Friday, September 14, 2007

Korea, the Success

I see that George Bush is again trying to convince us to support his Iraq adventure by drawing on the Korean model. Matt Yglesias comments on the absurdity of that analogy for Iraq, but something else strikes me. Especially considering the Bush Administration's, and the neocons in general, insistence that we avoid the horrid failure of Viet Nam. The thing that strikes me is that Viet Nam is actually doing fairly well at this point, 30 years after the end of the war and while South Korea is doing very well, the North not so much. Furthermore, North Korea is on everyone's list of dangerous states what with the supporting terrorism, the isolation, the horrid state of the Korean population and the nuclear program (well now the having a nuclear bomb, thanks George). Viet Nam, on the other hand is no where near the top of anyone's list of dangerous countries. In fact it is developing fairly well to a more open society. It is certainly developing into a fairly market oriented society and one that is friendly to the west. While it is clear that much more good things are happening in Korea (the South anyway) Viet Nam can claim to have much less bad stuff going on than in Korea (the North anyway). My point is only that it is not clear to me that Viet Nam constitutes some horrible failure and Korea some fantastic success.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Price to Pay

Well I'm glad to see that the Democrats are coming out strong against Boehner and his outrageous comment on the "small" price to pay, the lives of over 3,000 soldiers and marines is no "small" price to pay. Howard Dean and John Kerry have come out against Boehner's comment and now the DCCC Chair Van Hollen has demanded an apology from Boehner to all members of the military. I applaud Van Hollen's comment and his timely response to this outrage.

I have just one quibble. I wish we would stop asking for apologies. For some reason it is widely regarded as a strong response, but it has long since, I believe, stopped being so. When an apology is demanded, the other side can merely refuse to grant one, on almost any flimsy excuse, and then successfully strike a pose of not bending under pressure. The upshot is that if sufficiently shameless (think today's Republicans) the person from whom an apology is demanded can come out looking the stronger. I would much prefer if we would offer a comment more along the lines of "Boehner's comment was outrageous and an insult to all of the men and women who serve so bravely in our armed forces. It is a profound shame that this sort of callous and selfish comment has become so typical of the leadership of the Republican party. It is a disgrace that comments this insulting to the military fits so well in the rhetoric of the Republican party." And more along the same lines. Don't demand anything in return, leave it to Boehner and his allies to respond or not, without making a challenge. But use the opportunity to disparage the honor and integrity of anyone who would say such a thing, spelling out exactly why it is an outrage.


Conservative Columnists

Kevin Drum, along with others, have put in their two cents worth to explain the results of this study by Media Matters. The upshot of the study is that conservative, syndicated columnists outnumber liberal, syndicated columnists at every type of of newspaper, big or small, urban or rural, liberal or conservative. One thing that might add to the explanation that I haven't seen mentioned. Although my views have always been distinctly left of center, when I was younger (in the '70s and '80s, before so much of the major media became crap) I always preferred to read the conservative columnists, George Will, Jack Kilpatrick, William Buckley and the like, as doing so helped to sharpen my own arguments. The conservative arguments were never persuasive to me, but they certainly helped make my own arguments better. I had, and have, an attitude that is particularly suited to the scientific disciplines, and the reality based community, in which one is constantly looking for ways to test one's beliefs and arguments. It seems to me that this point of view is particularly common among liberals and progressives, so it may well be that both sides of the isle have a strong desire to see writers on the right, but only left leaning readers want left leaning writers.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This post by Atrios captures the essential dynamic after 9/11 quite well. He has a lot to say, go read it, but one thing struck me from his first paragraph:
Obviously it was incredibly naive to think that this crew would, after 9/11, come anywhere close to doing the right thing. But what I certainly wasn't capable of predicting at the time was how a horrific event perpetuated by extremist religious fundamentalists could somehow be converted into a sustained attack on... liberals. What I didn't understand then was the basic conservative worldview that if it's good it's conservative and if it's bad it's liberal.
the emphasized text being the part of note. It came as a surprise to a lot of folks, but it really should not have. This dualistic attitude is common throughout the conservative, especially the religious right community. It often shows up in the arguments made by creationists against evolution. Much of what the young earth creationists argue makes little sense except in terms of a view of the world in which all is either good or evil and there is no overlap. So God and religion and the bible and creationism are good, and anything opposed to these things, for example evolution, are evil. It should hardly be surprising that many would also see conservative as good and liberal as evil.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Classified Analysis

Ok, exactly how clear does it have to be made that the administrations case for the "surge" is absurd, without actually saying it in so many words. Nearly every analysis of the security situation in Iraq generally and even Baghdad specifically, indicates that the situation is no better and probably getting worse since the start of the surge. In fact every analysis except one. The lone exception, the White House report about to be talked about by Gen. Patraeus. This one report has two distinctive qualities, however:
  1. The analysis indicates that the situation is distinctly improving.
  2. The method of analysis and the numbers used are all classified.

Not only are the raw numbers classified, but everything is classified except the final claim, according to Josh Marshall:

The best we can tell the methodology Petraeus's staff is using to tabulate the numbers also remains classified.

In other words, it's not just a matter of getting the numbers from Petraeus and his staff and deciding whether you believe them or not. They won't even tell us what the numbers are -- let alone how they came up with them. All they'll say is that they're very good. Or in some cases that there's X percentage drop over the course of the surge. Or an isolated number here or there.

But actual hard numbers? Going back over the last couple years? For some reason we're not allowed to see those.

Now this is ridiculous. One basic principal of drawing conclusions from data is that independent agents be able to look at what the data are and how they are analyzed. This is not just some elevated scientific principal, it is just common sense. Look, if your stock broker told you that you weren't able to look at any of the number involved with the investments he'd made, but that his analysis (which you aren't allowed to look at) shows it growing by leaps and bounds, you'd be a fool to just accept this. If he's honest he must show you something that can confirm his claims. The same applies to Patraeus and the White House.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Larry Craig

Caught this post over at TPM and I have to disagree with Ezra and offer another version of how Sen Craig could have kept his job. I think the most important observation from Josh is the following: " For one thing, he pleaded guilty, which effectively sealed his fate." Had Craig pleaded innocent, he probably would have lost the case (from what I gather considering reporting about similar cases.) But I suspect that had he argued he was set up and railroaded by an out of control Democratic prosecution, Scooter Libby anyone. After all, if Patrick Fitzgerald can be an out of control Democratic prosecution then whoever was involved in the arrest and prosecution of Larry Craig can be portrayed that way. Had Sen. Craig not only insisted upon his innocence, but also redoubled his support of George Bush, the right wing noise machine would be solidly behind him discrediting any witnesses against him and supporting him to the hilt. The one great and unacceptable error in conservative circles is to admit that you are wrong, no matter what the evidence says. Consider the Iraq war for example.

Update: See this from TPM and consider if I'm right on this.

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