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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Simultaneous Display

Posts have been scarce this weekend as I am up and down to the Hay Festival. Yesterday I very much enjoyed watching Nobel Economist, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes discuss their book, The True Cost of the War in Iraq, which they place at about 3 Trillion Dollars and Julian Barnes discussing his memoir, Nothing to be Frightened about.

The highlight of the day had to be Gore Vidal however who, at the age of 82 retains all the wit and sharpness for which he is renowned. He is backing Obama in the Presidential election and has very little time for George W. Bush.

The final event I attended was a discussion on The American Election with Jonathan Freedland, Matthew D’Ancona, Sarfraz Manzoor, Jonathan Sauven, and Kirsty Williams AM. It was an interesting debate, though I am still unsure why I paid to hear Kirsty speak when I can listen to her for free most days in the chamber or just by popping next door into her office.

Today is the big event when I take part as one of twenty people in playing a simultaneous chess display against Boris Spassky. One of the 20 players will be Ian MacNab, who is based at the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. Another player is the comedian, Dom Joly.

The event is at 6pm in Booth's Bookshop in Lion Street (The photograph is courtesy of the South Wales Evening Post). Sponsorship is stalled at £829 although a number of people have promised money but not yet paid up. All proceeds are going to Childline. If you wish to contribute do so here. I will be pleased if I last ten moves.

Update: I actually lasted 23 moves before resigning in a lost position. It was fun.
Funny I saw an interview with Vidal with Andrew Marr, and I got impression that he was not that impressed with Obama, and would prefer Hillary Clinton. And only he could have got away with saying that JFK did nothing for his country.
Three Trilion Dollars is the estimated cost of the Iraq war!


I came across an interesting BBC news article about personal debt, it was estimated in June 2004 was the first time personal debt in the UK went above the £1 trillion mark ($2 trillion). The article give a little screenshow on what one trillion pounds can buy you:

Four million Rolls Royce Phantoms
214 million NHS hip replacements
184 years worth of food for all the starving children in the world

Additionally, it estimates that I will have to work for just short of 65 million years on my current salary to earn this money.


Plugging in the figures for the Iran war of £1½ trillion:

Six Million Rolls Royce Phantoms
321 million NHS hip replacements or around five hip replacements for every man woman and child in the UK
276 years worth of food for all the starving children in the world.

...And Cherie Blair is claming her husband is a Socialist. Did she have her fingers crossed behind her back when she made this statement?
The 3 trillion figure needs to be compared with military costs in other places, e.g., how many trillions has it cost the USA to keep US troops, tanks, fighter aircraft, bombers, helicopters, Pershings, AWAC aircraft, etc. in Western Europe (in Germany, Italy, UK etc) to offset USSR military forces based in East Europe during the cold war? What is the total cost at today's prices of the USA effort in maintaining military personnel and assets in/near South Korea, Japan, etc? At today's prices probably a LOT LOT more than has been spent in Iraq.
The authors of the book can speak for themselves but I suggest that their point is that the true cost of the war has been deliberately hidden. The Bush administration would never own up to a three trillion dollar cost.
Peter, in the USA it is Congress that authorizes 'spending power' because under the U.S. Constitution 'spending power' is an enumerated power of Congress – it is Congress that has the power over federal taxation and spending, not the President of the day be it Bush or Kennedy or Clinton or Truman, etc.

That's why President Bush said before sending troops into Iraq that he would not send the U.S. military into Iraq unless Congress voted for it (reason: the President can't fight a war without Congressional approval in the form of votes to budget monies to the Pentagon to fund the war).

War costs are covered by federal budgets. So I am puzzled how Congress would not know what the cost of a war is, be it the cost of funding the US Navy to fight the Japanese in the Second World War or the cost of fighting the Vietnam War or the Korean War or any war for that matter including the Iraq War. The actual dollar cost of funding the war, but the costs are a matter of public record – because Congress votes the dollars to fund all such wars under its ‘spending power’. Same goes for NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding, NASA funding, National Science Foundation funding, government lab funding (e.g., CDC lab in Atlanta), the FBI budget, the FAA, CIA, NSA, the federal Transport Department budget, every budget is voted on by Congress. Sometimes Congress votes more money than the President asks for, sometimes less money. If Congress doesn’t pass a budget then the corresponding part of U.S. government that is not funded shuts down; that’s how federal government programs get shut down. That is how powerful Congress’s role is when it comes to federal government spending.
As I said Chris, the book speaks for itself. It is not my theory. I can only suggest that you read it and take up these points with the authors.
Regarding Dr Woods comments - The old soviet union had (and may still have) nuclear weapons, North Korea has nuclear weapons, and shoots the odd missile into the pacific ocean the other side of Japan (showing that they could easily reach Japan).

Iran didn't have any nuclear weapons, nor WMD capability but plenty of oil.

Here endeth the lesson for today.
Anonymous> I don’t disagree with your comments. I happen to think Iraq war was a big mistake, and has served to empower Iran. I am merely pointing out the limitations that apply to any and all Presidents of the day, the President of the day does not have the enumerated “spending power”, this power resides with Congress as clearly specified in the U.S. Constitution – so Congress played a direct role in the Iraq war by agreeing to Bush’s requests for war funding – Congress could have turned down Bush’s the funding requests, but didn’t.

If McCain does become the next U.S. President and after taking up the Presidency Congress doesn’t want to respond to McCain’s requests to continue funding the Iraq war then there will nothing McCain can do about it, because it is Congress that votes for funding – spending power resides with Congress, not the US President of the day. McCain would be forced to give the order to pull out.
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