Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, October 27th, 2006.

War and Numbers

Bush Administration, Iraq War

Steve Gilliard responds to the news that support for the Iraq war is slipping among evangelicals:

Uh, who’s sons and daughters face the choice of Wal Mart or Iraq? It ain’t the Dobsons of the world sending their kids to the sandbox. Who’s spending their nights looking at their broken children in Walter Reed? Not the rich, not the connected. When that phone call comes, god forbid, the knock on the door, the odds are good that a evangelical is behind it.

Their kids are the ones coming home broken and dead and Washington lies to them and they know it.

And this, combined with Foley, is dooming Bush and the GOP’s election chances. He may think he’s winning, but the people with the 21 year old who spends all day drinking or the 22 year old daughter learning to walk with a new leg, know Iraq is all fucked up and Bush won’t admit it.

A new poll by the PEW Research Center found that 58 percent of white evangelicals still believe the U.S. made the right decision to support the war, which is still a majority. But this is down from 71 percent in September.

That’s a pretty big drop for one month, I’d say. Perhaps the drop correlates to this month’s spike in U.S. deaths in Iraq.

I can’t help but think a lot of these evangelicals are the same folks who dissed the Dixie Chicks.

Behind the New York Times firewall, Paul Krugman writes:

Iraq is a lost cause. It’s just a matter of arithmetic: given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country.

We’re so undermanned that we’re even losing our ability to influence events: earlier this week, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki brusquely rejected American efforts to set a timetable for reining in the militias.

Well, yes. And it seems everyone in the country has figured that out, except Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

Professor Krugman thinks that we haven’t lost Afghanistan yet (N. Todd at Dohiyi Mir disagrees) and suggests that our resources in Iraq might be redeployed to Afghanistan before two wars are lost, assuming two wars aren’t already lost.

Here’s where Krugman gets his numbers:

The classic analysis of the arithmetic of insurgencies is a 1995 article by James T. Quinlivan, an analyst at the Rand Corporation. “Force Requirements in Stability Operations,” published in Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College, looked at the number of troops that peacekeeping forces have historically needed to maintain order and cope with insurgencies. Mr. Quinlivan’s comparisons suggested that even small countries might need large occupying forces.

Specifically, in some cases it was possible to stabilize countries with between 4 and 10 troops per 1,000 inhabitants. But examples like the British campaign against communist guerrillas in Malaya and the fight against the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland indicated that establishing order and stability in a difficult environment could require about 20 troops per 1,000 inhabitants.

The implication was clear: “Many countries are simply too big to be plausible candidates for stabilization by external forces,” Mr. Quinlivan wrote.

Krugman is a numbers guy and I’m not, so I’m going to trust that he has this figured out.

Given the way the Bush administration relegated Afghanistan to sideshow status, it comes as something of a shock to realize that Afghanistan has a larger population than Iraq. If Afghanistan were in as bad shape as Iraq, stabilizing it would require at least 600,000 troops — an obvious impossibility.

However, things in Afghanistan aren’t yet as far gone as they are in Iraq, and it’s possible that a smaller force — one in that range of 4 to 10 per 1,000 that has been sufficient in some cases — might be enough to stabilize the situation. But right now, the forces trying to stabilize Afghanistan are absurdly small: we’re trying to provide security to 30 million people with a force of only 32,000 Western troops and 77,000 Afghan national forces.

If we stopped trying to do the impossible in Iraq, both we and the British would be able to put more troops in a place where they might still do some good. But we have to do something soon: the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan says that most of the population will switch its allegiance to a resurgent Taliban unless things get better by this time next year.

It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars. But the arithmetic of stability operations suggests that unless we give up our futile efforts in Iraq, we’re on track to do just that.

You can count on the Bushies to deny there’s any reason to change the course in Afghanistan, either, until it’s too late. And probably not then, either.

Today’s Dan Froomkin:

… in spite of a furious public-relations campaign by the White House aimed at muddying the issue, at week’s end there is simply no doubt that “stay the course” is a deadly accurate description of Bush’s strategy in Iraq.

The fundamental issue is whether American troops should continue what looks to many to be a hopeless fight — or whether they should start coming home. And on that central point, Bush has not wavered one bit.

Yes, as the White House has been at great pains to point out lately, the day-to-day military tactics sometimes change. But as Bush himself has long been at great pains to point out, the White House has no place in setting those military tactics.

Bush will make no substantive policy changes in either Iraq or Afghanistan as long as he has anything to say about policy changes. I doubt he will make even non-substantive policy changes. It doesn’t matter how many commissions are sent to study the situation or what they recommend. I doubt that Bush is much engaged in what is happening in Iraq at all; that’s what the help (i.e., generals) are for. He’s happy as long as he can claim we’re winning, and he can claim we’re winning as long as we don’t leave.

Tortured news update: Yesterday I wrote that The Dick had admitted the U.S. engaged in waterboarding. Dan Eggen writes in today’s Washington Post that “a Cheney spokeswoman” denied the Veep admitting to waterboarding. Today Tony Snow did his best to spin what The Dick said; see the video at Crooks and Liars.

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The Big Giant Head

News Media, Social Issues

Bill O’Reilly believes that Rush Limbaugh has a moral argument.

On the Fox side, you have Americans who believe it is morally right to create and then destroy in research life in pursuit of curing terrible afflictions. The Limbaugh side says it is morally wrong to interfere with nature and terminate a potential human being, even in its initial stages.

Now it all comes down to what you believe. Nobody can win the debate. You either believe life begins at conception or you don’t. And the polls say Americans are about equally divided on the issue.

Awhile back I wrote at length about why the question of when “life” begins is a stupid question, and that O’Reilly’s dichotomy — You either believe life begins at conception or you don’t — is a false dichotomy that misses the true nature of life and death, as I see it.

(If you are really adventurous, here’s an advanced Dharma talk on the subject of life and death by John Daido Loori, the roshi who took on the impossible task of imparting some wisdom into my thick head. Don’t let the talk bother you if it doesn’t make sense. More than that I won’t say.)

“I know Mr. Limbaugh believes he is doing the absolute right thing in objecting to the destruction of potential human beings,” says O’Reilly. I rather doubt Mr. Limbaugh cares about the destruction of anything except his own ego.

Further down the news story O’Reilly played a clip of his appearance on Oprah. I don’t have the clip, but if anyone finds it, let me know. Here’s the transcript:


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”: Why do we have to be put in categories, Bill?

O’REILLY: Because you have to make a decision. I think you have to fight for what kind of a country you want. And if you want to be in the middle, and you vacillate back and forth, I don’t know what good that does.

Again, you don’t have to toe the line. You have to make a decision on what kind of a country you want to live at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can’t legislate what freedom of speech allows. Freedom means freedom. Say what you want to say and someone else can decide.

O’REILLY: This is important. That’s bull. I’ll tell you why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom is bull?

O’REILLY: No. It’s not freedom. You can hide behind freedom all day long. Responsibility goes along with freedom, sir, with all due respect.


To which I say, WTF?

My earlier post on the Michael J. Fox ad is here.

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Down and Dirty

Bush Administration

As I wrote a few days ago, the senatorial election campaign staff of George “Macaca” Allen has been combing through Jim Webb’s novels and screenplays looking for passages they can use against Webb. And, apparently, they believe they found what they were looking for. Today Drudge has published a selection of juicy bits (I don’t link to Drudge). Some rightie bloggers are claiming the bits of fiction reveal that Webb has a twisted mind and are posting gleefully that this will be the end of Webb’s political career.

I’d like to advise these bloggers to be mindful of the glass house they live in before they throw too many more stones. If we’re talking naughty bits, need I say more than … Scooter Libby? Or Lynn Cheney? (Unfortunately, neither Libby nor Cheney are running for office at the moment. Too bad.) And remember —

Webb novels: Fiction.

Foley emails: Not fiction.

Josh Marshall remarks,

If Allen really wants to play rough, maybe it’s time for some Democrats to start going on the shows and asking about that sealed divorce records of Allen’s. All those reporters have a pretty good idea of what’s in there. But Sen. Allen (R-VA) just won’t agree to let them see it.

It’s almost like he’s spitting in their face.

I web surfed a bit but found no substantive gossip on Allen’s divorce, granted about 20 years ago. Oh, well.

Michael Grunwald writes in today’s Washington Post that Republicans are outdoing themselves in the dirty campaign department this year.

Rep. Ron Kind pays for sex!

Well, that’s what the Republican challenger for his Wisconsin congressional seat, Paul R. Nelson, claims in new ads, the ones with “XXX” stamped across Kind’s face.

It turns out that Kind — along with more than 200 of his fellow hedonists in the House — opposed an unsuccessful effort to stop the National Institutes of Health from pursuing peer-reviewed sex studies. According to Nelson’s ads, the Democrat also wants to “let illegal aliens burn the American flag” and “allow convicted child molesters to enter this country.”

To Nelson, that doesn’t even qualify as negative campaigning.

“Negative campaigning is vicious personal attacks,” he said in an interview. “This isn’t personal at all.”

By 2006 standards, maybe it isn’t.

I assume (Kind’s web site doesn’t say) that Kind is opposed to deporting illegals and amending the Constitution to ban flag burning; hence, Kind wants to “let illegal aliens burn the American flag.” But I cannot figure out what the “convicted child molesters” claim relates to, if anything. (You can check out Kind’s record here.)

Granted, dirty campaigning long has been part of American political tradition — ever since Thomas Jefferson claimed John Adams planned to marry his son John Quincy to a daughter of King George III, then return America to the British. That was perhaps a slight exaggeration. Grunwald provides some more:

· In New York, the NRCC ran an ad accusing Democratic House candidate Michael A. Arcuri, a district attorney, of using taxpayer dollars for phone sex. “Hi, sexy,” a dancing woman purrs. “You’ve reached the live, one-on-one fantasy line.” It turns out that one of Arcuri’s aides had tried to call the state Division of Criminal Justice, which had a number that was almost identical to that of a porn line. The misdial cost taxpayers $1.25.

· In Ohio, GOP gubernatorial candidate J. Kenneth Blackwell, trailing by more than 20 points in polls, has accused front-running Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland of protecting a former aide who was convicted in 1994 on a misdemeanor indecency charge. Blackwell’s campaign is also warning voters through suggestive “push polls” that Strickland failed to support a resolution condemning sex between adults and children. Strickland, a psychiatrist, objected to a line suggesting that sexually abused children cannot have healthy relationships when they grow up.

· The Republican Party of Wisconsin distributed a mailing linking Democratic House candidate Steve Kagen to a convicted serial killer and child rapist. The supposed connection: The “bloodthirsty” attorney for the killer had also done legal work for Kagen.

· In two dozen congressional districts, a political action committee supported by a white Indianapolis businessman, J. Patrick Rooney, is running ads saying Democrats want to abort black babies. A voice says, “If you make a little mistake with one of your hos, you’ll want to dispose of that problem tout de suite, no questions asked.”

Grunwald also mentions the infamous “playboy” ad linking a white actress to African-American senatorial candidate Harold Ford. [Update: This ad is still on the air, according to the New York Times.] The RNC is running a new ad claiming that Ford “wants to give the abortion pill to schoolchildren.” Ford’s web site says this claim relates to a vote “banning funding that goes to Emergency Contraception, not RU-486 (The Abortion Pill).”

Grunwald’s article contains the obligatory “Dems do it too” section:

Some Democrats are playing rough, too. House candidate Chris Carney is running ads slamming the “family values” of Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), whose former mistress accused him of choking her. And House candidate Kirsten Gillibrand has an ad online ridiculing Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) for attending a late-night fraternity party. … But most harsh Democratic attacks have focused on the policies and performance of the GOP majority, trying to link Republicans to Bush, the unpopular war in Iraq and the scandals involving former representative Mark Foley and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Dems don’t have to make stuff up, in other words. Reality does have a liberal bias … and the wingnuts never notice that spreading lies to smear an opponent’s character reveals, um, a lack of character.

Experts say that in the past, negative ads were usually more accurate, better documented and more informative than positive ads; there was a higher burden of proof.

I don’t know who those “experts” are. Back in 1828 the Andrew Jackson campaign accused John Quincy Adams of turning the White House into a gambling den. Turns out JQA had purchased a chess set and a pool table.

Meanwhile, some people are still whining about the Michael J. Fox ad. This creep, for example, comments on “the tremendous selfishness of Michael J Fox.” This is beyond disgusting, and I’m not the only one to think so.

I missed Fox being interviewed by Katie Couric on CBS, but here is Digby’s description:

The portion of the interview they broadcast was quite decent. But you can see the whole interview here — and listen to Katie Couric push him over and over again on the burning question of whether he manipulated his medication and ask him whether he should have re-scheduled the shoot when his symptoms were manifested as they were. And she does it while she’s sitting directly across from him watching him shake like crazy. Her questions imply that it was in poor taste or manipulative as if he can magically conjure a film crew to catch him in on of the fleeting moments where he doesn’t appear too symptomatic. The press seems to truly believe that it is reasonable to be suspicious of him showing symptoms of a disease that has him so severely in its clutches that if he doesn’t take his medication his face becomes a frozen mask and he cannot even talk.

I think Digby is pissed. So am I.

Update: See also —

Tony Norman, “What color is your hypocrisy?

Eugene Robinson, “Does the Code Still Work?

Update update: See also Billmon.

Update update update: The Agitator has more.

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