Monday, June 30, 2008

Total Cost of Ownership

Is there a Lemon Law for war? Can we get our money back for a war that had far more problems than was sold to us?

The L.A. Times gives us a total of expenditures for the Iraq war to date here.
It is the last war funding bill of the Bush administration -- $162 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- bringing to $650 billion the amount Congress has appropriated for the Iraq War in the last five years.
Earlier in the year, the N.Y. Times gave us this view:
At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

Getting at the true cost of the war is difficult. Expenses like a troop increase were paid from the base defense budget, not war bills.
Had the Bush administration truly represented the total cost of going to war in Iraq (10x - 20x their original publicized estimates), factoring in strains to the U.S. economy due to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the rise in global oil prices, and meltdown in housing market, would the American public have been so supportive five years ago?

Had the Congress done the due diligence to provide the public with a realistic counterpoint to the administration's viewpoint, would Americans be suffering from the loss of value in their paychecks, their homes, their savings?

Given the current approval ratings for both President Bush and Congress falling to the lowest point in the administration's history, I will assume Americans are now expressing what they would have expressed had they been more truthfully and fully informed.

Who ever wins the next presidential election will inherit this lemon of a war. And the costs to pay for all its trips to the shop will continue to come out of our individual, personal pockets for the foreseeable future. I don't think I put that into my family budget. But I'd better start.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Out The Backdoor 06/29/08 8:41pm

All The President's Men (and Women)

I read this Op Ed piece by Frank Rich in the New York Times today, and it got me thinking about advisers to the current campaigns and therefore potential cabinet and inner circle choices for the next President. In the same way that Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, and crew were the architects of the past eight years, I would like to surmise what the next four years might hold.

John McCain-

Foreign Policy:
Energy Policy:

Barack Obama-

Foreign Policy:
Energy Policy:

Here are the sources I used to pull together these lists-,0,1290201.story,0,1290201.story,0,2364094.story

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let's Play 'Compare Disasters For Political Gain'

This has been ricocheting around the blogosphere and passed into my inbox via the conservative net...
A couple questions from The National Review:

Where are all of the Hollywood celebrities holding telethons asking for help in restoring Iowa and helping the folks affected by the floods? Where is all the media asking the tough questions about why the federal government hasn't solved the problem? Asking where the FEMA trucks (and trailers) are? Why isn't the Federal Government relocating Iowa people to free hotels in Chicago? When will Spike Lee say that the Federal Government blew up the levees that failed in Des Moines? Where are Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks? Where are all the looters stealing high-end tennis shoes and big screen television sets? When will we hear Governor Chet Culver say that he wants to rebuild a 'vanilla' Iowa, because that's the way God wants it? Where is the hysterical 24/7 media coverage complete with reports of cannibalism? Where are the people declaring that George Bush hates white, rural people? How come in 2 weeks, you will never hear about the Iowa flooding ever again?

So, I did some research to find out. Here's what I found, Iowa first:

Preliminary damage estimates from the June 2008 Midwest flood puts agricultural damage in Iowa alone at $1.0 billion. At least another $1.0 billion in property damage has likely occurred--$762 million of that in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The price tag is sure to grow, as many locations downstream are facing record flood heights this week.

Levee overtopping is possible in at least 28 locations along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the coming days, according to the Army Corp of Engineers. This year's flooding is one of the ten most damaging non-hurricane flood events in the U.S. since 1980, according to the list of billion dollar weather disasters maintained by the National Climatic Data Center.

At least three deaths in Iowa have been attributed to the storms and subsequent flooding, and 12 more people have died in two recent tornadoes.

The damage from this year's flood will not come close to the record $26.7 billion in damage from the catastrophic 1993 flood, though.

And here's New Orleans/Katrina:

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. It was the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the third-strongest hurricane on record that made landfall in the United States.

The storm surge caused severe damage along the Gulf Coast, devastating the Mississippi cities of Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, D'Iberville, Ocean Springs, Gautier, Moss Point, and Pascagoula. In Louisiana, the federal flood protection system in New Orleans failed in more than fifty places. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans breached as Hurricane Katrina passed east of the city, subsequently flooding 80% of the city and many areas of neighboring parishes for weeks.

Ninety percent of the residents of southeast Louisiana were evacuated in the most successful evacuation of a major urban area in the nation's history. Despite this, many remained (mainly the elderly and poor).

At least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane.

The storm is estimated to have been responsible for $81.2 billion (2005 U.S. dollars) in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

The catastrophic failure of the flood protection in New Orleans prompted immediate review of the Army Corps of Engineers, which has, by congressional mandate, sole responsibility for design and construction of the flood protection and levee systems. There was also widespread criticism of the federal, state and local governments' reaction to the storm, which resulted in an investigation by the U.S. Congress, and the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown. Conversely, the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service were widely commended for accurate forecasts and abundant lead time.

So I guess the answer is that floods down the Mississippi are terrible events and deserve to be examined in light of other floods down the Mississippi, and not compared to the devastation that occurred in and around New Orleans at the time of Katrina. These two disasters are incomparible.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What I Woke Up Singing June 25, 2008


This is way cool.

The True Cost Of Going Green(er)

The above chart is a visual representation of the spreadsheet analysis I've been doing to figure out if I can afford to replace my 1995 Camaro Z28, which is not only gas guzzling me out of house and home, but it's air conditioner died and the $900 cost to repair it is yet another huge, unwanted expense at this time.

To help you read the chart, the Camaro is that little white car (mine is actually silver) in the upper left hand quadrant of the chart. It is in a position that indicates it'll cost me about $10k over the next 10 years to maintain it, and it gets between 15 and 20 miles to the gallon.

The other vehicles in the chart are actual car and motorcycle models, with their position on the chart being their various price points and MPG ratings.

The arrows are kinda positioned to show I don't want to spend more than $22K for a new vehicle and I'd like it to get at least 28 MPG. The green shaded triangle underneath the mess of cars shows the break even line where my investment in the vehicle is compensated by the lowered cost of fuel over a period of 10 years, as compared to just keeping my current car.

So, the upper right quadrant of the chart or the area to the right of the green shaded triangle is the sweet spot, or that place where a vehicle would actually save me money over the long run.

As you can see, there's not alot of there there. A Smart car, a Xebra electric car, and motorcycles are about the only vehicles that would actually save me money while saving the environment.

A Prius, hands down the most fuel efficient car sold by a major car company today, would be a break even proposition for me, at best. It may save the environment and use less gas, but it ultimately costs me no more than if I continued to drive my 8-cylinder muscle car.

Don't you hate it when your best intentions bump up against the bottomline?

I'm finding alot of that recently.

I invested a premium in a geothermal air conditioning and heating unit for my townhome about 10 years ago, with the sales pitch that the total cost of ownership would be less than a normal A/C unit and the impact to the environment would be substantially less than the norm.

In the past month, my neighbors have been comparing their electric bills and mine is definitely NOT contributing to a lower cost of ownership, so I can only hope the ozone layer has been saved by my foresight. Because I'm suffering a bit of owner's remorse over being environmentally conscious.

And then I go and run the numbers on this car thing, and it hits me again. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice and I'm just a fool.

There's no mass transit in Atlanta to speak of, so the other obvious solution to low cost, high MPG is a non-starter.

I'm actually one of those folks who thinks the rise in gas prices is the most positive thing that can be done to motivate governments, companies, communities, and individuals to break out of a deeply cemented mindset that has been around my entire life, and one that I have been fully participating in during the same timeframe.

Cheap fuel drives certain behaviors. Expensive fuel blows that all to pieces.

Now, if those hybrid cars could just come in at under $20K, we'd all be saving money. And I could afford to save the environment again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Keeping Up With The Smears

I am blessed to be in the middle of the political communications war this election season. I kind of think of it as the perfect storm of misinformation and I'm George Clooney as the waves converge. It's not just the Democrat/Republican war to which I've been privy, but also the Hillary/Obama/McCain/Ron Paul slinging.

My family is longtime Republican supporters. I get all the anti-Hillary and anti-Obama chain emails. Like this relatively mild one:

Or this one.

And then, this one.

And I was part of Ron Paul's grassroots organization here in Georgia, so am flooded with anti-neocon/pro-constitutional sentiment (what amounts to a great deal of bashing the current Republican status quo). Which is more in line with my own thinking, but even there, the smears pull for the fences and the most common sense output has typos.

Plus the McCain/Republican media machine has started cranking up, so there's even more 'message' with which to contend.

And I live in probably one of the most liberal neighborhoods in the country, with an email list for the community that is constantly filled with postings for anti-war rallies, Peak Oil summits, alternative religion/medicine/lifestyle solutions, and extensive counterculture views. Oh, and I subscribe to the New York Times.

So you could say I'm either incredibly informed or incredibly mis-informed. Simultaneously.

I rely upon a cadre of tools to try to make sense out of the confluence of smears and jeers in my daily swim through the media.

This from the Obama camp:

There's always

John Stewart and Colbert Report are high on my list. If you don't laugh, you'll cry.

Ron Paul's site is a great resource for the issues.

Ross Perot just launched a new charts site that has some fascinating perspectives.

With all of this perfect storm media, I continue to hope we don't all wind up on the bottom of the ocean, like poor George Clooney.