Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How Ironic

Hugh Hewitt:

The Congressional Republicans' demand for "benchmarks" is becoming the GOP's equivalent of Al Gore's demand years ago for "lockboxes," --an empty term originally intended to convey seriousness of purpose while disguising empty policy prescriptions, but which, by the sheer implausibility of the pose, became a term attracting deserved disdain.

You mean, like, uh, victory??

In the same post:

UPDATE: The Senate GOP still can't agree that victory would be a great option.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bill Crawford's "Good News"

Taking over from the late (only in terms of his blog), unlamented Art Chrenkoff, Bill Crawford attempts to lull us into a sense of optimism about the state of Iraq in this January 9 article.

Reading this piece, I am reminded of two things: (a) the plural of "anecdote" is not "data," and (b) data without context is nothing.

So let's address the points in his first paragraph:

By the end of 2006, more than 2,600 projects had been completed. The supply of energy has been increased to 1.3 million homes, oil production is at 2.2 million bpd, 838 schools have been rehabilitated or constructed, 239 kilometers of road have been fixed, and 15 hospital rehabilitation projects have been completed.

Only one of those figures, the one about oil production, contains any data that is actually useful. This is the only one that gives us an aggregate figure of a metric by which to measure success in Iraq, as opposed to some small piece of information (e.g., that the supply of energy has been increased hto 1.3 million homes does not tell us how much, or how many other homes had the supply of energy reduced, or how the total energy picture has changed)?

And that one figure he mentions is devoid of context. When looking at the oil production in Iraq, as shown in this BBC article, we find that oil production has been hovering around 2 million barrels per day from November 2003 to March 2006, so 2.2 could just meanthat we are currently at a "peaky" month.

The next two sections, "Iraqi Forces" and "Security Operations" are essentially a bunch of anecdotes and generalized assertions without any real hard statistical data.

The next section, "Reconstruction," contains this statement:

As of November 2006, Iraq’s oil production stood at 2.5 million barrels per day.

which makes one wonder why he gave the 2.2 million figure earlier, or if we have lost capacity since November.

He does link to an article giving specific data on Iraqi marshlands (they have gone from 90% destroyed under Saddam to 50% restored).

The next set of bullet-pointed data are equally unimpressive. He does give a little more info about hte elctricity situation, that the 1.3 million homes getting increased electricity are due to the fact that "1,420 MW of power have been added to the Iraqi power grid." Nonetheless, we do not get any context to tell us what the electricity picture has been like from May 2003 up to now, whether those 1,420 MW actually increase Iraqi electricity production to new heights or simply restore 1,420 MW that were lost previously, etc. He gives similar statistics about water purification, and reiterates the 2.2 million bpd figure along with an equally contextless figure about natural gas.

Finally, he lists "American Heroes," which names some very impressive soldiers, but which tells us nothing about whether we are succeeding in Iraq.

In his next article for January 25, he dispenses with such niceties as aggregate statistics altogether and simply lists anecdotes with no context at all.

I recall somewhere reading or hearing someone say that demanding metrics for vicotry in Iraq was a sure way to lose; what he obviously really meant was that there are no metrics by which we could be seen to be winning, so we must avoid setting any metrics so that we can convince ourselves that we are winning and thus keep staying in Iraq and hoping for a miracle.

Obviously, Bill Crawford is a strong believer in the "avoid using metrics when they don't favor you" school. The sad thing is, it seems that that is the philosophy of the people who are fighting this war.
That is all.

Bush Wants to be Caesar

Thus spake James Bovard.

That is all.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Our Enemies are Uniting - YAY!

This is an extremely stupid article - so of course the usual suspects think it is brilliant.

Essentially, Nibras Kazimi's the claim is that there are fewer and fewer Sunni insurgent groups, which is evidence of our success at defeating the insurgency. Of course, he also says that a particular group - the Islamic State of Iraq , which he claims is part of Al Qaeda - is "cannibalizing" these groups.

To be more direct, what this means is that the different insurgent groups are uniting.

Of course, he spins well:

In other words, battling the insurgency now essentially means battling Al Qaeda. This is a major accomplishment.

Of course, if he is correct then the only reason that we are battling Al Qaeda is that we have gotten an increasing number of the insurgents to join Al Qaeda - this is rather like the "broken window fallacy," in that it ignores the growth of Al Qaeda while focusing on the increasing number of Al Qaeda-ites we are killing.

We are also supposed to believe that the insurgency is "running out of steam" and, if Penraker is to be believed, that the increased rate of hostile fatalities over the last four months is due to an Iranian "Tet Offensive." In other words, our enemies are getting desperate.

Please. We've been hearing this since the war started getting hotter back in October and November of 2003.

Penraker writes:

Our media hid the fact that the Sunni insurgency was being defeated, and pretended it was growing stronger, when in fact something else altogether was happening.

Of course, neither Penraker nor Kazimi offer any real evidence that the insurgency is getting weaker or being defeated, other than alluding to unnamed "sources," and in Penraker's case, going back to the old neocon canard of downplaying Iraqi violence by pretending that it is really Iranian violence.

It is possible that the Sunni insurgency will eventually be defeated by the Shia. But in that case, we will not see the democratic, pluralistic Iraq we dream of, but a Shiite theocracy where the Sunnis are killed or oppressed (and with strong ties to Iran). I don't see that that will be a victory in any strategic sense for the U.S.

Two last points:

(1) Cheney's statement that the insurgency was in its "last throes" was back in May of 2005, more than a year and a half ago. So it is hard to argue that he was correct if it is only running out of steam now (assuming that it really is).

(2) It is a common tactic of the pro-warriors to artificially divide the conflict in Iraq so as to indicate that they were correct:

Oh, are our troops still getting killed? Yes, but by a different insurgency than two years ago, so we really did defeat them, you see, because they aren't the ones attacking us anymore. Oh, and by the way, it's really all coming from Iran and Syria - which we desperately need to attack. The real Iraqis are still joyously dancing a "thank you" dance for us and wondering what they can do to help Texaco and Exxon Mobil, just like we predicted, and love Bush and hate the Democrats and the antiar protestors - so listen to the Iraqis, and listen to us!

The one bit of joy out of this whole mess in Iran is watching the jerkiest of the people who supported this war - and who are still unwilling to admit mistakes - slowly implode as they attempt to justify their positions.

That is all.

HIV Myths and Economists

This article by Emily Oster, brought to my attention by Robert from Creative Destruction, is interesting to me mostly because of what it leaves out.

Namely, the theory that AIDS in Africa is not being spread sexually, but through bad sterile technique when dealing with intravenous medications and vaccinations. And that the cases that are transmitted sexually are transmitted mostly through anal sex (and therefore, most men who contract it sexually do so through homosexual sex).

Read the discussion at Creative Destruction.

That is all.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fake Conservatives Support Giuliani

Deroy Murdock is trying to convince us that Rudolph Giuliani has a good enough pro-life record to be a suitable Republican presidential candidate. Essentially, the argument is that the rate of abortion in New York dropped more than it did nationwide, and Giuliani must be responsible, so pro-lifers shold like him.

That Murdock is a two-faced liar trying to trick the social conservatives into giving up their principles is obvious when ne reads his positions on, say, gay issues.

Steven Malanga, on the other hand, supports Giuliani by esssentially writing social positions out of the conservative movement.

These are impressive conservative credentials. And if social and religious conservatives fret about Giuliani’s more liberal social views, nevertheless, in the general election such views might make this experience-tested conservative even more electable.

Shorter Malanga: The social conservatives can go to Hell.

Same to you, Malanga.

That is all.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Portia-Shylock Fallacy

Por. Of a strange nature is the suit you follow;
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed.
[To ANTONIO.] You stand within his danger, do you not?
Ant. Ay, so he says.
Por. Do you confess the bond?
Ant. I do.
Por. Then must the Jew be merciful.
Shy. On what compulsion must I? tell me that.

-The Merchant of Venice Act IV. Scene 1 ll. 171-179

I have decided to draft a more general principle from this post.

The Portia-Shylock Fallacy is the belief that the strength of your moral values, goals, etc. places any mandate of demand on anyone else that they will feel compelled to respect.

Put another way, it is the belief that "You simply have to do (a)" actually compels anyone to do anything.

For example, any plan that requires the Maliki administration to do something without some serious consequences if he doesn't. Arguing "Maliki will have to stop the Shiite death squads" based on nothing more than the fact that we need him to do so for our plan to work, is worthless and stupid.

The one good thing about the Democrats taking over Congress is that Bush now is finally forced to make decisions about how to bring the war to a colse, rather than drag it on endlessly without closer to some resolution. This means that using the Iraqi's unwillingness to fight for our goals (repackaged as a tempoerary inability that can be fixed if we just give Bush more time) as a delaying tactic is no more.

That is all.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Thoughts on the "Surge"

I think that we ought to be seeing how to get out of Iraq, so I am not really in favor of the surge.

On the other hand, at least Bush is starting to realize that (a) we need to see benchmarks in the way of pacification of the populace, not just meaningless symbols like elections (which do not indicate a decrease in the violence), (b) things are not going well; it's not just that the media isn't reporting our glorious success, (c) mistakes were made, even if he doesn't actually admit that he committed them, and (d) we don't hgave neough troops for any reasonable pacification strategy and need more if we want to have one.,

That is all.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Thought for the Day

When pople talk about how we need to be willing to "kill the enemy" in Iraq, and not to worry much about collateral damage and civilian casualties, have they considered that there are already people in Iraq who are "killing the enemy" and not worrying about collateral damag and civilian casualties?

They're called the Shiite death squads.

That's right., The people they are killing are the Sunnis, who make up most of the actively anti-U.S. insurgency. But now we have realized that that is leading to civil war and chaos, and we are horrified.

Yet they are doing exactly what it is that the pro-warriors are saying that we should be doing to solve the problem. Or at least, to solve the previous problem.

What will the solution to our current problem bring?

I know an old lady, who swallowed a fly...

That is all.

More on the Other Hussein

According to this, Jamil Hussein's existence is still in doubt.

More on this as it develops.

Thanx and a tip o' the hat to Penraker. Even if I don't like him or agreee with him, I believe in being fair.

That is all.


After the horrible injustice done to two border patrol agents because they shot a drug-smuggling Mexican, I think that Buysh's refusal to pardon ought to cause Republicans to seriously campaign for his impeachment.

That is all.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Predictions for 2006: Was I Right or Wrong?

Remember these? I probably will not be making a list of predictions for 2007, as my zeal for blogging has someone lessened with the commencement of a steady salaried job this June, but let's see how I did:

(1) Killing of U.S. and other coalition troops will be down (< 50 hostile deaths for the entire coalition per month) for January and February, and then will start to climb again in March. Unless major changes in the way the war is fought occur, (see next prediction) there will be >1000 U.S. deaths in Iraq (hostile and non-hostile) by the time 2007 rolls around.

824 U.S. deaths in 2006. Wrong
44 hostile deaths in January, 48 in February, 27 in March right on Jan and Feb, wrong on March.
And the war hasn't been fought amazingly differently from 2005, as far as I can tell, so no getting out on a loophle.

(2) There will be at least one "Lebanon attack" in Iraq this year against the coalition. By "Lebanon attack," I mean that a single attack will kill more than 50 coalition troops, as with the Beirut barracks bombing.


More later. Tired now.

That is all.

It is Official

Andrew C. McCarthy is a lying scumbag.

Andrew McCarthy essentially argues here that attacking Iran and Syria will reduce the insurgency in Iraq, even beyond whatever effect the loss of Syrian and Iranian support will have on it, because apparently it will scare the insurgents into retreat. He also seems to imply that this is why the insurgency was so weak in the first few months after the war - it wasn't that these things take a while to develop, or that the Iraqis' attitudes toward the U.S. change over time and with occupation - it was that the insurgency, which sprang fully grown out of the ground of Iraq in May 2003 was scared of us because of the shock and awe from our conquest of Baghdad.

Let me repeat what he says and interpret it:

More importantly, though, [fighting Syria in Iran as part of the Iraq War] is not a zero-sum game. It is not a case in which, if the Iranian/Syrian influence were, say, 30 percent of the problem, subtracting it would leave the same 70 percent we face now.

No, even if you wish, for argument’s sake, to consider the war as existing only in Iraq, dealing decisively with these terror-facilitators would have a dynamic effect on the insurgency. It could be the difference between how the United States was perceived in the first six or so shock-and-awe months after the March 2003 invasion and how American resolve was seen in the ensuing three years — characterized by temporizing in Falluja, negotiating with terrorists (even some affiliated with al Qaeda), and abiding the provocations of Tehran and Damascus.

In other words, stopping whatever help Syria and Iran are giving the insurgency is not the issue. If we attack Syria and Iran, it will quell the insurgents because they will know that we mean business.

Let me clarify:

He is saying that attacking Iran and Syria will solve parts of the insurgency that have nothing to do with Iran and Syria.

This is ludicrous. Not only is it a very uncertain proposition that such an attack would demoralize the enemy in Iraq, it might even create more enemies - not the least because attacking Iran would enrage the Iraqi Shi'a, which are still not that big a problem for U.S. forces per se (the death squads may be threatening civil war, but they aren't usually attacking our troops). It is also a dangerous idea because it ignores the fact that in Syria, any disruption could lead to the overthrow of the government, and the only people likely to take over are even worse than Assad - a secular leader, and personally the member of a minority sect who maintains some level of religious tolerance because his own people need the tolerance of the majority. The idea that there would be no repercussions from an attack on Syria or Iran to add into the equation, which apparently is what he believes, is daft. And beyond that, there is the question of how much of the insurgency is really dependent on whatever help it may be getting from outside sources. If Iran and syria were responsible for 30% of the problem, and they taken out of the picture, how do we know that local forces would not take up the slack?

Of course, I don't think he really believes this. More than anything, this shows that McCarthy is willing to use the situation in Iraq as nothing more than a tool to get us to expand the war. That is , he wants us to attack Iran and Syria, and seeing that the situation in Iraq is what is making the U.S. cautious about expoanding the war, has decided to promise us that the war he wants will solve that problem, too.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hack Kelly: "Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort 'Em Out"

Aside from the fact that the comparison of Somalia to Iraq is ridiculous and aside from the fact that Ol' Hack is making some pretty dubious assertions about how Americans were initially greeted in Iraq, what is disturbing is that his general m,essage appears to be: "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." What is more disturbing is that he seems to suggest that if we purpursued that strategy, Iraqis would love us for it.

There are at least four major differences between Somalia and Iraq:

(1) Somalia had only been under the rule of the Muslim extremists whom Ethiopia threw out for a few months, and had a pre-existing elected government that wanted to take over again.

(2) There is no indication so far that Ethiopia is planning to occupy Somalia for the long-term and to try to rebuild its government to its own liking.

(3) There is a lot greater likelihood that those who took over can be distinguished from the rest of the population, if only because a lot of the rest of the population is ticked off at them and willing to identify them

(4) Ethiopia is fighting a single enemy with a united goal, not myriad groups with myriad goals and myriad loyalties.

Moreover, there is the fact that Ethiopia has only been there for a week or two (maybe three by now)? Wait a year, and if the Ethiopians are still there, see what happens.

Remember, a lot of Muslim Lebanese welcomed Israel when it fitrst invaded, too. And contrary to what Joseph Farah would have you believe, it is not because they were quietly replaced by Iranians.

In any case, "unwillingness to kill the enemy" occurs largely because we have difficulty identifying the enemy. According to "Hack Kelly," the Ethiopians:

...killed the people they needed to kill without worrying overmuch about collateral damage, and not at all about world opinion.

In using this as an example to follow, Kelly is almost certainly pointing us in the direction of "kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

That's fine if his goal is merely the subjugation of Iraq to our will. But don't pretend that the Iraqis will cheer us as liberators for it, and don't assume that it can lead to a long-term gain in U.S. security, or that we would then ever be able to achieve the sort of victory that we supposedly are trying for, one where Iraq produces an independent government (unless it is with a dictator that we install).

That is all.


Can anyone tell me what exactly is the course of action that Niall Ferguson is advocating in this article?

That is all.

Thoughts on House

In trying to figure out how the Tritter situation in House will be resolved, one thing that no one has thought of - why was Tritter visiting House in the first place?

That's right. V.D. He thought he had V.D.

Anyone think that Tritter may have a secret of his own that he can be blackmailed with?

Update: Appears I was wrong.

That is all.

Monday, January 08, 2007


If the Democrats do try to get control over the war in Iraq by cutting funding or if they try to force a withdrawal by cutting funding, Bushg will suddenly "discover" some "inherent war power" to appropriate money without the support of Congress. At this point, all of those who insist that Bush can do almost whatever he wants with the military as Commander-in-Chief but that there is still a system of checks and balances because the Democrats have the power to deny funding, will either have to admit that they believe that it is appropriae for Bush to take dictatorial power or else denounce him.

That is all.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thought on Christianity

After the recent discussion on atheism and religion, I should point out that I consider myself an evangelical Christian, so my defense of Christianity is not simply based in an idea of social utility.

That is all.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Jamil Hussein Does Exist

For all of those who were doubting him as way to deny the growing sectarian violence, oops, you're wrong.

Big Tent Democrat explains the case.

Thanx and a tip o' the hat to Jim Henley.

That is all.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Interesting Focus

Everyone is talking about the "surge."

I find it interesting that in these three pieces by Andrew Sullivan, Keane and Kagan, and John Keegan, only the last one seems to be concerend about the practicalities of maintaining high troop levels; that is, do we have enough troops. According to the article, we do, but the article does not seem to suggest that we can maintain an increased force level for very long.

But it strikes me that few people seem to want to consider that there may be limits to our military power beyond our willingness to use it.

That is all.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"We're not Racists. We Just Needed the Money."

I just saw a re-run of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Raw." (See a summary here).

Long story short: The SVU gang gets sucked into a case involving white supremacists when a white supremacist kills a young adopted black boy.

It turns out in the end that his adoptive parents had arranged for his killing so that they could collect on an insurance policy they had taken out on him.

Assuming that they share an ideology with the white supremacists that they used for the murder, Detective Benson asks what people would think of racists like them adopting a black kid.

Her response was: “We’re not racists. We just needed the money.”

That these people were more concerned over being perceived as racists than about how people perceived them for arranging the murder of a child says a lot about how sick their sense of priorities is. And, to some extent, our sense of priorities as well, as these people's concerns were definitely informed by society's.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Death Tolls in Iraq

Statistics from Iraq Body Count.

Here are the Coalition Hostile Death Tolls for the war (all coalition countries, and only deaths due directly to enemy attack):

2003: 397 (510 annualized)
2004: 757
2005: 709
2006: 749

So, since 2003, there has been a pretty constant rate of hostile deaths: 738 +/- 26 per year, or a little more than 2 a day.

Now the last three months of 2006 were pretty bloody, but the first three months and July were pretty mild, so things even out.

I would suspect that if we stay in Iraq, the death tolls will be somewhat higher in 2007, but then again, I believe I have been wrong about these things before. (Which reminds me, I'll have to check out my predictions from the beginning of 2006 and see how I did).

That is all.

Impeach the Traitor President

The latest outrage.

That is all.

What People Don't Like About [Some] Atheists

Occasionally I hear an atheist complaining on TV about how he and his fellow atheists are so maligned by the general U.S. population, and how everyone assumes that he is evil and tries to make him an outcast.

I think that this is major B.S.

It is not the atheists that bother people, but the antitheists, or those whom Udolpho would refer to as atheist "geeks." (I would link to his posting, but his archives are not very user friendly).

Update: here is the relevant Udolpho quote:

Atheists who can't wait to bring it up (at work, at parties, in all their thousands of message board signatures): useless assholes to a man. And most of them are geeks, too, so they really double-up on the hideous personality flaws.

That is, it is those people whose major goal in life is to point out how much smarter they think they are than those stupid theists. Those who cannot stand the idea that someone else believes in God when they do not. Those who blame religion as the root cause of all human problems. They deny that religion is socially useful (ignoring the reality that, real or not, without religion probably 50% of America's population would turn into complete thugs the way they are doing in the U.K.).

Heather MacDonald is a good example. Sam Harris is another.

[Note: I am not talking here about people who get insulting toward religion whenever a religious person starts vigorously proselytizing them. I am talking about people who go out of their way to make the first move in insulting religious people every chance they get].

I think that most religious people don't have a problem with atheists; what they have a problem with are condescending snobs who are constantly looking down on them.

That is all.