Archive for December, 2003

Streisand Tossed Out of Court

Monday, December 8th, 2003

As metioned previously, Babs has been acting like a spoiled little child, complaining that the California Coastal Records Project had violated the sanctity of her home, and was aiding stalkers. I didn’t notice untill today, but last week the judge dismissed her case.
The CCRP web site has more info about the dismissal, and tons of press links.

Kristof on Dean

Sunday, December 7th, 2003

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof believes Dean is another McGovern: There they go again. In thinking Dean is more or less “unelectable” in the general election, Kristof joins people like Joshua Micah Marshall and Kevin Drum, whose willingness to link Dean with McGovern I previously wrote about here: Howard Dean versus George McGovern.

I’m linking to this Kristof column not because I think he’s right (since I don’t), and not because I want to further depress Adam of Words Mean Things (though it seems possible that Kristof’s column will achieve that). I’m linking to it because Kristof’s belief that the upcoming election will be a replay of 1972, and my belief that it won’t be, means that one of us is warping reality to match his mental model. Which one of us is it? A year from now I’ll know.

The Man Versus “Man”

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

From the LA Weekly’s Steven Mikulan comes this update on the plight of Tommy Chong: Chong family values.

Ivins on Dean

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

Molly Ivins tells it very much like it is: Picking a winner.

Those of you who, like me, were scared into supporting Kerry early on because he was the most “electable,” especially compared to that angry little doctor from Vermont, really need to take a closer look at Dean. Because, you know, he’s going to be your president for the next four to eight years, and it would make sense for you to have some idea of what the guy’s all about.

Corn: Is Bush a Pathological Liar?

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

David Corn offers an interesting commentary, based on the conservative radio talk show circuit he’s been doing to promote his book: Is the president a pathological liar?

Traveling Soldier: Bring ’em Home

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

From Traveling Soldier Online: How can we leave Iraq?

Baghdad Turkey Was for Show

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

In some ways it’s a ridiculous thing to even be talking about, but then again, the fact that such ridiculous things keep coming up is significant in and of itself. Anyway, from the Washington Post: The bird was perfect but not for dinner. It turns out that the most-widely-circulated image from Bush’s Baghdad airport photo op, in which he holds a big turkey on a platter, was staged, in the sense that he wasn’t actually serving anyone the turkey. It was a centerpiece meant to adorn the chow line, rather than being for eating; he just grabbed it for a few seconds while a pool photographer snapped the photo.

So, chalk up another one for the image-over-substance team: Bush in front of the extravagantly-illuminated Statue of Liberty. Bush framed just so against the faces on Mount Rushmore. Bush’s (augmented?) private parts hiked up and delineated by his flight-suit harness. And now Bush the selfless server of Thanksgiving cheer for our brave young men and women in harm’s way.

White House officials do not deny that they craft elaborate events to showcase Bush, but they maintain that these events are designed to accurately dramatize his policies and to convey qualities about him that are real.

Yeah, whatever. I find myself longing, though, for a leader who doesn’t have to be so carefully dramatized and showcased in order for his “real” qualities to come through. One whose actual statements and actions and policies could do that sort of thing for him.

If Scott Forbes Ran the Circus

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

Ex-pat American and newly certified permanent Aussie resident Scott Forbes takes on Tacitus’ question of just what he would do about Iraq if he were in Bush’s position: Custer had a plan too.

The Shape of Bush’s Legacy

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

I didn’t notice it at first, but when I took a second look at the latest graph of US fatalities in Iraq I noticed an odd thing about its shape. This led me to prepare the following visual companion to the Bush presidency (click the image for a larger version).

[Snotty pre-emptive comeback to anticipated patriot-baiting removed.]

November: The Cruelest Month

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

More US troops died in Iraq in November than during any previous month of the war, including “major combat operations” last spring. With US military leaders reviving the inflated enemy bodycount as a way of putting a positive spin on things, it seemed like a good time to update my charts comparing US deaths in Iraq and Vietnam (see my earlier postings here and here). Again, I’m getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first twelve months of the Vietnam war, and the first nine months of the Iraq war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

These charts really seem to annoy supporters of the war who think I’m trying to make an argument that Iraq is “worse” than Vietnam because the brown line on the charts is higher than the corresponding portion of the green line. Even among the not-so-annoyed, it’s a common observation that these numbers haven’t been normalized for the number of troops in-theater, so any comparison that tries to derive a sense of the relative lethality of the two wars from these charts willl be way off-base. More than one observer has suggested that a more valid starting point for the Vietnam numbers would be somewhere around March of 1965 (year 3.3 or so on the last two graphs above), since that’s approximately when the number of US troops on the ground in Vietnam matched the number currently in Iraq, and when US forces in Vietnam really began engaging in direct combat operations, rather than the training/advisory role they were playing prior to that.

Others have questioned my focus on US military deaths. What about the other side’s death toll? What about all the young men and women whose lives have been shattered by horrific injuries? And what about the many thousands of non-combatant Iraqis who have been killed in the fighting?

All these folks have valid points. It really would be stupid for me to try to argue from these numbers that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam, that one conflict is more or less dangerous than the other for a typical soldier, or that December of 1961 is an appropriate point to begin counting Vietnam war deaths in order to derive some kind of lesson about military strategy or tactics. It would likewise be wrong for me to argue that US military fatalities are the only, or the most significant, cost of this war.

But I’m not arguing any of those things.

Again, as I’ve said from the beginning, I’m looking at something fairly specific here. I’m looking at the history of each of these conflicts not in terms of the military situation, but in terms of domestic US politics. I’m interested in US attitudes about the war, and politicians’ statements about the war, at similar points in each conflict’s political timeline. Given that, I think it’s valid to start the Vietnam numbers at the point when President Johnson first started talking about US soldiers dying in the cause of Vietnamese freedom. And since the count of US dead is one of the most direct, unambiguous pieces of data about the cost of these wars, at least in the eyes of the domestic audience, I think a comparison of the US military death toll at similar points in each war’s history makes for an interesting, if depressing, graph.

Those who want to use the numbers to make other sorts of arguments are welcome to do so. (You can download a CSV version of my data to help you, if you wish.) I haven’t been able to find month-by-month statistics for troop levels in Vietnam, but the year-end numbers I have found seem to generally support the view that both conflicts are pretty close to each other in terms of lethality per 1,000 troops.

Doolittle on Bush’s Desperation Not To Go To Baghdad

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

Jerome Doolittle, who was a press officer during the Carter administration, has an interesting take on Bush’s recent Baghdad-airport photo op: A chickenhawk’s Thanksgiving. An excerpt:

By the time President Bush finally left his house in Crawford for the airport — behind the limousine’s tinted glass and disguised by a baseball cap pulled down over his face — he had shopped his concerns to his chief of staff, his pilot, the secret service, his military commanders, his wife, and his two daughters.

But nobody had given him the answer he was looking for.