Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oregon: Story or myth?

"Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven's sake, don't move here to live."

—Oregon Governor Tom McCall (1913-83) in a 1971 interview on CBS

There's plenty of reason to believe that the governor's statement was just a clever public-relations stunt that succeeded, through a kind of reverse psychology, in making Oregon even more appealing as a place to live (1). Oregon's population, after all, has increased by about 85% since then, to about 3.6 million. About half that growth has occurred in Portland, whose metro area (including nearby Vancouver in Washington State) now has a population of about two million.

During the thirty-six years since McCall's interview, two related mythologies have evolved about the "Oregon Story" and "Portland - The City that Works." For now I'll only address the first--which is already the subject of my "Trashing the Tillamook"—and in a later post move on to the second, which is more complex.

The elements of the "Oregon Story," which might be more accurately called the "Oregon Myth," are clear enough and—I hasten to add—founded in certain realities:
  • Oregon is gifted with stunning natural assets, from its coast to the Cascades (see photo above) to the vast open spaces of its eastern and central ranges. There's a deeply-held belief—actually more of an assumption—that Oregon has risen to the challenge of protecting its natural heritage from rampant urbanization, reckless logging and other mindless development.
  • Oregonians are unusually talented or, at least (with apologies to Garrison Keillor), all above average, especially in their shared concern to promote what planners like to call "smart growth"(2). A refinement of this principle goes like this: the state attracts intelligent people who have a strong inclination to preserve its natural splendor.
  • Oregon is therefore unique in both its natural gifts and its wisdom in protecting them. Predictably, this perception leads to endless self-congratulation and a kind of hubris that can seem insurmountable.
In fairness, I readily admit that there's considerable truth in these narratives, which explains why they've taken root so deeply. The Oregon Country is certainly well preserved compared to many other states, but to a large degree that's an accident of geography and history.

To begin with the obvious, Oregon enjoys a relatively low population density: its 3.6 million people are spread over nearly 100,000 square miles, for an average density of about 35 per square miles. Washington State, by comparison, has a density of almost 90 persons per square mile (3).

While the fertile Willamette Valley enjoys a moderate climate and abundant rainfall, the rest of the state is relatively inhospitable to growing crops. Much of eastern Oregon's high country is mountainous and heavily forested, with harsh winters and dry summers. Large areas of these vast steppes can support only limited agriculture. Oregon has no oil or coal, though it is a net exporter of electricity due to surpluses of hydroelectric power. The largest growth in the economy has occurred in the high-tech in Portland and its suburbs. Much of Oregon's population growth has been the result of migration from other states and countries to feed workers to the high-tech sector.

For these reasons, Oregon remains a state of open spaces, but (contrary to its reputation) it's no longer pristine except in a few wild enclaves. It's impossible to travel through the larger Oregon forests without passing through a maze of clearcuts that quickly demolish any illusion of true wild country. Any traveler will appreciate why Oregon has led the country in softwood timber production for many years.

Oregonians who congratulate themselves on their state's alleged environmental wisdom have seemingly lost their ability to really look at their blighted landscape. As practiced here, timber extraction is an aesthetic nightmare and a major reason why Oregon has staggered from economic boom to bust for much of its history.

Clearcuts are only the beginning. Summer skies in the Northwest are often discolored by extensive plumes of brown smoke from burning the slash left behind by logging operations; expensive gravel roads for log trucks scar the mountainous landscapes, to the extent that U.S. Forest Service maps often resemble a plate of spaghetti; and pollution from pulp mills can produce a smell resembling rotten eggs for miles in all directions. Aside from the aesthetic effects, clearcuts accelerate erosion, cause siltation of creeks, damage fish habitat and require expensive maintenance for a huge network of logging roads. Even if much of the damage is in unpopulated areas far from the major highways, it's impossible to travel anywhere without noticing it. State laws that attempt to limit the devastation, through such measures as thin screens of trees next to highways and streams, are pathetically inadequate.

When challenged on its destructive practices, the timber corporations reflexively (and hypocritically) blather about jobs—as if there's only one way to log Oregon's forests, and that requires thousands of giant clearcuts up to the maximum allowed by state law (180 acres). Timber is a valuable resource and few Oregonians would prohibit logging, but it's a resource that can be exploited in ways that don't degrade the landscape for decades and risk permanent damage.

Oregonians were once smug about the crowning achievement of the "Oregon Story": their comprehensive system of land-use regulation, which effectively protected forest and agricultural land from urban sprawl. Until 2004, voters had rallied to handily defeat all attempts to subvert the land-use system that had been in place for three decades. That system has been deeply undermined, if not utterly destroyed, by the passage of Ballot Measure 37 in 2004. BM 37 required "just compensation" for "regulatory" takings by state government. The deceptive wording of BM 37—who could oppose "just compensation" for government "takings"?—was undoubtedly appealing to those who hadn't bothered to study the likely effects of the new law on environmental and development regulations.

Not surprisingly, the main supporters and beneficiaries of BM 37 were big timber companies and real-estate developers. Despite emotional appeals on behalf of small landowners, most of the pro-37 funding "came from timber companies and real estate interests that stand to profit if, as many here expect, large tracts of forests and farmland are unlocked for development." Over 7,000 claims have been filed under BM 37, many by huge landowners like Plum Creek Timber (5), throwing Oregon's land-use regulations into chaos.

Like most of the country, Oregon has been deeply divided between the progressive Democratic enclaves of the growing urban areas, mainly in the Willamette Valley, and the laissez-faire conservativism of eastern and southern Oregon. In the wake of BM 37 and the state's refusal to meaningfully regulate logging, the "Oregon Story" is now a shambles. It will need to be abandoned or rewritten.


(1) In a moment of paranoid delusion, I imagined that the governor was commenting my relocation to Oregon from the east coast about a year earlier.

(2) The opposite being "dumb growth," which doesn't seem to enjoy any public support. For more on the political uses of tautology, visit our friend Ellis at Disambiguation.

(3) Yet far more of Washington's forests and mountains are preserved in designated wilderness areas and national parks. Washington has three national parks, for example, compared to Oregon's one. Incredibly, there isn't a single national park on the entire Oregon coast, which has been decimated by development and decades of intensive logging.

(4) To get an idea of the extent of this desecration, this writer again invites readers to take an aerial tour of the Cascades or Coast Range on Google Earth. I recommend setting your altitude at about 8-10 miles for the full effect.

(5) Plum Creek Timber is the largest private landowner in the U.S.

PHOTO #1: The west side of Mt. Hood, Mt. Hood Wilderness (by the author, October 2006).
#2: Replanted clearcut in the Oregon Coast Range above Gales Creek (by the author, January 2007)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Blues Break: Mississippi Fred McDowell's 'Goin' Down to the River'

Fred McDowell (1904-72) was one of the finest Delta blues vocalists and guitar players--on both acoustic and electric. (And he offers a nice break from politics.) Fred lived the blues, and you get a hint of that on his face at the very end of this fine song. I saw him in Portland (the Upper Left Coast version) in a powerful performance just a year before his death.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Geaghan: "By a certain vile persuasion..."

"The power of discourse stands in the same relation to the soul's organization as the pharmacopoeia does to the physiology of bodies. For just as different drugs draw off different humors from the body, and some put an end to disease and others to life, so too of discourses: some give pain, others delight, others terrify, others rouse the hearers to courage, and yet others by a certain vile persuasion drug and trick the soul."
—Gorgias (c. 490-385 B.C.E.), Encomium of Helen

Socrates ranted against Gorgias (1) and the sophists nearly 2,500 years ago, but their dark art has reached new levels of refinement in contemporary U.S. politics. A case in point is John McCain's disingenuous insistence that congressional Democrats demonstrate the courage of their antiwar convictions by voting to cut off funding for the war in Iraq. The right-wing echo chamber has taken up the chorus for the past few weeks. A recent example is Charles Krauthammer, who has built his entire career as a columnist on being unerringly wrong. He resumed McCain's litany in today's Washington Post: "Of course, the Democrats believe the war cannot be won. But if that's the case, they should order a withdrawal by cutting off funds."

Recent history—as in the 2004 election—shows that it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the Democrats' ability to self-destruct. But the R's have attempted to set such an obvious trap that the D's will likely emerge unscathed. After all, they'll be damned either way. If they cut funding for the war effort, they'll be accused of abandoning the 155,000 troops who'll be in Iraq after the current escalation is complete. If they don't cut funding, they'll be accused of hypocrisy by McCain, Krauthammer and the rest of the unrehabilitated Republican right. (Ah, but that's redundant.) My guess is that the D's would rather be attacked for hypocrisy than betrayal.

The irony of this situation shouldn't be lost on anyone. The Bush administration didn't develop any coherent plans for the occupation of Iraq, failed to competently manage the administration of the country and refused to furnish adequate force levels or equipment to provide security for U.S. troops or the Iraqi people. Now the same gang of incompetents have the audacity to suggest that their political opponents are failing to support the troops.

The notion of sophistry will be useful to keep in mind as we approach another presidential election, and of course the practice is hardly unknown among Democrats. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers an especially helpful definition:
"The aims of the young politicians whom [the sophists] trained were to persuade the multitude of whatever they wished them to believe. The search for truth was not top priority. Consequently the sophists undertook to provide a stock of arguments on any subject, or to prove any position. They boasted of their ability to make the worse appear the better reason, to prove that black is white. Some, like Gorgias, asserted that it was not necessary to have any knowledge of a subject to give satisfactory replies as regards it. Thus, Gorgias ostentatiously answered any question on any subject instantly and without consideration. To attain these ends mere quibbling, and the scoring of verbal points were employed. In this way, the sophists tried to entangle, entrap, and confuse their opponents, and even, if this were not possible, to beat them down by mere violence and noise. They sought also to dazzle by means of strange or flowery metaphors, by unusual figures of speech, by epigrams and paradoxes, and in general by being clever and smart, rather than earnest and truthful." (2)

(1) As for Gorgias, we have to wonder whether his rhetorical skills helped him delay his final crossing of the river Acheron. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he lived to the age of 108 (483-375 B.C.E.); Wikipedia states that he was a mere 105 (490-385 B.C.E.) at the time of his death.

(2) Wikipedia defines sophistry as "rhetoric that is designed to appeal to the listener on grounds other than the strict logical cogency of the statements being made... The essential claim of sophistry is that the actual logical validity of an argument is irrelevant (if not non-existent); it is only the ruling of the audience which ultimately determines whether a conclusion is considered 'true' or not. By appealing to the prejudices and emotions of the judges, one can garner favorable treatment for one's side of the argument and cause a factually false position to be ruled true."

PAINTING: The Death of Socrates (1784-85), by Jacques-Louis David.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

For as long as it wants

“There are people being held at Guantanamo who shouldn’t be there. The United States cannot simply hold the detainees for as long as it wants.”

—Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

Actually, it can. On February 20th, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit voted 2-1 against a group of noncitizen detainees at Guantanamo in Lakhdar Moumediene v. George Bush.

The central legal question was squarely addressed in the opening sentence of the majority opinion: "Do federal courts have jurisdiction over petitions for writs of habeas corpus filed by aliens captured abroad and detained as enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba?"

The Moumediene case is the first to make its way to the appellate courts since Congress adopted the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006. The case involved, among other issues, an interpretation of the following provision of the Act:
"No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting* such determination." MCA Section 7 (1).
The clear intent of this provision was to deny federal courts the authority to hear habeas corpus petitions from Guantanamo detainees by overruling the Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006).

The two judges in the majority—appointed by Reagan and Bush the Elder—found the arguments of the detainees to be "creative but not cogent." The court was untroubled that the Guantanamo detainees had filed for habeas writs before the MCA became law. They declared that Congress had the legal authority to give the MCA a retroactive effect. They quickly dismissed the constitutional arguments, including those based on the Suspension Clause of Article I:
“The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Article I, Section 9, Clause 2.
The majority's convoluted rationale is based in part on a series of dusty common-law decisions, British and American, that focus on the question of "territorial jurisdiction." They conclude that, under American law, the "Constitution does not confer rights on aliens without property or presence within the United States." [Property?]

By its terms, though, the Suspension Clause isn't limited in scope to either citizens or persons within the territorial limits of the United States. Guantanamo, of course, has been effectively under U.S. jurisdiction since 1903. But the court rejected this argument, noting:
"Congress and the President have specifically disclaimed the sort of territorial jurisdiction [over Guantanamo] they asserted in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam."
Even if this is true—and the dissent argues otherwise—their analysis is inadequate. Since when, in dealing with basic constitutional principles like habeas corpus, are the courts bound by "disclaimers" from the other branches of government?

In sum, the majority opinion tends to confirm what most people think about judicial decisionmaking: judges decide what they want to do in advance, then construct a rationale of law and fact to support it.

In her dissent, Judge Judith W. Rogers—a Clinton appointee —noted that the Supreme Court had already determined, in the Rasul case, that "[a]pplication of the habeas statute to persons detained at the [Guantanamo] base is consistent with the historical reach of the writ of habeas corpus.” Rogers adds:
"The Framers understood that the privilege of the writ was of such great significance that its suspension should be strictly limited to circumstances where the peace and security of the Nation were jeopardized. Only after considering alternative proposals authorizing suspension 'on the most urgent occasions' or forbidding suspension outright did the Framers agree to a narrow exception upon a finding of rebellion or invasion... Indeed, it would be curious if the Framers were implicitly sanctioning Executive-ordered detention abroad without judicial review by limiting suspension — and by the court’s reasoning therefore limiting habeas corpus — to domestic events."
Judge Rogers goes on to quote Alexander Hamilton, invoking British legal scholar William Blackstone, in The Federalist No. 84:
"To bereave a man of life (says he), or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government."
English common-law courts, Rogers adds, also "recognized the power to issue habeas corpus in India, even to non-subjects, and did so notwithstanding competition from local courts, well before England recognized its sovereignty in India" (citations deleted). If India was within the reach of the writ for English courts, why isn't Guantanamo within the reach of the writ for U.S. courts?

So the Moumediene case will soon move on to the Supreme Court and an uncertain fate. My confident prediction is that the Supremes will uphold the lower court decisions. In other words, they'll withhold the writ of habeas corpus from the internees and find the MCA to be constitutional. With the departure of Sandra Day O'Conner and Bush's two appointments, the Court's decisive shift to the right makes this result almost inevitable.

A more promising approach is rapidly evolving in the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee has promised that it will introduce legislation to restore habeas rights to Guantanamo detainees.

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorialized:
The Great Writ guards against that most basic abuse of power, when the government can send hooded figures in the dead of night to roust innocent men and women from their beds. Its protections should apply in times of war, and to enemies as well as friends.


*So what does it mean to be "properly detained as an enemy combatant or... awaiting such determination?" The phrase "properly detained" suggests some kind of due process, but the second half of the formulation takes it all away. No doubt all 400 detainees could be "awaiting" a determination for the rest of their lives. The cynicism of those who wrote this legislation seems boundless.

PHOTO: Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph, author of the majority opinion in the Moumediene case.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Geaghan: A few updates

L'affair Papon

From Paris: Le Monde reports that Maurice Papon was buried on Wednesday with his Légion d'honneur medal, despite widespread opposition. Papon was responsible for the deportation of 1,690 French Jews to Auschwitz during World War II and the mass killing of Algerian demonstrators in Paris in 1961 when he was chief of the Paris police. Libération's story is headlined: "Papon, outside the law even in the tomb."

The Kouchner law

France has its "loi Kouchner," which allows for the early release of prisoners for humanitarian reasons, but what about the U.S.? Executive clemency is our rough equivalent, though it provides no real criteria for deciding whether to release aged or critically-ill prisoners. For example, Oregon's clemency law (ORS 144.649) simply states: "Upon such conditions and with such restrictions and limitations as the Governor thinks proper, the Governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after convictions, for all crimes and may remit, after judgment therefor, all penalties and forfeitures." Interestingly enough, Oregon law (ORS 144.787) also states that the "youth, advanced age or physical disability" of the victim may be considered an "aggravating circumstance" that can justify a harsher sentence. But the "youth, advanced age or physical disability" of the defendant isn't recognized as a "mitigating circumstance" that could result in a reduced sentence.

State clemency boards are unlikely to recommend clemency without a "compelling justification" or a showing of "extraordinary circumstances."

On the federal level, the power of granting pardons and reprieves is granted to the president under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, "except in cases of impeachment" (1). During the last thirty years, about 10% of the 600 applications for pardons have been approved.

Road rage revisited

The irate driver who threw a cup of McDonald's soda into another car had her sentence reduced by a Virginia judge from two years in prison to probation. She has been in jail since January 4th but will be released as soon as she clears a warrant from a Mississippi court on an unrelated matter. (Maybe, for now, this result will rein in the endless variations on "McDonald's"—like "McMissile," "McWoman," "McJail" and "McProbation"—that seem to amuse the media every time the company makes the news.)


(1) Though the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of impeachment, Richard Nixon was never formally impeached (or tried) on the House floor.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Update: Papon and the Kouchner law

A story in today's Paris Libération, headlined "One of the rare prisoners freed by the Kouchner law," describes a provision of the French code that authorized the early release of Maurice Papon from prison on humanitarian grounds. As detailed in Geagan's post on the subject, Papon was freed in 2002 after serving just three years of a ten-year sentence for crimes against humanity during World War II. The Kouchner law permits a suspension of the remaining sentence
"...of prisoners for whom it is established that they have developed a life-threatening pathology, or [when] their long-term state of health is incompatible with their maintenance in detention."
In a communiqué on Pabon's death, the French Ligue des droits de l'homme (League of the Rights of Man) notes that Papon is one of the very few aged or infirm prisoners who have benefited from the Kouchner law. On the day that Papon walked out of La Santé prison and celebrated at a fine restaurant, there were 369 septuagenarians, 39 octogenarians and 2 nonagenarians in French prisons. The League condemned "the priority given to an accomplice of the Shoah in the liberation of sick prisoners over other prisoners who have not benefited from the same humanity as the purveyor of Auschwitz." The League contrasted Papon's "golden life" with that of other sick and aging prisoners, including the "calvary" of a 46-year-old political activist who died of lung cancer after her release on humanitarian grounds in 2006:
"How can we forget that one can always live through the terminal phase of cancer in prison, remaining in a cell while weighing only thirty kilograms [66 lbs], falling out of bed each night without getting help, and that there are still old people in prison who don't even know where they are?...

"There is too much inhumanity in the French penal system to get indignant over a measure of clemency granted to an old man, great criminal though he was. But it is intolerable that inequality before the law is so cynically assumed by public authorities."
A final note on Papon. In 1961, when he was chief of the Paris police, from 70 to 200 Algerian demonstrators were killed—typically beaten to death by police—and thrown into the Seine under his orders. The crime wasn't even acknowledged by the French government until 1998. Papon remained chief of police in Paris for a total of nine years (1958-67). He denied complicity in the events of 1961, not surprisingly, and was never prosecuted.

The Papon case demonstrates that it's not enough to have humane laws: they must be implemented fairly and without favoritism. It also shows that certain political and social elites are often exempt from the laws that apply to the rest of us.


All materials in quotes are my translations from the French sources noted or linked.

GRAPHIC: Maurice Papon after his release from prison.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Life without possibility

Our friend and fellow contributor Geaghan, in an earlier post, discusses the career and recent death (at the age of 96) of Maurice Papon in France. Papon collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of France from 1940-44 and was convicted of crimes against humanity in 1998. Papon was released due to declining health after serving just four years of his ten-year sentence.

The Papon cases poses some difficult questions about how a penal system should treat elderly and infirm prisoners. His ten-year sentence, when he was already 86, probably looked like life imprisonment at the time. (French authorities dithered for sixteen years before even bringing the case to court, but that's another matter.) Papon had a very successful career in French politics, including high national office, so he was able to defer the consequences of his crimes until it was least inconvenient for him to face them.

Apart from the particulars of the Papon case, is there any point in confining elderly prisoners until they finally die behind bars? More broadly, is it possible for even a brutal murderer to be rehabilitated after decades in prison so that he is no longer a threat to society—and may even have something positive to contribute on the outside? Is there an acceptable level of risk from such elderly or infirm prisoners, and how can "acceptable risk" be reliably determined? If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, how can the release of any violent offenders ever be justified? Was there any point whatsoever in sending the 87-year-old Papon to prison?

Although rules and statutes give parole boards some guidance in making release decisions, a case-by-case analysis is unavoidable. In increasing numbers of cases, though, parole or early release aren't options at all. Should they be?

The Papon case is a relatively easy call. For mass crimes and crimes against humanity of that magnitude, and to deter others, a person should spend the rest of his life in confinement. That doesn't mean such prisoners should remain forever integrated into the prison population or be treated harshly. But those complicit in mass murder, like Maurice Papon or Slobodan Milosevic, should, on principle, never be free again.

What about the rest—those who committed first-degree murder or other acts of extreme violence? Many, no doubt, committed such horrific crimes that they should never be released, or their prison careers make it clear that they remain dangerous to society. Others, including those who killed as teenagers, may pose less ultimate risk. If people commit a capital crime at the age of seventeen or eighteen, should they be kept in prison for sixty or seventy years without any possibility of release no matter how they serve their sentence? Is there no possibility of redemption for those judged by the worst moments of their lives?

Due to changing sentencing practices, these issues are becoming more common in the penal system. Studies show that juries in capital cases often prefer life imprisonment without possiblity of parole over than the death penalty. That option is given to them in 37 of the 38 states that retain the death penalty. Alaska, which has no death penalty, is the only state in which juries can't impose a life sentence without parole.

As of 2005, 9,700 U.S. prisoners are serving life sentences for crimes they committed as minors. Of that number, 2,200 are serving with no possibility of parole (1). Currently 26% of all prisoners in the U.S. are facing life sentences with no prospect of eventual release. In Michigan alone, 146 prisoners are serving sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed between the ages of 14 and 16.

These sentencing practices raise questions at both ends of the age spectrum. To what extent are juveniles responsible for their own behavior and for how long should they be confined? What are the practical implications of denying hope to a quarter of the prison population by precluding their release decades in advance? How will such sentences affect their behavior in prison (2)?

With fewer juries imposing the death penalty in capital cases, and more states moving towards a possible repeal of capital punishment (3), our prison system is likely to be facing an even larger population of aging inmates. Elderly and infirm prisoners impose significant medical costs on the prison system in their declining years. Since most convicts and their families lack the means to pay for medical care or health insurance, release from prison may not avoid the costs to society of caring for prisoners. They will likely have to depend on Medicare and Medicaid assistance in any event.

For those who oppose the death penalty, life without possibility of parole is a humane alterative that should be offered to all juries in states that retain capital punishment. But it's an alternative that can also produce harsh results.

It hardly needs to be said that people found guilty of committing extremely violent acts should be confined to prison. They should also have to bear a heavy burden of demonstrating that they pose no further risk to others before they can be released. Many, perhaps nearly all, will never be released. For the restthose who pose no discernible threatthe penal system could offer something like a "humanitarian," but supervised, release after they reach a specified age, like seventy.

Section 15 of Oregon's Constitution provides that:

"Laws for the punishment of crime shall be founded on these principles: protection of society, personal responsibility, accountability for one’s actions and reformation."
The legal and moral issues are difficult and complex, but one thing seems clear: there's not much impetus for "reformation" if a prisoner has zero possibility of ever getting out of prison. Life without possibility of parole can be an appropriate sentence in many cases. But it shouldn't be imposed automatically, without consideration of all the implications for the inmate, prison administration or the larger society.


(1) The U.S. one of only four countries that holds people in prison without possibility of release for crimes they committed under the age of eighteen. Israel holds seven, South Africa four, and Tanzania just one, compared to our 2,200 (as of 2005). More than 350 of those held in the U.S. were 15 or younger. In a recent decision prohibiting capital punishment for juvenile offenders, Justice Kennedy concluded: "Even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile" is not "evidence of irretrievably depraved character."

(2) A Massachusetts priest convicted of child abuse was murdered while in "protective custody" by a homophobic inmate who is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.

(3) New Jersey, Maryland, New Mexico and Nebraska.

GRAPHIC Ohio State Penitentiary, opened in 1998.

Geaghan: Sunday snippets

From the back pages of today's newspapers or online news sources...

Humvee RIP?

Has the Marine Corps in Iraq given up on the Humvee? Even the "up-armored" versions, which are often improvised by American troops from scrap metal, are highly vulnerable to IED's that are becoming ever more powerful. The flat undercarriage of the Humvee is especially vulnerable to bombs planted in the road. About two-thirds of the 700 Marines killed in Iraq were riding in Humeees. According to a news report by David Wood, the Corps now plans to replace all its Humvees, at a cost of $2.8 billion, with MRAP's (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles). Crews are "four or five times more likely" to survive an IED attack on MRAP's compared to armored Humvees (though no comparison is available between the MRAP and unarmored Humvees). The basic problem, Wood writes, is that "insurgents can invent different and more lethan bombs faster than the Pentagon and American industry can provide protection." For beleagued Marines in Iraq, the MRAP will not offer much relief since "it will take years to complete the replacement" of the Humvee. For exactly how many years does this administration think the U.S. will be occupying Iraq? Bush has already informed us, of course, that any such decision will have to be made by his successor.

GRAPHIC: The Humvee in which Marine Sgt. Mark Chafin was injured in Iraq.

No regrets, no remorse

In France, Maurice Papon died at the age of 96, four years after his release from prison due to "failing health." Papon was convicted of crimes against humanity in 1998 but served only three years of a ten-year sentence. As director of "Jewish Affairs" in Bordeaux, Papon played a prominent role in the deportation of 1,690 Jews, including 223 children, from the area during World War II. He was the highest-ranking French official to be convicted of crimes arising from collaboration with the Nazi occupation (1940-44). His record of collaboration had no effect on his "brilliant" career in the French government, which assigned him to important positions during and after the war, including: police supervisor, director of Algerian affairs (!), Paris police chief (1958-67), and French budget minister (1978-81). The legal case against Papon was in limbo for sixteen years before he was finally brought to court. His two main defenses: he was following orders, and he didn't realize that the Nazis were exterminating deportees at Auschwitz. In 2001, he wrote that he had neither "regrets nor remorse for a crime I did not commit and for which I am in no way an accomplice." And, as his lawyer says, "he died a free man."

GRAPHIC by Serge Smulevic, artist and Auschwitz survivor. The French caption reads: "I was only following orders."

UPDATE: The Papon case

In today's news from France, Maurice Papon's demand to be buried with his Legion of Honor medal is causing predictable controversy. He was forbidden to wear it during this lifetime, but his lawyer is determined to fulfill his desire to wear it in the grave.

Of the 75,000 French Jews who were sent to the Nazi concentration camps, only 2,500 (3%) survived. One of the victims was Russian emigré and writer Irène Némirovsky, whose excellent novel Suite Française was recently published (2005) when it was uncovered by her daughter some sixty years after it was written. Three-quarters of French Jews survived the war, partly due to the aid given them by their fellow citizens. Such was the subject of Louis Malles' powerful film, Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987). If you see Malles' film, be sure to balance it with a viewing of Marcel Ophuls' phenomenal documentary The Sorrow and the Pity
(Le chagrin et la pitié, 1969, 4 hours and 11 minutes long), which presents the collaborationist environment in which Maurice Papon achieved such prominence. Regarding the fate of Papon's victims and millions of others, Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (1985, 9 1/2 hours) should be required viewing.

Maybe she overlooked the Twinkie defense

In a Virginia road-rage incident, a young woman tossed a cup of McDonald's soda into the car of someone who, she says, cut her off in heavy traffic. The "McMissile"—as it inevitably became known—contained mostly ice, but a "gooey" substance splattered onto the interior and occupants of the other car. The young perpetrator was accompanied by her three feisty children and a pregnant sister who was experiencing early contractions. A jury convicted the woman of "maliciously throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle," a felony under Virginia law, and several misdemeanors. She has already served one month of a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, though it's theoretically possible that a judge could still reduce her sentence. She is unemployed and her husband is on his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Sure, it was a stupid thing to do and her behavior should have some legal consequences. But two years in jail for a first offense? An anger management program, some community service and probation seems about right.

Revenge of the Blue Meanies

At the beginning of Cool Hand Luke (1967), the classic rebel film, a drunken Paul Newman is caught by police late one night as he staggers up the town's main street, systematically removing the tops of parking meters with a pipe cutter. Something similar is going on in Lewes, England, where 180 parking meters, costing $6,000 each, have been destroyed by someone knowledgeable in the use of plastic explosives. The unpopular meters are administered by NCP, a private company known locally as the "Blue Meanies" for the color of its uniforms. A task force, named after the American Carl Magee, inventor of the parking meter, has been formed to catch the perpetrators. So far no one has been injured by the late-night demolitions, which have cost the town over $1 million.

GRAPHIC: City of Peoria, Illinois

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Inside a compartment"

How do you measure incompetence? If military leaders underestimate the force requirements of a war by a factor of 31, just seven months before the war begins—is that incompetent?

That's exactly what happened in August, 2005, according to formerly classified documents recently made public in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Joyce Battle of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. (The request was filed in 2004 but the Pentagon didn't provide the information until last month.)

In a Powerpoint presentation for Donald Rumsfeld, Pentagon planners predicted in August, 2002, that a residual force of only 5,000 American troops would be necessary by December, 2006. With the current escalation, still known euphemistically as the "surge," the actual number will reach at least 155,000.

Planners also assumed that only 30,000 Americans would be needed for the occupation of Iraq by the end of September, 2003—just six months after the invasion.

In fact, the lowest number of U.S. troops in Iraq since the invasion was 108,900 in January, 2004 (see chart above).

These weren't trivial miscalculations, as the following independent analysis (quoted in the National Security Archive's report) makes clear:
"Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Tommy Franks spent most of their time and energy on the least demanding task - defeating Saddam's weakened conventional forces - and the least amount on the most demanding - rehabilitation of and security for the new Iraq. The result was a surprising contradiction. The United States did not have nearly enough troops to secure the hundreds of suspected WMD sites that had supposedly been identified in Iraq or to secure the nation's long, porous borders. Had the Iraqis possessed WMD and terrorist groups been prevalent in Iraq as the Bush administration so loudly asserted, U.S. forces might well have failed to prevent the WMD from being spirited out of the country and falling into the hands of the dark forces the administration had declared war against." (1)
Planners for "Phase IV"—the occupation—mistakenly assumed that "co-opted" Iraqi army units could be brought into service to help stabilize the country as soon as hostilities ended. Paul Bremer demolished that plan, of course, with his early decision to entirely disband the Iraqi army.

This kind of planning, according to the Powerpont slides (Tab 1, Slide 2), apparently represents "thinking outside the box" but "inside a compartment."


(1) From Cobra II, by Michael R. Gordon & Gen. Bernard Trainor, Cobra II, pp. 503-504, as quoted in the NSA report.

GRAPHIC: MSNBC and AP, from Defense Department data through January, 2006. The title of the graph seems sadly ironic a year later.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Car-Free Day

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has put together an ambitious legislative package to promote renewable energy sources, as detailed in the Sunday Oregonian (February 11th). For the first time since his election in 2002, he has a Democratic legislature that seems open to innovation in this, and many other, areas.

So far energy conservation hasn't been a major focus of the discussion here in Oregon. But a statewide conservation program, designed to significantly reduce consumption of fossil fuels, would easily and inexpensively complement the proposals that have been offered. There has been little recognition of the value of energy conservation at the federal level, leaving it up to the states, in the spirit of creative federalism, to develop their own approaches to overcoming the “national addiction” to oil.

My modest proposal is to encourage each Oregon household to select a voluntary “Car-Free Day” which could potentially reduce statewide gasoline consumption and pollution by anywhere from 5-15% (1). The Car-Free Day would emphasize the following:

  1. Encouraging Oregonians to refrain from driving their cars one day per week.

Families could plan their weeks so that travel by car would be unnecessary during whichever day they choose as their Car-Free Day. For most of us, it would be easiest to begin on weekends, though the Car-Free Day would then provide less relief from heavy volumes of urban traffic on weekdays. As the concept gains currency, though, increasing numbers of drivers could explore alternative ways to commute to work by bus, carpool, bicycle, streetcar, train or foot.

  1. Encouraging Oregonians to exercise more and explore their own communities on their Car-Free Day.

Everyone would benefit from more exercise, but the Car-Free Day would offer a less obvious advantage: relief from the growing stress of driving, especially with the increasing volumes of traffic here in the Portland region (as also described in the Sunday Oregonian article headlined "Car-choked highways certain to get worse"). Walkers and bikers could explore their own communities, re-acquaint themselves with their neighbors and perhaps get involved in various projects that would improve their town. (Examples: litter and graffiti cleanups, tree plantings, sports.) Even a subtle change in lifestyle, with less emphasis on the automobile, could offer long-term benefits to American families and their communities.

  1. The plan would be voluntary, informal and flexible, with no government supervision at any level. It could begin with a simple proclamation by the governor or legislative resolution followed by a press release and appropriate publicity (2).

The voluntary Car-Free Day could be implemented at no cost to taxpayers and without negative impacts on Oregon’s economy. Some participating Oregonians might not go grocery shopping on Saturday, but their need for groceries (or clothing or electronics or anything else) would not be affected. Owners of trucks and other commercial vehicles could also participate, of course.

But wouldn't people just drive more on the six other days? Not necessarily, since the long-term goal of the program is to promote consciousness of automobile use and ways to reduce it. A fringe benefit might be reduced use of second (or third) cars, which would have similar benefits.

The economic advantages of even a modest conservation program could prove substantial. Consider, for example, that the U.S. consumes about 21 million barrels of oil per day at a current price of $60 per barrel (February 9th). Two-thirds of that oil is imported. American automobiles consume more than 8.2 million barrels of oil per day, an amount roughly equal to Saudi Arabia’s daily production. If all our automobiles were in a separate country, only three other countries would produce more carbon dioxide emissions per year.

A national Car-Free Day each week could potentially reduce oil consumption by 14%, or about 1.23 million barrels a day. Annualized, the savings would be enormous: 420 million barrels or $25.2 billion. Even if the program at its inception reduced consumption by only 5%, the economy would save $15 billion, with proportionate benefits to Oregon and states.

The environmental benefits would be even more impressive, though it’s difficult to place an economic value on air made more breathable though reduced emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, benzene, particulates and other pollutants. A study by the National Academy of Sciences showed that a reduction in oil consumption of 1.2 million barrels a day, similar to what I’m proposing, would reduce pollutants associated with global warming by 50 million metric tons by 2015.

Surveys show that Americans are eager to support efforts to achieve energy independence, but they have been given little sense of direction by the current administration. The weekly Car-Free Day would strengthen Oregon’s reputation for national leadership and nicely complement the state's efforts to diversify its energy portfolio.


(1) The "Car-Free Day" has been proposed in places like Canada and the EU. For the most part, as in Canada and the International Car-Free Day (September 22nd), that "day" is an annual, rather than weekly, event. While this approach has symbolic value, its practical impact is nil.

(2) No, this program would never be mandatory, with the government deciding who can or can't drive and on what day. Years ago I adopted my own Car-Free Day (usually Sundays), and it has yielded unexpected benefits on many levels. But that's the subject for a future blog.

CIA World Factbook: United States (2006)
Online at:

Putting the brakes on U.S. oil demand (2003)
Environmental Defense
John DeCicco with Rod Griffin
and Steve Ertel
Online at:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Outsourcing the war, and a lot more...

With clear ideological motives, the Bush administration has assumed from its first inauguration that there's nothing the private sector can't do better than the federal government—the Enron debacle notwithstanding—including waging war.

Not surprisingly, the fastest growth in discretionary federal spending in this decade has been in private contracting. From 2000 to 2005, government contracting increased by 86% (see graph on left). During this period, there has been an increase of $175 billion in spending on private procurements, much of it without adequate accounting controls or meaningful congressional oversight.

Last week's hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Congressional Reform were a sequel to its detailed report (1) last summer on the growth and misuse of private contracting. That report was an attempt to overcome years of congressional neglect in addressing the issue.

The report found:
  • "...118 federal contracts worth $745.5 billion that have been found by government officials to include significant waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement. Each of the Bush Administration’s three signature initiatives — homeland security, the war and reconstruction in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina recovery — has been characterized by wasteful contract spending."
  • "The growth in federal contracts has been accompanied by pervasive mismanagement. Mistakes have been made in virtually every step of the contracting process: from pre-contract planning through contract award and oversight to recovery of contract overcharges."
  • "Federal procurement spending is highly concentrated on a few large contractors, with the five largest federal contractors receiving over 20% of the contract dollars awarded in 2005. Last year, the largest federal contractor, Lockheed Martin, received contracts worth more than the total combined budgets of the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, the Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Congress."
  • "The fastest growing contractor under the Bush Administration has been Halliburton. Federal spending on Halliburton contracts increased over 600% between 2000 and 2005."
  • Halliburton's contract with the Department of the Army, through which its KBR subsidiary received $14,837,888,997, was deeply flawed due to "lack of competition," "mismanagement" and "wasteful spending."
  • "In the case of each of these 118 [problem] contracts, reports from GAO, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, agency inspectors general, or other government officials have linked the contract to major problems in costs, administration, or performance."
  • "The value of sole-source and other noncompetitive contracts [see graph below] awarded by the Bush Administration has increased at an even faster rate than overall procurement spending, rising by 115% from $67.5 billion in 2000 to $145 billion in 2005. As a result, 38% of federal contract dollars were awarded in 2005 without full and open competition, a significant percentage increase from 2000."
  • "There is no single reason for the rising waste, fraud, and abuse in federal contracting. Multiple causes — including poor planning, noncompetitive awards, abuse of contract flexibilities, inadequate oversight, and corruption — have all played a part."

In a not-unrelated development, the Bush administration is proceeding with its plan to privatize portions of our national forests on a grand scale: 300,000 acres in 35 states. It also proposes to slash the Forest Service budget by more than $100 million (2).


(1) The full Committee report is online and includes a searchable database of contracts. The data in this post, and both graphs, are from either the report itself or the online summary.

(2) For more information on the national forest plan and the political response to it, visit the linked AP article by Matthew Daly (February 7th).

GRAPHIC: fatcat politics (2005)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

And so it begins

As the Democratic Congress begins a long-overdue investigation into the management of the Iraq war, stunning details have already emerged that provide a deeper appreciation of the breathtaking incompetence of the Bush administration.

During 2003 and 2004, the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority, under the command of proconsul Paul Bremer, delivered tons of U.S. dollars to Baghdad as if they were cinder blocks or some other kind of construction material.

The U.S. media has done a creditable job of reporting on the tsunami of dollars, but many of the newspaper articles have been buried in the bowels of the front section. So I turn to the British press for one of the more thorough accounts. Under the headline "How the U.S. sent $12bn to Iraq. And watched it vanish," the London Guardian's David Pallister reports (February 8th):
The US flew nearly $12bn in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent.

The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a US congressional committee.

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover.

Details of the shipments have emerged in a memorandum prepared for the meeting of the House committee on oversight and government reform which is examining Iraqi reconstruction. Its chairman, Henry Waxman, a fierce critic of the war, said the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?"

The memorandum details the casual manner in which the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbursed the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, surplus funds from the UN oil-for-food programme and seized Iraqi assets.

"One CPA official described an environment awash in $100 bills," the memorandum says. "One contractor received a $2m payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. Auditors discovered that the key to a vault was kept in an unsecured backpack.

"They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one division's vault. Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75m in cash, and was ordered to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds."

The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal "a single disbursement of $500m in security funding labelled merely 'TBD', meaning 'to be determined'."

The memorandum concludes: "Many of the funds appear to have been lost to corruption and waste ... thousands of 'ghost employees' were receiving pay cheques from Iraqi ministries under the CPA's control. Some of the funds could have enriched both criminals and insurgents fighting the United States."

According to Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, the $8.8bn funds to Iraqi ministries were disbursed "without assurance the monies were properly used or accounted for". ..

To oversee the expenditure the CPA was supposed to appoint an independent certified public accounting firm. "Instead the CPA hired an obscure consulting firm called North Star Consultants Inc. The firm was so small that it reportedly operates out of a private home in San Diego." Mr Bowen found that the company "did not perform a review of internal controls as required by the contract".

However, evidence before the committee suggests that senior American officials were unconcerned about the situation because the billions were not US taxpayers' money. Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, reminded the committee that "the subject of today's hearing is the CPA's use and accounting for funds belonging to the Iraqi people held in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq. These are not appropriated American funds. They are Iraqi funds. I believe the CPA discharged its responsibilities to manage these Iraqi funds on behalf of the Iraqi people."

Bremer's financial adviser, retired Admiral David Oliver, is even more direct. The memorandum quotes an interview with the BBC World Service. Asked what had happened to the $8.8bn he replied: "I have no idea. I can't tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn't - nor do I actually think it's important."

Q: "But the fact is billions of dollars have disappeared without trace."

Oliver: "Of their money. Billions of dollars of their money, yeah I understand. I'm saying what difference does it make?"

Mr Bremer, whose disbanding of the Iraqi armed forces and de-Ba'athification programme have been blamed as contributing to the present chaos, told the committee: "I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently. Our top priority was to get the economy moving again. The first step was to get money into the hands of the Iraqi people as quickly as possible."

The rationales for these "procedures" boil down to something like this: Bremer's desire to "jump-start" Iraq's devastated economy and the fact that "the billions were not US taxpayers' money." Still, Bremer claimed that the CPA "fully understood and accepted our responsibility for the temporary stewardship of these Iraqi monies. We took seriously our charge to operate in an open and transparent fashion and to use these Iraqi funds in the best interests of the Iraqi people. " But a "steward" doesn't demonstrate a fiduciary obligation to the "Iraqi people" by dumping pallets of shrink-wrapped dollars on dysfunctional and corrupt government ministries without any controls or accountability whatsoever. It's hard to escape the conclusion that huge sums of these dollars were quickly diverted into funding the insurgency.

Even if the gross neglect of the CPA in managing Iraqi dollars could be overlooked, there's no reason to believe that dollars provided by American taxpayers were handled any more responsibly. According to a memorandum prepared for Waxman's committee, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction "now believes that the lack of accountability and transparency extended to the entire $20bn expended by the CPA".

Meanwhile, a NY Times editorial describes Bremer as "still cocky despite the now increasingly apparent and seemingly limitless failures of his tenure."

Now Waxman's committe has moved on to another ripe area for inquiry: the use, or misuse, of private contractors in Iraq, including the Blackwater security firm and the failure of Kellogg, Brown & Root (a major Halliburton subsidiary) to account for $22.3 million in payments it received from the U.S. government in 2004. Next week it will take another look at the Iraqi "reconstruction" effort.

GRAPHIC: Pallets of dollars arrive in Baghdad on C-130's.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Update Edition

Iraqi refugees, internal and external

With news of 135 deaths in a Baghdad market—the largest civilian death toll to date in a single attack since the war began—the de facto "soft" partition of Iraq seems sure to accelerate. As the meltdown continues, firmer estimates of the number of Iraqi refugees are now becoming available. In an article dated February 4th, AP's Hamza Hendawi reports that:
  • 1 million refugees, including 300,000 Shi'ites, have fled to Syria, whose population is now 5% Iraqi.
  • 700,000 refugees have settled in Jordan, whose Iraqi population would undoubtedly be much larger if men aged 17 to 35 weren't excluded.
  • 130,000 refugees have gone to Egypt.
  • Both Jordan and Egypt are developing plans to exclude additional refugees, but the Syrian border remains open to Arab Iraqis.
  • Only "several hundred" Iraqis were admitted to the U.S. during 2006, and the U.S. has provided little financial assistance to displaced Iraqis in the Middle East at a time when it is spending $2 billion a week on the war. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is demanding that the U.S. accept 20,000 refugees this year and increase its meager financial contribution to refugees in the Middle East.
  • Iraqis in Syria have set up a private university near Damascus, "with Iraqi lecturers and a mostly Iraqi student body - a reflection of Iraq's war-driven brain drain."
  • The UN projects that the number of "internally displaced" refugees in Iraq will soon surpass 2.3 million, or about 10% of the total population.
If these estimates are accurate, the war is displacing about 20% of Iraq's population, either within Iraq or to other countries. Current estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the war range from 55,501 to 655,000 (1), while there still seems to be only one available estimate of Iraqi wounded: 1,270,000 as of January, 2007. In Saturday's bombing, that total increased by at least 305 civilians.

As in the past, information about the magnitude of the suffering caused by the war in Iraq is given scant attention in the U.S. mainstream media.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry estimates that 1,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past week.

Redefining "victory" in Iraq

And the net result of all this misery? From Reuter's:
"Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution said the United States may now have to settle for an Iraq that was 'a wee bit better than Syria' in terms of democratic standards."
Apparently O'Hanlon is describing a best-case scenario.

Economic costs of the war

Projections of the potential economic costs to the U.S.—not to mention Iraq—vary even more wildly than casualty estimates. So far the U.S. has allocated $400 million to the Iraq war alone, and "one estimate puts the total economic impact at up to $2 trillion."

Note that even the lowest current projections are eight times higher than "the number that's something under $50 billion" proposed by Donald Rumsfeld before the war began.
The Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month on the war in Iraq, or about $200 million a day, according to the CBO. That is about the same as the gross domestic product of Nigeria.
The highest (and probably most realistic) estimates include such future expenses as "$300 billion in future health care costs for wounded troops" but exclude such costs as "a negative impact from the rising cost of oil and added interest on the national debt."(2)

For taxpayers here in Oregon, according to one estimate, the war has cost $2.9 billion or $829 per person.


(1) From the Lancet study, which included only deaths up to July, 2006. If civilian deaths have averaged 1,000 a month, conservatively estimated, the current total would be at least 662,000.

(2) In a bizarre exercise in Realpolitik, the American Enterprise and Brookings institutes have come up with an "online sensitivity analysis" that allows anyone to develop estimates of the Iraq war by tinkering with nine assumptions, including: duration of the U.S. occupation, number of military and civilian casualties on all sides and the "value of a statistical life." Their own calculations attempt to balance the actual costs of the war with the "avoided" costs, but even their latest estimates are quite dated.

GRAPHIC: Reuter's/Ali Jasim