Archive for September, 2006

Bush: Comforter-in-Chief

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

I missed this article when it appeared in the WaPo last week. It’s an interesting account of Bush’s meetings with families of servicemembers killed in action: For Bush, war anguish expressed privately.

Halley said the meeting did not change either of their minds. She would still vote against him. But she said she appreciated that he opened himself up to her. “I don’t think he’s a heartless man,” she said. “I think he’s pulled in a lot of different directions by very intelligent people. . . . I don’t think it’s going to change his policies, but I hope it does make him think about it. I hope I’m in his dreams.”

Olberman: A Textbook Definition of Cowardice

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Keith Olberman gave a convincing impression of Edward R. Murrow the other day while calling out Bush. As hosted by Norm at OneGoodMove: No free passes.

Thus was it left for the previous president to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack:

You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.

Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be a textbook definition, Mr. Bush, of cowardice.

A Fine Mind (Philosoraptor’s) Reels

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

In the absence of time to comment on all the fun hijinks going on, I offer the following apt commentary from Philosoraptor: War in Iraq hinders “war” on terrorism.

But, as it turns out, they were wrong.

They were, as one of my colleagues likes to say, wrong about everything. Bush and company have, so far as I can tell, not been right about a single major thing concerning terrorism since 9/11. Had, say, Gore or Wes Clark been president, OBL and al Qaeda would be something like a dim memory or a joke by now. Instead, the president than whom none more incompetent can be conceived has botched everything at every turn, and inflated a relatively minor, relatively manageable threat into a firestorm of a clash of civilizations.

In a fully rational country, a president of such monumental stupidity, ignorance, pig-headedness and incompetence would have been forced out of office by non-stop protests and 0% approval ratings. And yet here the Bush dead-enders continue to repeat their mantras…we are winningthe decisions were rightBush is good….Bush is wiseBush is just… It’s hard enough to assert that he’s minimally competent with a straight face…but some of these people–apparently immune from empirical evidence–continue to insist that he’s (to use their word) “Churchillian.” The mind reels.

A Tenth Anniversary Reader

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

I’ve been so busy that I didn’t even notice at the time, but back in February had its tenth anniversary. In honor of that, I did a quick skim through the site’s entire history and jotted down comments about a few of my favorite items. Think of it as something like an audio-commentary track for a DVD. Only, um, without the audio. Or the DVD.

Happy anniversary,!

Follow the link below, or scroll down, for more.


Bush Being Bush

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

I was struck by this part of Bush’s speech yesterday at the UN (President Bush addresses United Nations General Assembly):

The Security Council has approved a resolution that would transform the African Union force into a blue-helmeted force that is larger and more robust. To increase its strength and effectiveness, NATO nations should provide logistics and other support. The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act. Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.

Say what you will about Bush’s qualifications (or lack of them) for being President, he does have one thing that makes him truly remarkable. Call it “balls,” call it “chutzpah,” call it “a pathological refusal to acknowledge his own failings,” but whatever you call it, he’s got it in spades, and for him (Bush) to be willing to lecture them (the UN) on this particular subject (the need to maintain their credibility) is as clear an example of it as anything I’ve seen.

Bush’s whole presidency, his whole adult life, is a monument to the power of his faith in himself. And it’s not just faith, but a zealously held and aggressively asserted faith, a faith characterized by bluster and a willingness to get in the other guy’s face and loudly assert that he is so right, and who are you to question it?

That UN speech is just one example I saw today. There was also a Max Boot op-ed piece in the LA Times: The stubbornly hopeful president.

True to the pro-Bush leanings that got him into the small group of reporters meeting with Bush, Boot does his best to put a positive spin on what he saw. But he can’t help conveying a certain sense of wonder at just how disconnected from reality Bush has become:

His steadfastness in the face of adversity is admirable. So is his contempt for the conventional wisdom of the day. But there is a certain fatalism that can come from focusing so much on the long term. (Bush spoke repeatedly of how the world would look 50 years from now.) There is a danger that you will not make the necessary short-term adjustments to achieve results here and now.

Finishing up the trio of items that led me to post this morning was this one from BAGnewsNotes: Losing it?

Up to now, I’ve felt that Bush had the psychological strength to contain the anger and arrogance that underlies much of his behavior. Observing his press conference in the Rose Garden on Friday, however, I’m not so sure anymore. Bush pulled off the Presidency perfectly well when things were going his way and people deferred to him (or cowered). (I’m speaking mentally, not politically.)

With the teflon all but gone, however, he’s starting to come apart whenever challenged. You can hear it in his tone, and you can see it in his body language. Besides Friday, it was quite evident, for example, in the recent “walk and talk” interviews Bush gave to Brian Williams in New Orleans and to Charles Gibson in Atlanta.

As Bush heads into the lame-duck part of his presidency, confronted more and more by his failures and the evaporation of his political capital, his confidence in himself will continue to be challenged. From what I can see, though, this is one challenge (perhaps the only one) that he’ll have no trouble surmounting.

Schwartz on the Sunk-cost Fallacy in Iraq

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

From psychology professor Barry Schwartz comes this dismissal of the “we owe it to the fallen” argument for staying in Iraq: The ‘sunk-cost fallacy’.

You may attempt to justify the continued Iraq occupation in many ways, as the Bush administration has. Perhaps you think it will prevent further terror, democratize the Middle East or restrain Iran. Perhaps you think that leaving Iraq before “the job is done” will undermine the world’s confidence in U.S. promises to other nations.

But it is unacceptable to justify continued involvement in Iraq or any other conflict on the grounds that we “owe” it to those who have already fallen. That is a justification that has strong emotional appeal, but it is fallacious, and no one should be allowed to get away with it.

Man makes a compelling case.

Drum on Withdrawal

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

For all my posting of the Vietnam/Iraq deathtoll charts, I haven’t talked much about the similarities of the two wars lately. I guess I feel like there’s not much more to say that I haven’t said already, like in Vietnam and Iraq: A comparison, which I wrote three years ago, and which, sadly, seems to have held up all too well.

Except for loons who manage to twist reality more violently than most in defense of their ideological viewpoint (you know who you are — or, well, you actually don’t, but the rest of us do), the situation in Iraq has become more and more clear with the passage of time. And what with the personal time crunch I keep whining about, it’s hard to justify beating a dead horse. But sometimes it’s good to touch base with reality, and I think this post from Kevin Drum today does a good job of that: Withdrawal pains.

Anyone who advocates withdrawal needs to understand just what the consequences would be. But, as Kaplan admits, responsibility nonetheless lies squarely with the war’s architects. In Iraq, if anything, we are having even less success than we did in Vietnam, and there’s hardly even a colorable argument left that we have any hope of turning this around. Withdrawing may be an appalling and grisly option, but would it be better to kill a few hundred thousand more people and then leave? Those like Kaplan who oppose withdrawal have a question of their own to face up to.

Bush Doing What He Does Best

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Courtesy of Bag News Notes, here’s a photo from the official White House photographer, showing Bush pressing the flesh recently during his Islamofascism Tour:

Say what you will; dude knows how to work a barricade.

Schwarz on Disney’s On-Again, Off-Again Attitude Toward Political Controversy

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

I thought this was kind of an interesting take on the Walt Disney company’s approach to airing controversial political films. From Jonathon Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution: Two Disney Movies, Two Titles Containing “9/11,” Two Strangely Different Outcomes.

So, right wing movie: Disney happily loses $30 million by running directly into a “highly charged partisan political battle.”

Left-wing movie: Disney refuses to make gigantic amounts of money because they’re so very scared they’ll “alienate many.”

Greenwald on the Republican Revisionism of ‘The Path to 9/11’

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

No time (of course), but I enjoyed reading this article: Unclaimed Territory – by Glenn Greenwald: Republicans and Islamic terrorism during the Clinton presidency.

Iraq War Dead for July and August, 2006

Friday, September 1st, 2006

According to TeacherVet, this update on the US dead in the Iraq war is late because I’m despondent over the failure of US deaths to ramp up in concert with the “corresponding” parts of the Vietnam War graph. Or something; I have a hard time understanding what he’s talking about when there’s an election coming and the rhetoric starts heating up.

In any event, here are the updated graphs covering July and August. As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which some have charged is misleading; see disclaimer below). The data come 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 43 months of the comparison. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

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

Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing:

  • I’m not saying that Iraq is somehow deadlier per soldier-on-the-ground than Vietnam. For both wars, the number of fatalities in any given month tracks pretty closely with the number of troops deployed (along with the intensity of the combat operations being conducted). There were more troops in Iraq in the early going than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeds the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam. I include the first graph mainly because I wanted a zoomed-in view of the Iraq data. And I include the second graph, which shows the entire span of the Vietnam war, because I want to be clear about what the data show about overall death tolls — where any rational assessment would have to conclude that, at least so far, Iraq has been far less significant (at least in terms of US combat fatalities) than Vietnam.

I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. For that reason, I chose as the starting point for each graph the first fatality that a US president acknowledged (belatedly, in the case of the Vietnam graph, since US involvement in the war “began” under Kennedy, but the acknowledgement was made only later by Johnson) as having resulted from the war in question.

As ever, you are free to draw your own conclusions. And for that matter, you’re free to draw your own graphs, if you have a way of presenting the information that you believe would be better. In that case, feel free to post a comment with a URL to your own version. Thanks.