Friday, July 27, 2007

Where's the power report

In the real world, I am a program evaluator/improvement analyst.... shocking occupation given how non-analytical I am on this blog, I know.

I have learned a couple tricks of the trade that usually are pretty reliable indicators that I'm going to be working on improvement plans and new logic models within the next couple of weeks, and some of those indicators have been flashing red for the entire US occupation in Iraq.

The most common indicator is when a program starts to significantly shade its data or even better stop reporting the data. The US has done this numerous times, infamously during Operation Forward Together when the claim that violence in Baghdad was going down had a massive caveat. With the caveat, the claim was true. However the caveat was Violence excluding car bombs and other explosive attacks. And that is a slight problem in describing reality in Baghdad.

However that was a shaded reality from which decently accurate information could eventually be extracted. The LA Times is reporting a new intentional ignorance of reality --- the refusal to report on electricity availability in Iraq.

As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that Baghdad residents could count on only "an hour or two a day" of electricity. That's down from an average of five to six hours a day earlier this year.

But that piece of data has not been sent to lawmakers for months because the State Department, which prepares a weekly "status report" for Congress on conditions in Iraq, stopped estimating in May how many hours of electricity Baghdad residents typically receive each day.

Instead, the department now reports on the electricity generated nationwide, a measurement that does not indicate how much power Iraqis in Baghdad or elsewhere actually receive.

One would have thought that if the electrical availability for Baghdad was twenty to twenty four hours a day with problems only at peak demand hours, and for the rest of the country sixteen to twenty hours a day, the technical change would not have been approved. And some people wonder why there is a good deal of skepticism on the reports of 'good news' from Iraq.


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