Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It never stops

Well, they are at it again. Good news comes out and everyone seems to need to find a way to spin it as something negative. It seems every silver cloud has to have a dark lining. Went to my usual news sites today and they were all pretty much the same. President gives a speech and all I read are the critics and rebuts, nobody had anything good to say about what was said.

Great economic news too. The US GNP managed to grow despite Katrina/Rita. We are actually in some pretty good times. Economy is pretty solid, energy costs are coming down, situation in Iraq is stabilizing ... you would never know it to read the news though. Oh, and Bush's approval numbers are up too, not a peep on that either. I guess if it isn't negative, there's no sense in reporting it.

I am sick today with a headcold. Cold medicine has my head a little drifty and I don't feel like typing much. Later.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I am not alone!

Holy Toledo! I have discovered other blogs! I know that's kinda funny, but it is refreshing and intensely validating to find that others have come to the same conclusions that I have through their own independent analysis of what they see is going on.

I had stumbled across a couple of blogs in the past and I would post comments on them sometimes. I then visited Austin Bay's blog because of something that was crossposted to it from another blog someplace (might have been TMV, not sure) and I noticed his listing of other blogs. So I was curious and had a little time and checked some of them out ... WOW!

Now don't get me wrong, I am not in particular lockstep with any of the parties, in fact I find this a very frustrating part of my own political reality. No party is lined up on the issues the way I am but I find the Democrats to be the most dangerous of the two major parties. It is more likely the Republicans will come to tolerate my opinions than the Democrats will grow a spine.

I am going to lay out a little of my own political philosophy here just so people have a better idea of who I am. I don't believe social policy should be dictated by Washington DC. I believe community values are better decided by the communities and things that fit California might not fit Oklahoma. States should be free to enact laws that reflect the values of their residents. People are then free to vote with their feet if they don't like it. If a state adopts legislation that a large number of people find repulsive or silly, they aren't likely to move there. I am not likely to move to Kansas in light of the recent "intelligent" design ruling by their school board. At least not until the voters have a shot at that board. If they people uphold it, I know I won't be going to Kansas. Heck, I will go out of my way to avoid driving through it so I don't donate any sales or fuel tax to their silly government. If they find that over time they are having trouble attracting bright people, they might want to consider why.

Overall, that is one of the strengths of our country. A state is able to experiment a little. If something is a disaster, it only screws up one state and they can learn from the experience. If it works well, it can be copied by other states and the benefit is spread around. Dictating policy from Washington means that if something is a disaster, it screws up the entire country. No thanks. Hey, if a state wants to make a constitutional change to accept gay marriage, go for it. Then all the people who want that have a place to go and be happy and they can stop bugging other people in other places who don't want that. I have a problem with people who want to dictate their personal values on everyone across the entire country.

I am pro choice. I feel that the gay marriage issue has no place in national politics and should be decided at the state level. I would like to see a national sales tax replace our current income tax system. I believe that the Republican party's pandering to the fundamentalist far right is costing them more votes than it is gaining them. I believe that the Democrats are, for the most part, the used car salesmen of politics. They hold one principle near and dear to their hearts ... election to office at all cost. Where they stand on an issue depends on the polls. They have no backbone and will not take an unpopular stance when it is right. If you want to see how dysfunctional this country would be with Democrats running it, imagine a family where the parents face election every two years.

I am registered Libertarian but would consider registering Republican if they would stop the pandering to the far right, get the abortion issue out of national politics, get the gay marriage issue out of national politics. Allow states to decide for themselves and I will simply avoid the kooky states if I don't want my family living there. I end up voting Republican anyway most of the time since the Libertarians tend to run nuts for office and the Democrats run weasels

UPDATE: Lest someone get the wrong idea, I am not anti-christian. I grew up Episcopal, the old style, what would probably be called Anglican Catholic but back then it was the same Church of England chapel that people had worshiped in since the 1700's. Two of my kids have attended religious schools at some point in their lives and the youngest is currently attending a Methodist school. I have no problem with religion as long as it stays out of science. Intelligent Design is theology, not science and does not belong in science classes. Monotheism might be my individual belief, but I feel no need to shove that belief down the throats of kids in a science class.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Immediate Withdrawal! Oh, wait, uhm ...

Maybe not *immediate* immediate withdrawal. Maybe a delayed immediate withdrawal phased in over several months. Yeah, that's the ticket! The Democratic leadership tickles me sometimes. They remind me of a cartoon character who jumps off a cliff and then whose legs get moving really fast and they are able to scramble back to the edge in thin air.

Oh, and I ran across this today. If it wasn't so serious it would be as funny as an old Charlie Chaplin movie. I still think all of this is a sign of serious desperation on the part of the Democrats. The party has no money, they have no platform other than "We're against whatever the Republicans are for" and overall, their party isn't making any hay over Bush's numbers dropping. They are hammering Bush but the polls I have seen still show the Democrats lagging the Republicans in general. Their strategy of bashing a politician that isn't running for office (Bush) seems odd to me. What do they hope to gain by shooting a lame duck? The only time you do that is when you have nothing else to shoot at. They're flailing. And it's almost funny.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The most difficult days

These are the most difficult days of the entire Iraq campaign. Al Zarqawi will be pulling out every stop he has in order to prevent the final elections in December leading to a democratic Iraq. Allied and Iraqi forces are undertaking their most aggressive actions so far in Al Anbar province, directly confronting the core of the insurgency in order to weaken the insurgents and provide better security so that Iraqi Sunnis may vote with less fear of effective intimidation.

In the next three weeks we are probably going to see the highest Iraqi casualties, the highest US casualties and the highest allied casualties of the entire war as we begin to smash the center of the insurgent areas. Ramadi is going to play a central role and it is going to be interesting to see how events play out in that city as Steel Curtain works it's way eastward.

Yesterday near Mosul there was an attack on a house apparently being used by insurgents. They seem to have put up a ferocious fight. Three of those inside blew themselves up to avoid being taken alive. Whoever those people were in the building, they certainly didn't want to be captured by allied forces. They are yet to be identified but from all appearances, it was a high value target.

Zarqawi is at it again with bombing of mosques and funeral processions. Yet again he is killing Iraqi civilians and not aiming his minions at "the occupier". This is being seen by the people in the Muslim world as a sign of weakness and desperation. It is to me like the finale of a fireworks show where all the remaining bombs are let loose. Once Iraqis go to the polls and the government is installed with a Sunni investment, Al Zarqawi is going to have a difficult time aligning with anyone except the Saddamists.

So here were are facing about the most difficult month of the entire war. I wish the Iraqi people courage and strength in this trying time even as their allies make noises of abandoning them in their moment of greatest need. Good luck and may God bless you all.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Links

I will keep this post updated with interesting news stories as I find them. Once it scrolls too far down I intend to create a new one.

Iraqi Vice President: 'We are in a state of war; we cannot set a timetable for the departure of the foreign forces'

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi has ruled out setting a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq, saying, "Iraq is in a state of war. The withdrawal of these forces would provide an opportunity for the elements that are committing the killing to return to power".

Unfamiliar questions in the Arab air

As al-Qaeda scores own-goals in its backyard, many Arabs, including some Iraqis, are beginning to rethink their position on violence in the name of resistance

Saudis pledge $1 billion for Iraq aid

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said he is less worried that U.S. policies in Iraq will bring on a civil war ... "My fears are much more eased," Prince Saud al-Faisal said.

Apologizing for Iraqi forces all in a day's work for U.S. Marines

The man and his sister and mother all said they welcomed the Marines into their city, yet they criticized the local forces. It's just the Iraqi army. They come in here and they think they can do whatever they want because they wear a uniform,Kadem said.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

From the foreign press

I found a CNN interview posted in the foreign press today that I thought I would share. Here is a link from the Times of Oman. For some reason I don't find it in the domestic US press.

As I expected and posted the other day, Jordan is now going to go after Al Zarqawi in Iraq directly. A short quote from the interview:

We are going to crack down and take the fight to Zarqawi, the king said in an interview with CNN television. We have been very successful in taking down his operations in the past ... (when) he used Jordanians. Now he has changed tactics, he is using foreigners. That means that our security services have to change tactics too.

And so it begins. Jordan will now be in Iraq hunting down Al Zarqawi's network and I believe they will get whatever assistance we can offer them. I doubt there are going to be very many "leaks" from the Jordanians to the press concerning that operation. Al Zarqawi's people are probably going to hope they are captured by the US rather than Jordan. After a few hours in Jordanian custody, they might be begging to be turned over to the US and sent to Guantanimo Bay. To the Jordanians, I say "Good Hunting".

A Scary Scenario

Want to know what the scariest scenario I have considered for the end of the Iraq insurgency is? How about this: Iraq's army establishes control and is able to restore order. US troops leave. Iran and Syria then invade and divide Iraq in half. Iran gets the Southern portion up to about Baghdad, Syria gets the Western and Northern portions. In other words, Syria gets the Northern oil fields, and Iran gets the Southern fields and there isn't a whole lot the US can do about it short of a major war.

Scary, isn't it. So, we not only need to wait until Iraq has the internal security situation under control, we need to stay on for a while as a defense force until Iraq is able to defend itself against misadventures by it's neighbors.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thank you, Vets

Today is your day. Of all the holidays, this is the one you earned. It is ironic that many companies don't consider that when making out their work schedules.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's. The WWII veterans were many and they never really talked much. It seemed to me that everyone sacrificed so much during the war that there was no sense talking about it. I was fascinated by World War II when I was a kid. I watched every movie I could and read all the books in the school library on the subject but I was never able to get anyone that was actually there to talk much about it. I also noted an unspoken bond between the veterans. I lived in a rural town and just about everyone had lost a relative or a neighbor. My step mother lost her big brother on Iwo Jima. She never spoke about him either. Only once did she bring it up and that was when I was working in Washington DC and she had come to visit to see a doctor there. We drove past the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington and she broke down crying. He love for her brother was as strong as it had ever been and she missed him bitterly.

I never seved in a war. When I turned 18, I enlisted. I was a "cold warrior". I seved two long tours overseas and got out after seven years. The military had some good schools back then and the training and experiance I got were enough to launch a career that has lasted over twenty years since I got out. I can't begin to understand the mind of a combat veteran, but I can understand a little more about the special bond between them. If I am filling a position in my group today, given a choice I will take a veteran over a non-veteran every time.

I wanted to take a moment before the day is done to thank all those who suffered the cold of Valley Forge, Trenton, Bastogne, Chosin and Afghanistan and the heat of Cuba, Guadalcanal, Vietnam, and Iraq. Those who lost their friends, those who defeated tyrants, those who freed nations, those who spent long months far away from home, and those who are today, right now, doing their duty for their country. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It isn't much, but it's the most I can offer. May God bless you, wherever you are.

What People Think

I have seen a lot of news stories recently that are basically nothing more than commentaries on polls of what people believe. I wonder why that is news. I mean, why it is front page news. If you tell people incorrect information, or give them correct information that later changes but neglect to inform them of the change, and then poll them on what they believe to be true, you are likely to find they believe what they were last told. What is news about that?

Example. I would bet that if I polled Americans right now, they would believe that the US Army is having trouble meeting recruitment goals. That is because the last news that appeared on the subject was about the Army having trouble meeting their goals early in the summer and no additional information has appeared on the front pages or lead news in the A/V media since then. People tend to have a little inertia. If they are told something, they tend to believe that is true until they are told differently. This is how *not* telling someone something can impact public opinion and be tantamount to telling them incorrect information.

The truth is the Army has met or exceeded it's recruiting goals for the past five months. It is true that it did fall short for the overall year, but people were never told the reason for that. Congress mandated an increase in the overall size of our forces. This meant that in order to comply with that mandated increase, recruiting goals had to be increased above and beyond the expected numbers. As a result, recruiting "fell short". Now, once you have absorbed the initial increase, it is easier to maintain the force at a given size because those troops leave at different times depending on their term of enlistment.

You can find that information if you dig around, but you won't find it in the headline news like you did when the Army was having trouble recruiting. I have yet to see a headline on page one that says "Army meeting recruiting goals for fifth consecutive month." so people operate on the information they last obtained which is obsolete and has not been corrected with the same distribution the original information had.

Another example might be the main road to Baghdad airport. People polled might think that is a very dangerous, maybe even the *most* dangerous road in Iraq. But it isn't anymore. That perception is based on obsolete information. What is happening these days is that the American public has a whole series of misconceptions based on obsolete information that has never been corrected. The major news outlets are very quick to put out bad news, or news that shows the current administration or war situation in a bad light but never bother to update the negatives when the situation changes. So you end up with a population that has a very distorted opinion of what is going on. People who *do* dig through the stories and find the little blurbs that aren't placed on page one have a very different view. Sometimes the information can only be found in the international media and are never picked up by the major US outlets.

Another example would be a belief that casualty rates in Iraq are growing when in fact they are going in the opposite direction. You won't find a story that says "Iraqi casualties down by double-digit percentage for second straight month!" except maybe in Iraq. But you will find all kinds of stories about the 2000th US casualty. In fact, I watched a network TV series where they had an episode all queued up to run when that milestone was reached (Boston Legal).

The polls are then used as some kind of validation of the situation. Gee, if the majority of people believe something to be so, it must be so, right? Nobody in the major media ever comes out and says "The reason people are misinformed is because of a barrage of reports three months ago that were never corrected when the situation changed." because it doesn't fall within the political agenda of the media outlet to do that. Yes, political agenda. The more I watch what is going on, the clearer it becomes that most of the media outlets share a common political agenda. They are using their special role to nudge popular opinion in a certain direction. They aren't reporting, they are leading, or misleading as the case may be. No surprise here. If you read Ben Franklin's autobiography, you find that he did the very same thing. It is as old as our country. That's fine as long as you understand it for what it is and take things with a grain of salt and do your part by digging and keeping up with things. But be careful about expressing an opinion if it is based on information that is more than a couple of months old, because it might no longer be true.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jordan's Turn

Al Zarqawi should be looking a little more over his shoulder these days. It isn't like Jordan has been all that fond of him anyway, but now things are a little different. Jordan now has a reason to track him down and bring him to justice. The intelligence services of Jordan are well known for efficiency. In the past week Al Zarqawi has managed quite a number of setbacks. He has turned the population of Morocco against him. He has managed to start fights with other insurgents within Iraq. He has lost a major base of operations on the Syrian border. And now he has managed to give a powerful government bordering Iraq reason to track him down.

I believe we will soon see the main Al Qaida spokesmen breaking off any association with Al Zarqawi. Not only is Zarqawi a loose cannon, he is causing an effect within the Muslim community that is the opposite of that which is desired. Rather than being a rallying point, he has become an outcast. His actions are seen as horrible by those whose hearts and minds he would wish to win. He is losing public support across the board. At some point, I would expect Al Qaida to cut their losses, though they (Al Qaida) aren't exactly world renowned for their intellectual prowess.

If Zarqawi is still in Iraq, his days are numbered. If he is in Syria, he will be allowed to exist there for as long as he benefits the regime in some way and when it becomes to the benefit of the regime to betray him, they will.

Hey, Zarqawi, look out behind you!

UPDATE: This article is interesting. A pollster who operates in the Middle East has come to the conclusion that the Amman bombings may cause a "sea change" in Arab public opinion toward Al Qaida. It's nice to see others coming to the same conclusion though this has been in the works for some time. After a period of cooling towards Al Qaida, it is now politically fashionable to be outright anti-Al Qaida in the region. Goody!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Windfall Profits

The current popular idea to charge oil companies with a "windfall profits" tax is nonsense. Oil companies do not set the price of oil and finished products, the commodity markets do. Imagine if I had a barrel of oil and I placed it on EBay for bid. Now imagine several buyers bid the price of that barrel of oil up. That is what happens in the commodity markets. Now imagine things have been going along pretty much the same for several years and suddenly two people that have been regular bidders for your product suddenly start to need much more of it. They are buying more and more barrels of oil and are willing to outbid other people for it. The price rises higher. That is what is happening in the international oil markets with China and India as they ramp their economies up. Now, imagine something happens in the news. Say a hurricane is headed directly at a major oil producing region and could potentially disrupt supply. Some buyers might become concerned and decide to speculate. They will buy up oil they don't need in order to sell it later when they think the price will be higher. The impact of that is to drive prices up very quickly. Prices could possibly begin to go up before the storm even arrives as the speculators enter the market.

Now imagine the people in your town are now mad at you because you are making so much money on EBay selling your oil. They now show up on your lawn one night with torches and demand some of your money (windfall profits tax). What do you do? Chances are, you might leave town. That is going to suck for the town because they were getting some money from you in taxes, now they are going to get nothing. And to top it off, they are *still* going to pay the same amount for their oil.

And the same thing goes for finished products too. You can go to a broker right now and buy 100,000 gallons of gasoline on the commodity market and take delivery of it if you have someplace to store it. The price you pay is going to depend on how many others are also bidding on that gasoline and how much they are willing to pay. It is an auction that goes on every day. The oil company doesn't set the price of gasoline. The people bidding for it on the commodities exchanges do. They can bid the price up very quickly if they get "spooked" by bad news. If a forecast comes in that cold weather is expected, heating oil contracts will start to rise before the temperature starts to fall as speculators enter the market. The price rises very quickly.

Another thing that one must understand is the domestic consumption is only around 10% of a global oil company's business. Of all the profit that the oil companies are reporting, 90% of it is money from other countries that they are pulling in to the US. If we hammer them with a windfall profits tax, they might just move out of the country. There are plenty of countries that would love to have a major US oil company move there. If it is cheaper for the company to operate someplace else, they will. And to top it off, people in the US will still be paying just as much for their oil and gas. I say leave the situation alone. Increased profits will likely result in increased production which will result in lower prices but it takes time for the increased investment to work through to the gas pump. It can take a decade to get a refinery from drawing board to full production. It can take many years to open a new oil field or build a new pipeline.

It is also in the interest of the oil company to keep prices low. Every time the price of gasoline rises, it makes alternative energy sources more competitive and results in a decrease in the amount demanded. If people switch to more fuel efficient cars and homes, it can result in a fundamental change in demand itself with consumption dropping so that even if prices dropped back to where they were, profits would be lower than they were because consumers have become more efficient in their use of energy. So overall, it is in the best interest for the oil company to sell as much oil as it can at the lowest price that it can. It just so happens that the two go hand in hand. For every additional barrel they place up for sale, the price drops a little because there is more supply. It is easier to get. People don't need to bid the price up so high.

Windfall Profits Tax feels good and appeals in an emotional sense, but it is short-sighted and could end up costing the country a lot more money than it saves. It is a bad idea.

I have been waiting for this.

An article in the San Jose Mercury (registration required) documents that cracks are forming between the local Sunni insurgents and the Al Qaida religious fighters of Al Zarqawi. Things have degraded into open warfare in the streets. The latest source of friction seems to be money. It seems some insurgent groups have been charging local businesses "protection" money. Al Qaida is demanding that the money be handed over to them. The locals are refusing. It seems they want their towns back. This is starting to seem less like an insurgency and more like rival gangs fighting over turf. Al Zarqawi isn't making many friends with his foreigners in leadership positions calling shots that are killing a lot of Iraqis. A few sentences from the article:

Kamil Ahmed, a 40-year-old resident with long-standing ties to local insurgent groups, said the break started in the summer, when al-Qaida in Iraq started killing police who showed up for work, breaking an insurgent agreement to let the officers do their jobs.
The split intensified when the group assassinated several sheiks, in mosques, for criticizing its actions. Insurgent groups also went against al-Qaida in Iraq and urged citizens to vote in the constitutional referendum in October and in the upcoming December national elections. Al-Qaida in Iraq had characterized voting as cooperating with the Americans.

Ahmed said the final straw was about money. He said businesses and even some government offices around Ramadi had been paying local insurgents protection money, as much as $70,000 a month. Al-Qaida in Iraq demanded the money.

So it isn't going to be much longer, I don't think. You have the US Marines and Iraqi army cutting off the supply of new foreign cannon fodder at the border and local Sunni groups picking off the Al Qaida cells from within in addition to the regular attrition from various coalition operations. Zarqawi's operations should begin to fall apart fairly quickly. I am giving it until the end of the month.

Kansas and Intelligent Design

If you live in Kansas, leave. If you don't live there, don't move there. Let's vote with our feet.

I generally think the Democrats are idiots. I think there are plenty of Republican idiots too. There are two issues that I think would advance the Republicans if they would simply change their stance. Firstly, "Intelligent Design" has no place in science and they should come out and say so. It isn't science. Secondly, they need to come off their anti-abortion stance. I don't believe the Republican support "base" is so important that they need to maintain the stance on this issue. What are the religious wackos going to do? Run to the Democrats? Not bloody likely. You might hear a lot of whining about it and a lot of bluster and threats, but when all is said and done, I think the "base" will stay right where it is. I believe such moves would stand to increase Republican support more than it would decrease it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

California Propositions

I got to thinking about one of the propositions on the ballot today and what it really means. I have a seven year old daughter. We have a wonderful relationship. It she were under the age of consent, I could imagine her seeking an abortion without wanting me to know. She might be afraid it would disappoint me that she were pregnant. I would probably counsel her to obtain an abortion but today's proposition would take that away from me as a father. I might never find out. What if she got pregnant again? The state is just going to take care of it, right? And if she gets pregnant again? What about three more times? Is the state going to thing ME unfit as a parent when I never knew she was pregnant to begin with? And there are two people involved. Someone needs to let that other parent know to give their kid some tools to prevent that kind of thing. I don't care if she wants an abortion and I am not worried about giving "permission" for one, I probably would anyway. What I want to know is that she was pregnant so that steps can be taken to see that it doesn't happen again. Under current law, she could get pregnant 10 times and I would never know.

Diminishing Insurgency

All signs are pointing to a significant diminishing of the Iraqi insurgency. After the first week of this month, the casualty rate is the lowest it has been since February for Iraqi security forces and the lowest since May for civilian casualties. The toll is waning with each passing month as Iraqi forces gain control of more of the country. There are signs that Al Zarqawi is also getting desperate. He has today announced the start of an "offensive" that would "shake the ground beneath the feet" of Iraq. So far it has turned out to be bluster just as the warning of a "Great Ramadan Offensive" turned out to be. There was a drive-by shooting of a lawyer involved in the Saddam trial today. Was that the "offensive"? We see things like that every day in LA, California. Car bombs and drive-by shootings are more fitting the tactics of New Jersey gangsters than any kind of military force.

Evidence is also building of a loss of support in the Muslim communities in the Middle East for Al Qaida in Iraq. Demonstrators took to the streets in Morocco to protest the "trial" of two members of that country's diplomatic mission to Iraq. Fatwas were issued damning Al Qaida and it's members to hell if they carried out the threatened executions. Opinion columns in the regional media show little tolerance for Al Zarqawi and his thugs. Influential Sunnis are joining the political process and are talking about bringing peace to the Sunni regions of Iraq. Not today or tomorrow, but as word gets out and as their political engine gets rolling.

The end is near for Al Qaida in Iraq. Expect a "full court press" in the media. Expect to hear things like this from the Seattle Times "Widespread Iraq violence leaves swath of casualties". You will never know from reading the papers that the violence is decreasing every week. You will never learn that the casualty rages are down by double-digit percentages each month. You are going to be lead to believe that the violence is raging uncontrolled leaving a "swath" of casualties all over the countryside. This is irresponsible journalism. If newspapers want to know why their subscriptions are decreasing, maybe they should begin by looking at the accuracy of what they report and they can begin that process by looking at the accuracy of their headlines. Yes, while in a very strict technical sense it might be accurate if you can define "swath" and "widespread" but the overall picture these repeated headlines paint is inaccurate. People who actually dig into the story and look at the numbers know better. This causes a loss of respect for the media outlets when it becomes obvious that the stories are disingenuous. It causes the reader to become more cynical of the stories. That readership should decline under such circumstances is not surprising.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

It is almost funny ...

The LA Times has to almost apologize that there is good news in Iraq. The story linked to is about how sales are up this year for the end of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr. It seems they must pepper their story of good news with as much bad news as they can find. It sort of reads like "things are getting better, but ..." like there always has to be that "but" in there. Don't imagine they could look themselves in the mirror if they published a story with unqualified good news. Wish they took the same approach with bad news.

It's been a while

I have been sitting and watching events and not saying a whole lot about what has been going on. Part of my reason has been a feeling that I might "jinx" things by saying something. But I believe I have finally had enough so I am going to burn some bits here.

So the numbers are in for October. I am confused by media reports of "expanding" or "increasing" insurgency in Iraq when I am seeing exactly the opposite. During the month of January when Iraq last had a constitutional referendum there were 127 coalition deaths. In October there were 99. While one might not on the surface think that this is a considerable difference (down roughly 22%), one must look at what going on at the time. At the time of the 127 deaths, there were practically no coalition troops in western Iraq. About a week prior to the latest election, we changed from a tactic of "raid and run" in the western towns to "raid and stay". During the last elections there were boots on the ground in the most restive areas of Al Anbar province. Also, the month of October showed a decrease in the numbers if Iraq casualties, both security forces and civilians. There was no "Great Ramadan Offensive". Osama bin Laden didn't arrive in Iraq to lead the insurgents. All the bluster from the insurgents has proved out to be just that, bluster.

Rather than increasing in their deadly activities, the numbers are showing a decreased ability to inflict casualties. There is also some evidence that the tactics of the insurgents are causing a loss of support in the Muslim world. They are increasingly being seen as the homicidal maniacs that they are. The only place that the insurgency seems to be increasing is in the headlines of wire service news articles. It is no wonder that polls are showing decreased support; the people are being deliberately misinformed. It is hard to find good news but you can if you dig around. Often it is in the foreign press.

But the good thing is, nobody in Iraq except Al Qaida is reading the US headlines and that might actually be a good thing. It might cause the insurgents to begin to believe their own bluster or to believe that everyone here does. This might cause them to overlook the indicators of their demise which are appearing daily. The daily number of attacks are down. The number of casualties from the attacks are down. They have been increasingly unable to intimidate people into stopping the political process (many more Sunnis participated this time than last time). Coalition forces are now camped inside the towns they held only a couple of months ago. Their leadership seems to be getting picked off daily. Private citizens are coming forward to report insurgent locations and caches. The last attempted spectacular attack (they have been able to pull off two spectacular attacks per month until now) floundered when attempts to breech the security of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad failed and they were only able to kill some innocent passers-by.

What is also very important is that during the January elections, coalition forces were busy in places like Tikrit and Mosul. These areas have now been turned over to Iraqi forces. This frees up US forces to concentrate more force on Al Anbar. At the same time this is taking place, Iraq has issued a recall of the old Iraqi army junior officers. All who were serving up to the rank of Major are being asked to return. It is too early to tell how that is working out, but it could serve to deflate any non-Al Qaida insurgency even more. It is a very important move, though, because once those guys get into uniform again, our forces aren't "occupiers" anymore to them, we become trainers and logisticians. We become their supply system until their own supply system is up and running. There is more to building an army than just putting troops into uniform and handing them a rifle. You have to feed them, clothe them, provide clean socks and underwear. For an army to operate completely on its own, it needs a logistics system to keep that army fed, clothed, and supplied.

So, the bottom line? If you read the mainstream media, you are being lied to. You are being intentionally misinformed. Why this is so popular these days, I have no idea. The truth is that from today forward, things are going to start going very badly for Al Qaida in Iraq. Let's hope they keep drinking the Kool-Aid, reading our media, and don't notice. They might just "expand" themselves right into oblivion.