report. Things like “waiting for concrete to cure” could still be taking place during what seem to be periods of inactivity, General McCoy wrote, so a quiet period “does not mean that the project is not moving forward.”
But many of the delays came during 2004 and took place in response to political developments in Iraq, the inspector general’s report says. The American occupation government, the Coalition Provisional Authority, mobilized many of the companies early that year.
After the authority went out of existence in June 2004, handing sovereignty to the Iraqi government, top American officials then kept the companies idle for months as the officials rewrote the rebuilding plan, and ran up costs as little work was done.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Zero: ? - 21 Oct 06

For those of you that know me personally, you know that I love my two dogs, Abby & Zero. Well, today Zero died of apparent natural causes at 1420. I was fortunate enough to be home with the family as he passed. He was a wonderful loving dog and will be deeply missed.

He was named "Zero" because I rescued him from being put down back in 1998. He had zero time left to live. I was contacted by a Pointer rescue program near Athens, GA, that told me they had a young dog that was 2 weeks overdue to be terminated. They had been forestalling the termination by promising the SPCA that they would find a home. They were desperate until they found me. With the help of my oldest friend, Bob, I drove from Central PA to Washington DC then we both drove to GA to get Zero. It was a heck of a weekend driving back and forth to GA like that but Zero was well worth it.

Abby now is confused and looking for him.....

Friday, October 13, 2006


Many times I have tried to enlighten my readers to the obvious hypocrisy that is prevalent in the american mindset. Prevalent isn't even accurate enough, maybe 'essential to' the american mindset captures it. So, for all you statisticians out there, here's one for ya....

Human Rights Watch has estimated Saddam Hussein's regime killed 250,000 to 290,000 people over 20 years.

Wasn't our justification for "staying the course" our humanitarian actions in that region? I guess it is easier to reduce the need for housing and infrastructure rather than actually rebuild during our 'reconstruction' efforts.

No more dead Iraqis.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interesting Lecture

Brooks E. Kleber
Memorial Readings in Military History
3rd Annual Readings Series

“Is Iraq Another Vietnam?”

Dr. Robert K. Brigham
Shirley Ecker Boskey Professor of History and International Relations
Vassar College

Since the first days of the Iraqi invasion, supporters of the war have cautioned the public not to view this conflict as another Vietnam. They rightfully point to many important distinctions. There is no unified resistance in Iraq. No political or religious leader has been able to galvanize opposition to U.S. intervention the way that Ho Chi Minh did in Vietnam. And it is not likely that 580,000 American troops will find their way to Iraq. However, there are two similarities that may dwarf the thousands of differences. First, in Iraq, like Vietnam, the original rationale for going to war has been discredited and public support has dwindled. Second, in both cases the new justification became building stable societies. There are enormous pitfalls in America's nation building efforts in Iraq as there were in Vietnam. But it is the business we now find ourselves in, and there is no easy retreat from it morally. As American frustration increases, some policy makers are making the deadly mistake of approaching problems in Iraq as if we are facing them for the first time. It is crucial that we apply the lessons of Vietnam wisely and selectively.

Dr. Robert K. Brigham, Shirley Ecker Boskey Professor of History and International Relations, has taught at Vassar since 1994. He teaches courses on the history of American foreign relations and modern America. Along with several teaching awards, Brigham has also earned fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for Humanities, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, the Cooper Foundation, the Gilman Foundation, and the Social Sciences Committee in Hanoi, Vietnam. In addition, Brigham has been Albert Shaw Endowed Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, a Mellon Senior Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University (Clare College), and was a visiting professor of international relations at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Brigham is author of numerous books and essays on American foreign relations, including Guerrilla Diplomacy: The NLF’s Foreign Relations and the Vietnam War (Cornell, 1998); Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (PublicAffairs, 1999) written with Robert S. McNamara and James G. Blight; ARVN: Life and Death in the South Vietnamese Army (Kansas, 2006); and Is Iraq Another Vietnam? (PublicAffairs, 2006). Brigham is currently working on a textbook on the Vietnam War with Mark P. Bradley (Oxford) and a monograph on John F. Kennedy’s national security strategy (Cambridge).

DATE: Thursday, October 12, 2006
TIME: The doors open at 6:00 p.m. the talk begins at 6:45 p.m.
PLACE: Ridgway Hall, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
For more information, please call (717) 245-3803.
For updates and any last-minute changes in “Perspectives” meeting times and places, please check the AHEC homepage:

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Disillusioned View of North Korea

It is not unrealistic to understand that not every country or culture on this earth appreciates nor respects the position we hold as the world's only (active) superpower. In our situation we can come off as overbearing and overreaching. Our american-centric view of how the world should operate is shortsighted and ignorant. Obviously these factors go into what forms others' opinions of us. It is clear that there are many countries finally tired enough of our imposition that have decided to stand up against the coercion and chose their own paths.

Having said that, I applaud the self-determination and sovereignty of any culture /nation. I think every nation with a legitimate, for-the-people government, should have a nuke. I think every american, from 18 to 2 minutes after death, should own and carry a firearm. But sometimes people and nations make a noose out of the rope they are given. I hope N.K. will use their power wisely as a nose-thumbing to the rest of the world. If not, they should be prepared for the shitstorm us nuclear countries will unleash on their puny asses.