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November 30, 2006

Throwing Good Money After Bad
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:07 PM * 102 comments

George W. Bush, speaking at the University of Latvia yesterday, revealed that he didn’t notice he’d been repudiated at the polls.

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — President Bush, under pressure to change direction in Iraq, said Tuesday he will not be persuaded by any calls to withdraw American troops before the country is stabilized.

“There’s one thing I’m not going to do, I’m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete,” he said in a speech setting the stage for high-stakes meetings with the Iraqi prime minister later this week. “We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.”

Oh, sure, Bush had been running scared for a few days right after the election. The polls had been closed for barely twelve hours and the votes were still being counted in some tight races when he fired Donald Rumsfeld, barely a week after he’d said that Rumsfeld would be with him through 2008.

Julia explained why: GWB finally got himself into so much trouble that he had to call on his father’s old posse, especially James Baker, to come bail him out. That pretty much spelled the end for Rumsfeld: a long overdue moment that had been delayed by Rove and Cheney’s desire to keep Rumsfeld (an old crony of theirs), and by Bush’s enthusiasm for appointing someone Bush Sr. couldn’t stand. As explained by Bob Woodward:

But there was another dynamic that Bush and Card discussed. Rumsfeld and Bush’s father, the former president, couldn’t stand each other. Bush senior didn’t trust Rumsfeld and thought he was arrogant, self-important, too sure of himself and Machiavellian. Rumsfeld had also made nasty private remarks that the elder Bush was a lightweight.

Card could see that overcoming the former president’s skepticism about Rumsfeld added to the president-elect’s excitement. It was a chance to prove his father wrong.

That’s why George W. Bush is going to go down in history as the all-time worst tenant of the Oval Office: you can say what you will about James Buchanan, but at least he acted like a grownup.

But back to James Baker, the Bush Sr. posse, and the country’s business. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Iraq has been a disaster and is rapidly getting worse. Iraq is in a de facto civil war, with the mainstream media starting to use the term and Colin Powell agreeing:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that Iraq’s violence meets the standard of civil war and that if he were heading the State Department now, he might recommend that the administration use that term.
Getting some kind of political solution is going to be a tough problem. Among other things, Bush has for some time now been refusing to communicate with Syria and Iran. (It’s his usual policy: if you don’t have anything nice to say to him, he doesn’t have to talk to you.) Baker will almost certainly insist that we do so:
“I believe in talking to your enemies … It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined. You don’t give away anything, but in my view it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

But George W. is Reality-B-Gone’s biggest customer. The voters and the Joint Chiefs of Staff may have thrown a serious scare into him, but as soon as it wore off, he was trying to undercut the guys who are working to save his bacon. He announced a massive escalation in Iraq:

George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make “a last big push” to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations.
If you doubt that this was aimed at Baker & Co., note that the second point of the “four-point strategy” Bush announced was, “Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”

Onward:

Mr Bush’s refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Bush, taking a leaf from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in the First World War, has decided that what America needs to “win” the Iraq war is One Big Push.

Not that it’s likely to work; the idea behind the One Big Push is that the enemy nearly cracked in the last Big Push, and this time, if only the Push is Big enough, he certainly will crack. Then the war is won and we’re all home by Christmas. (If the Big Push doesn’t work, well, it wasn’t quite Big enough, so all that’s required is One Big Push, and this time it must work….) One can go on in this manner for years, and Haig did. It could be that Bush thinks that if he keeps the war going for two more years, when his term will be over, he’ll escape being remembered by history as the President Who Lost a War.

He’s definitely back to creating his own reality. Lately he’s been invoking Vietnam (a war he used his father’s influence to avoid), from which he’s taken away the wrong lessons:

“The president said there was much to be learned from the divisive Vietnam War—the longest conflict in U.S. history—as his administration contemplates new strategies for the increasingly difficult war in Iraq, now in its fourth year. But his critics see parallels with Vietnam—a determined insurgency and a death toll that has drained public support—that spell danger for dragging out U.S. involvement in Iraq.

“It’s just going to take a long period of time for the ideology that is hopeful—and that is an ideology of freedom—to overcome an ideology of hate,” Bush said after having lunch at his lakeside hotel with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, one of America’s strongest allies in Iraq, Vietnam and other conflicts.

“We’ll succeed,” Bush added, “unless we quit.”

Perhaps reality, or the Iraqis (and Iranians, and Saudis), will have something to say about whether we “succeed.” Perhaps having an idea of what the victory conditions are will help us know whether we’ve “succeeded.”

Whether or not we “quit” may have no bearing on our success. The One Big Push plan is a disaster in the making. A civil war is already underway in Iraq. The only thing that the two major sides in that civil war agree on is that the Americans need to leave—and they’re willing to shoot and bomb us until we get the message.

Every dollar spent from now on is throwing good money after bad. Every life lost from now on, beyond the nearly 3,000 American troops who have been killed and the perhaps 650,000 Iraqi citizens who have been killed, is a bet that can’t be covered. Like a gambler hoping to make the big score that will erase all his losses, Bush is tapping out his line of credit to put a bet on a single turn of the wheel. And when his number doesn’t turn up, he puts yet a larger bet on the next turn of the wheel, hoping to make up not only all his previous debts but the new ones from the most recent bet. There goes this week’s paycheck. There goes next month’s mortgage money. There goes the car. There goes the house. There go the kids’ college funds.

But it can still all be saved with One Big Push.

Comments on Throwing Good Money After Bad:
#1 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:57 PM:

I could get behind One Big Push, for real, if we could only get the right person to stand on the edge of the cliff. Without the rest of the country, or the world, handcuffed to him.

#2 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:17 PM:

The impervious shell. It's like watching bullets bounce off of Superman's eyes. Just nothing is going to get through. But there's this plank of kryptonite over there just waiting for it's chance.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:20 PM:

The current post at Firedoglake has some material by Iraqis on What To Do. They may be 'insurgents' but they aren't incompetent: they seem to have their techniques pretty well planned, unless you're on the receiving side. Well, the plans are pretty good, it's just not at all fun if you're on the receiving side.

#4 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:24 PM:

I don't think bullets so much bounce off of Bush as pass through, just as they might through a giant amoeba.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:36 PM:

Didn't 'Star Trek' demonstrate how to deal with a Giant Amoeba? It's been long enough I don't remember exactly how they got out of that situation (and I do recall that 'out' was the correct term). Pity it probably isn't available now.

#6 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:46 PM:

Didn't 'Star Trek' demonstrate how to deal with a Giant Amoeba? It's been long enough I don't remember exactly how they got out of that situation (and I do recall that 'out' was the correct term). Pity it probably isn't available now.

Call of Cthulhu has demonstrated, to my satisfaction at least, that a sufficient quantity of explosives will do the job quite well.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:48 PM:

I was thinking salt.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Salt. Much more gratifying.

#9 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:55 PM:

Plus a case of beer, for bait.

#10 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 03:55 PM:

Perhaps stating the obvious here, but what, exactly, would constitute "victory" in Iraq?

At one point, "victory" was defined as toppling Saddam Hussein. That's been done for a long time. What is it now?

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:00 PM:

Beth @ 10:

Democracy. Whisky. Sexy!

#12 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:11 PM:

And isn't about time that someone pointed out to the Idiot-in-Chief that he declared: "Mission Accomplished" a couple of years ago, and therefore the troops should already be home?

#13 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:11 PM:

the idea behind the One Big Push is that the enemy nearly cracked in the last Big Push, and this time, if only the Push is Big enough, he certainly will crack. Then the war is won and we’re all home by Christmas. (If the Big Push doesn’t work, well, it wasn’t quite Big enough, so all that’s required is One Big Push, and this time it must work….)

Or, as Pete Seeger put it so well when Al Haig and Lyndon Johnson were doing just this:

"We're waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says to push on."

#14 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:22 PM:

"We're waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says to push on."

Shrub probably thought that was 'waist deep in the Big Money', if he ever heard it at all.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Isn't one definition of a fool someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over when it isn't working?

#16 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:35 PM:

Fragano,

That's the definition of insane.

#17 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:38 PM:

Perhaps stating the obvious here, but what, exactly, would constitute "victory" in Iraq?

It's surely one last big push to find those WMDs! Find them and the insurgents are bound to give up...

What? That hasn't been the plan for 3 years? Well now I'm completely confused.
(Which must be why I thought it was a space jellyfish in Star Trek)

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:43 PM:

We've wasted lives, but if we waste some more
we'll reach our goal of triumph over evil;
this time it won't be the same as just before.
We know our enemy's a quite clever devil
but not as smart as us, no sir, we're smarter
than all those camel jockeys put together.
You say that our plan now is a non-starter
but we will make them all run hell-for-leather.
Our allies need some stiffening, that's for sure,
but we can give them that and like a hammer
come down on those who think they can endure
our power and throw their kids into the slammer.
So what if those kids die, they don't really count
in all our calculations. Let the numbers mount.

#19 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:45 PM:

Isn't one definition of a fool someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over when it isn't working?

Fragano, you gave me a flash of insight that explains it all...

Bush is a Murgo!

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:47 PM:

A J #16: If the cap fits, George needs to wear it.

#21 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 04:48 PM:

#17 Neil Willcox, Space Jellyfish, that was in Star Trek the Next Iteration, or something like that. The Amoeba was in the original episodes.

#16 A.J and #15 Fragano Ledgister, insanity is doing the same exact thing over and over while expecting different outcomes.

Or going to see a movie (at the theater) many times expecting a different outcome. "One of these days, she's not going to get off the tracks before the train gets there."

We can't declare "Victory in Iraq," the banner isn't ready yet.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:00 PM:

George W. Bush, speaking at the University of Latvia...

Think Doctor Doom would mind keeping him from leaving? Oh, wait... This is Latvia, not Latveria. Drat.

#23 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:42 PM:

So Donald Rumsfeld considers George Bush Snr 'lightweight'. I guess that explains a lot. At least Mr Bush had the balls to run for public office.

A British politician (Dennis Healey) remarked that the best thing to do, on discovering you're in a hole, is to stop digging.

#24 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Stefan @7, TNH @8, TexAnne@9 - Sounds like another judicious application of beer and pretzels (the salted kind) is in order.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Did Kirk and company use salt against the aptly named Salt Vampire?

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Serge, I seem to recall they used salt as bait for it.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:25 PM:

Right, PJ... I can't remember how they actually got rid of it. If I remember correctly, and probably because the theme of the story was hunger, I think this is the only episode that showed people actually eating while on the bridge. After that, all we ever saw them ingest was coffee. Come to think of it, that sounds like a normal day at the office.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:51 PM:

The Salt Vampire was done in with a phaser.

#29 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:56 PM:

KristianB @6: "Call of Cthulhu has demonstrated, to my satisfaction at least, that a sufficient quantity of explosives will do the job quite well."

One of the supplements we were using explained that nuking Cthulhu would result only in him re-forming in a few minutes, except now radioactive. Or at least this was the attitude of our GM.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Thanks, Stefan. To go back to the Giant Amoeba, how was it discarded? Someone mentionned explosives. I remember that the Doomsday Weapon was shut down by William Windom overacting while having his own starship go kaboom down the machine's throat.

#31 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:14 PM:

They had Spock fly out in a shuttlecraft and jam a bomb of some sort into the nucleus.

#32 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:38 PM:

#29: I seem to recall hearing something like that, yes. I've never tried it out myself, but in my experience, everything else in CoC is best dealt with with explosives, including giant amoebas (and that I did try myself. Very... VERY messy).

#33 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:44 PM:

#31 Stefan: It wasn't a bomb. It was space penicillin, or something.

#34 ::: Peter S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:17 PM:

And here I thought the real reason that Rumsfeld was kicked out was that he ordered the torture at Abu Ghraib, and with the Democrats in Congress, there was no way to avoid this coming out. So they're throwing him out as a scapegoat.

#35 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 09:16 PM:

#34: It was indeed a bomb - an anti-matter bomb. I.e. One Big, Big Push.

#36 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 09:24 PM:

The Salt Vampire fed on salt, to the point of sucking it right out of peoples' bodies. It was done in by a phaser, fired by Dr. McCoy who had to overcome the illusion of it being his old girlfriend.

The amoeba was destroyed by an antimatter bomb planted by Mr. Spock in a shuttle.

#37 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Re: how did they blow up the space amoeba on Star Trek?

<geek>
They tapped some antimatter off of the warp drive (stored it in a vacuum, held in place with a magnetic field); this was the basis of the bomb.

Matter and antimatter is created in equal amount (except when it isn't*), requiring as much energy to create the pair of particles as predicted by E = mc². Recombining the particles returns the same amount of energy. It doesn't have to be literally the same particle; any proton will suit an antiproton. A fission bomb converts something like 0.001% of its fuel mass to energy, a fusion bomb something like 0.01% (I may be an order of magnitude off here, but it's in this area). A matter-antimatter reaction converts 100% of its mass to energy.

The first antiparticle, an antielectron, was predicted in 1928, and named the positron** when it seen in cosmic ray photoplates in 1932. It was 1955 before the antiproton was observed, created in a particle accelerator experiment designed to find them. By this time, it was expected that all particles were created with antimatter counterparts***, so no more new special names; everything after the positron was just the anti-whatever. Solar powered particle accelerators in space might someday be used to create antimatter in industrial quantities; it would likely be an inefficient process, and would require essentially free energy to make it as cheap as possible (you don't want to pay out the cost of the energy at utility rates).

Pardon the brief essay about antimatter. It was one of the things I learned by paying attention to Star Trek (and following it up at the library).


* The physicists have an explaination of how the creation of matter and antimatter out of the initial energy of the universe was very very very slightly asymmetric in creating excess matter; that slight difference accounts for all the matter observed in the universe.

** The image of a spiral and its mirrored pair in a cosmic ray photo is the creation of the oppositely charged electron-positron pair pulled in opposite directions by a magnetic charge. The position usually quickly collides with an electron, annihilating the particles but returning the energy. When Asimov was first writing his robot stories, he though the effervescence of this electron-positron creation and destruction resembled the effervescence of thought; hence, robots with positronic brains.

*** Except, of course, for the ones that aren't (very few); the photon is considered its own antiparticle. I think the graviton, if its ever observed, is expected to be its own antiparticle. I'm at my limit here (IANAP; P = physicist).
</geek>


More information about antimatter is available on the internet.

#38 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Edward Oleander @ #19: delurking to let you know how much I appreciated your Bush/Murgo comparison.

So is Cheney a Mallorean? He doesn't seem tall and foreboding enough, somehow. Well, maybe sinister, if not precisely foreboding.

Condi, though... in the black leather getup, perhaps something of a Nadrak?

#39 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:48 AM:

Except, of course, for the ones that aren't (very few); the photon is considered its own antiparticle. I think the graviton, if its ever observed, is expected to be its own antiparticle.

I believe the way it works is that all fundamental bosons have no antiparticle, and all fundamental fermions have an antiparticle. Fundamental bosons are all force carriers: Photons, gravitons, gluons, the W and Z bosons, and the as-yet-hypothetical Higgs boson. Note: I am not 100% sure about the gluons having no antiparticles.

Fundamental fermions are matter: electron, muon, tau, quarks, and neutrinos. (As you know, Bob, protons and neutrons are made of quarks.) I am a little iffy about lumping neutrinos in with "matter", but they sure don't carry force.

I think it's confusing to say "the photon is its own antiparticle" (or graviton, or whatever) because then you might get the impression that two photons would annihilate each other on contact, which they do not.

#40 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:49 AM:

Re 19 & 38

Rumsfield is a Murgo; Bush is a Thull.

Cheney I suspect of being one of those priests in a black metal mask, whose name I don't recall right now.

None of them have the wits to be a Mallorean.

#41 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:05 AM:

Margaret @40: I don't see how that follows. The Thulls were the ones who never appeared on stage except as cannon fodder or human sacrifices, weren't they? That doesn't fit Bush.

I think the priests were Grolims.

#42 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 02:27 AM:

Zack Weinberg @39: I think it's confusing to say "the photon is its own antiparticle" (or graviton, or whatever) because then you might get the impression that two photons would annihilate each other on contact, which they do not.

I agree it is confusing; that is how I've seen it described (I was tempted to add to my original comment that I didn't understand how this was meant to be interpreted). Maybe it's an older notion that's gone out of fashion; that everything had to have a corresponding antiparticle. The way you've described it (force carrying particles do not have antiparticles) seems much more sensible.

Dirac initially visualized potential electrons created as they were kicked out of the vacuum; the hole they left behind became the positron. He didn't hold that notion very long, yet one of the books I read (published as late as the 70s) tried to explain the electron-positron pair in that fashion.

You can't eliminate light from the room with a beam of antiphotons, and I don't think you'll be able to levitate an object with a beam of antigravitons (although I think they did that in Star Trek TNG).

One of the fun cheats in computer graphic illustration is that you can create lights with negative intensity, which will cancel light where they “shine”.

#43 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 02:43 AM:

Zack #39: Rob Rusick is correct. The photon, at least as described by quantum electrodynamics, is its own antiparticle. Likewise, the graviton, meaning the mathematical object which is sometimes used to describe idiotically small gravitational fluctuations, is its own antiparticle; of course, we're speaking only of a mathematical entity, since no one's ever seen a graviton. Likewise, the gluons which carry the color force in quantum chromodynamics are own antiparticles.

For weak interactions, the story is a little more complicated, but basically, the Z particle is its own antiparticle, and the W+ and W- particles are conjugate to one another.

Some of you are giggling at the word conjugate, so I'll stop now.

#44 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 03:28 AM:

#38 Condi, though... in the black leather getup, perhaps something of a Nadrak?

Please... Don't do that...

#45 ::: Anonymous ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 03:55 AM:
It could be that Bush thinks that if he keeps the war going for two more years, when his term will be over, he’ll escape being remembered by history as the President Who Lost a War.
It's all about that. Like Vietnam was "lost by Nixon", when actually Kennedy, L.B. Johnson and McNamara got US troops there in the first place and failed to acknowledge that it was a big mistake.

The next democratic president will be "the one responsible for an infamous retreat", because "all Democrats are cowards", and he probably won't win a second mandate. "Team Cheney" knows that the next round cannot be won, so they are simply preparing for the one after that. You see, that's one of the advantages of being a political entity made up by one small, centralised core that produces policies and then push it down to the minions: you can afford a very long-term strategy.

#46 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:23 AM:

The way I like to think about anti-photons is this:

When a particle and its antiparticle meet, there's a reaction that produces two photons. Well, what particle will, upon meeting a photon, cause a reaction that produces two photons?

#47 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 05:06 AM:

32: "I've never tried it out myself, but in my experience, everything else in Call of Cthulhu is best dealt with with explosives, including giant amoebas"

I suspect you may be missing out on some of the foreboding doom and insane gibbering by following that sensible and down-to-earth strategy. Your approach sounds rather like Cold Comfort Farm in that respect.

Ooh, crossover!

"I saw something squamous in the woodshed..."

#48 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 05:36 AM:

For weak interactions, the story is a little more complicated, but basically, the Z particle is its own antiparticle, and the W+ and W- particles are conjugate to one another.

In general, you can have a distinct antiparticle if there is some fundamental characteristic, such as electric charge, that comes in positive and negative values, and the particle has a nonzero value. All charged particles (e.g., electrons, tau leptons, muons, W bosons, the various quarks) have antiparticles with the opposite electrical charge.

Conventionally, the leptons (electron, tau, muon, and the corresponding neutrinos) also have a characteristic called "lepton number," which is +1 for the normal particles and -1 for the antiparticles. This allows for antineutrinos (lepton number = -1), even though neutrinos have zero electric charge.[*]

Since photons, gluons, and gravitons have zero electric charge (and zero lepton number), they don't have distinct antimatter versions.

[*] Apparently this is really consistent only if neutrinos have zero mass; since it's now pretty clear that neutrinos do have mass, the situation is somewhat confused, and it's no longer clear whether antineutrinos really are distinct particles.

#49 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 06:34 AM:

I was just thinking, people think plushy Cthulhu is cute. What about a plushy Cheney.

sure he's evil. But plushy Cheney needs love too.

#50 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 06:42 AM:

"I saw something squamous in the woodshed..."

hmm:

I saw something squamous in the woodshed
devouring Mommy last night
She didn't see me creep
through the doors to have a peep
She thought that I was already eaten by Cthulhu of the deep
Then I saw something squamous devour her instead
it started at her feet and finished at her head
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
if daddy had only seen
Something squamous in the woodshed
devouring mommy last night.

sorry for stumbling of rhythm, I was driven mad. maybe some of these for your yuletide gloom:

http://www.duke.edu/web/DRAGO/humor/coc-songs.html


#51 ::: Q ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 07:09 AM:

You're all giving me twisted "Clue" flashbacks...

The Giant Space Amoeba was done in by Mr. Spock, in a Shuttle, with an Anti-Matter Bomb... near the conservatory, after mind melding with Mrs. Peacock...

#52 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 07:16 AM:

I've checked, and, 10 years ago while drawing a cartoon for a trek-mad friend, I drew a giant space jellyfish, which also looked like an ameoba*. My confusion goes back at least that long. I suspect my friend showed me the jellyfish and amoeba episodes back to back.

It was definitely in TNG when they introduced antitime ("It reacts with normal time like anitmatter does with matter", an analogy that made absolutely no sense. I'm looking forward to the day someone will make up supersymmetric time.)

Bush can't even be King of the Thulls; then he'd only appear in conversation as a minor obstacle to other peoples plans. (If I'm confused over this, it's another 10 year old confusion).


* It actually looks most like the 17 pint multilayered jelly** we made for my birthday, but that's another story

** Or Jello for those of you who speak american

#53 ::: Jamie Bowden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:01 AM:

Bush is about to get handed a reality check in the form of Congress' refusal to continue to FUND the war.

Poor kid, always trying to get out from under daddy's shadow, and failing miserably.

It must really suck to be good at only one thing: Fucking up.

#54 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:36 AM:

RedMolly: I think Rove and Cheney are Grolims... Rummy was their choice for Election-Day sacrifice, and Condi... well, a ball-gag would certainly improve her leather costume. Maybe we can graft it in permanently...

Rob #37: A fission bomb converts something like 0.001% of its fuel mass to energy

That matches what I've always heard... which means that about two millimicrograms (worth about one oz. of C4) up Bushy Squirrel's right(wing) nostril should be juuuuuuuuust about enough to clear out his mental block...

#55 ::: dr. iodine ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:38 AM:

re: the earlier post quoting a british politician:

yes, if you're digging a hole and realize it, the best thing is to stop digging.

unless of course it's 'saddam's spider hole' in which case, surely, the WMDs are down there just a little bit deeper.

of course, one has to fight their way through the salt vampires first.

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:00 AM:

yes, if you're digging a hole and realize it, the best thing is to stop digging. (...) unless of course it's 'saddam's spider hole' in which case, surely, the WMDs are down there just a little bit deeper. (...) of course, one has to fight their way through the salt vampires first.

And a pissed-off Horta mama.

#57 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Bryan #50:

I have a CD entitled "A Very Scary Solstice."

My favorite song from it is called "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen." I also like "Tentacles" (to the tune of "Silver Bells").

CDs, sheet music, and a few streaming audio tracks are available here. I recommend them to one and all.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Speaking of Cthulhu...

#59 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:02 PM:

If one were going out hunting with Cheney, it would be well to be a Grolim. Or have some other reason for wearing a steel mask.

#60 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:02 PM:

Where do the Grolims and Thulls come from? Is this part of the Lovecraft subthread?

(I read a little Lovecraft once, and I just couldn't wade through the prose to get to the story. I understand his stories are uniformly depressing anyhow.)

#61 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Xopher:

No--the Murgos, Nadraks, Malloreans, Grolims, and Thulls are all the various subsets of the baddies who were looked out for by the crazy one-eyed god (can't remember his name... started with a T...?) in David Eddings' Belgariad and Belgariad II: The Mallorean. Not to be confused with Belgariads III and IV, The Elenium and the ...something else I never got around to reading, as by then I'd read the story 3 times already and wasn't that enough. Damn fine yarns, if a little repetitive and in places objectionable.

#62 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Torak! I knew it would come to me just after I hit post.

#63 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Bryan at #50:
H'mm. Can't resist tinkering with the scansion a bit:

I saw something big and squamous
devouring my Mommy late last night
She didn't see me creep
through the doors to have a peep
She thought that I'd been eaten by Cthulhu of the deep
But something squamous devoured Mom instead
it started at her feet and finished at her head
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
if daddy had only seen
Something squamous in the woodshed
devouring mommy last night.

I left the last line alone because it's funnier, but to maintain scansion it'd be:

Something squamous devouring Mommy last night.

Back to work now, theoretically.

#64 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

As long as we're indulging in holiday cheer, here's one of my favorites, from the Episcorat of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. (Click on Holy Foolishness to find a nice write-up on St. Isidore, too.)

HAVE YOURSELF A DISMAL LITTLE ADVENT
(An Advent Carol?)

Have yourself a dismal little Advent,
Filled with guilt and gloom.
You've got these four weeks to contemplate your doom.
Turn down all those party invitations;
Mustn't celebrate;
You should stay home fasting, and self-flagellate.
Shun the lure of the shopping mall,
Where they've decked the hall since May.
Just recall it's the eschaton
You must focus on today.

It's no time for singing Christmas carols;
That we can't allow!
Chant Psalm 51, if you remember how--
And have yourself a dismal little Advent now!

Mary W. Cox ©
December 17, 1992
(With thanks to the Rev. Canon Frederick J. Masterman, for the inspiration!)

#65 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 03:41 PM:

Oh, well, if you're gonna throw seasonal parodies around:

Numbah One Day of Christmas

(The 12 Days of Christmas local style)

- by Eaton B. Magoon Jr., Edward Kenny, Gordon N. Phelps

Numbah One day of Christmas,
my tutu give to me
One mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Two day of Christmas,
my tutu give to me
Two coconut, an' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Tree day of Christmas,
my tutu give to me
Tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Foah day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Five day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Seex day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg (that make TEN!),
Foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Seven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson,
Five beeg fat peeg,
foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Eight day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson,
Five beeg fat peeg (that make TWENNY!),
foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Nine day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Nine pound of poi, eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin',
Seex hula lesson,
five beeg fat peeg,
foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Ten day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Ten can of beer, nine pound of poi, eight ukuklele,
seven shrimp a-swimmin', Seex hula lesson,
five beeg fat peeg,
Foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

Numbah Eleven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Eleven missionary, ten can of beer, nine pound of poi,
Eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson,
Five beeg fat peeg,
foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.

(Numbah Twelve day of Christmas the bes', and the bes' stuff always come las'...)

Numbah Twelve day of Christmas, my tutu give to me
Twelve TELEVISION, eleven missionary, ten can of beer, Nine pound of poi,
eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', Seex hula lesson,
FORTY steenkin' peeg,
Foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut,
An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree!

Music and lyrics published by Hawaiian Recording and Publishing Company, Inc., and copyrighted in 1959.

#66 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:54 PM:

Bush seems, to me, more of an Arend. Obsessed with nobility and military glamor, to the point of idiocy.

#67 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:58 PM:

I'll just post this here so others can find and read the article and judge for themselves: http://dailynews.att.net/cgi-bin/news?e=pri&dt=061201&cat=news&st=newsd8loe3s00&src=ap.

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:10 PM:

Ursula L #66: I happen to know an Arend (Arend Lijphart who was my dissertation adviser), and he's in no way, shape or form like Bush.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 02:41 AM:

There's an amoeba chasing our starship,
And if it catches us, what will we do?
There's an amoeba chasing our starship.
And if it catches us, Star Trek is through!

(TTTO "Hava Nagila". That's the only bit I still remember, and the complete lyrics don't seem to be online anywhere -- if someone has them, I'd appreciate an e-mail copy, or just post them here.)

#70 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 04:54 AM:

"Bush has for some time now been refusing to communicate with Syria and Iran... Baker will almost certainly insist that we do so..."

Here's my problem with that:

What's in it for them?

In other words, I can see why we would want Syria and/or Iran to bail us out of this mess, if possible. Trouble is, I don't see any gain on their part to do so. In fact, all of their incentives are against helping us at all.

What's Baker's next move when he insists Bush try to talk to them, and Bush does, and they loudly and publicly tell him to go screw?

#71 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:32 AM:

Lee at #69: What you're after is in the SWIL Filkbook series, available in the vague neighbourhood of here.

#72 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 06:15 AM:

Re #70: "What's in it for them?"

What's in it for them is, hopefully, stability in a large nation on their border. Prolonged chaos in Iraq is apt to eventually spill over onto them, and would be almost as bad as having a US controlled puppet government in the region.

A stable US puppet for them is the worst option, because it would be a launching ground for attacks by the US against them, in the way that Kuwait was a launching ground against Iraq.

But a stable Iraq where they have a measure of power, and where the US isn't in complete control, is a far more attractive option. Stable, so it doesn't provide a training ground for their dissidents to train to overthrow them, or serve as a festering conflict ready to spread through the region, but with them having enough control so that the Iraqis can't attack them, and the US can't attack them.

#73 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 12:40 PM:

"What's in it for them is, hopefully, stability in a large nation on their border. Prolonged chaos in Iraq is apt to eventually spill over onto them, and would be almost as bad as having a US controlled puppet government in the region."

Again, that sounds like a list of why we would want them to cooperate.

I'm not sure either Damascus or Tehran would agree with the domino theory -- indeed, they might well think Iraq is their domino, about to tip (Iran especially).

Example: Say Iraq is cut into three, one of the parts being a Kurdistan. It's usually presented by the Western press that an independent Kurdish state is anathema not only to Iraq, but also to Turkey and Iran, who have large Kurdish populations. But a Kurdish state carved out of Iraq -- that is, not Iran -- gives the Iranians a place to exercise some ethnic cleansing, and exile the Kurds they have.

That may or may not work -- but I can easily see some among the mullahs who think it might. The US does not have a monopoly on Rumsfeldian over-optimistic folly.

Or, to put it another way: Chaos that humiliates the US (and ties down our blood and treasure) is preferable to many players in the region to stability that doesn't.

There's also the minor problem of, How can either the Sryian or the Iranian goverments do anything with us without being perceived internally to their own countries as "a US controlled puppet government"? If one's goal is stability, is fomenting regime changes that would be even more hostile to cooperation with the US -- for such would be the probable result -- be useful?

#74 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:29 PM:

The Syrians and Iranians could get away with it if it was perceived as them pushing the US out, saving the US idiots, etc. Creating their own puppets in Iraq.

Essentially us going hat in hand to them, and asking for help.

But I don't think any US administration would be able to swallow its pride enough to do what needs to be done in order to get genuine Iranian and Syrian support and help.

The chaos is leading to a refugee crisis in Jordan, and quite possibly creating internal problems for Iran and Syria as well. Straightforward economic problems, like inflation from having more people making demands on the local resources.

And their people aren't monsters. Most of them see the violence and death in Iraq and are horrified, on a purely human level. If the interventions are clearly not "helping the US" but "kicking out the US and fixing the harm the US did" it will be politically acceptable, as well as humanly desirable.

It's the US political will that would be a problem, far more than the Iranian or Syrian will. The US can't fix this mess, but no one else is going to be willing to try as long as the US stays in the way, trying to call the shots. US troops under Iranian or Syrian leadership, taking instructions from people who know the language and can tell civilian from insurgent, might be acceptable, and workable, but the US in charge won't be.

#75 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:57 PM:

I just had an epiphany.

Remember that old joke, about the guy in the flood praying for God to save him? A humvee comes along, but he refuses to get in because God will save him, and the water rises. A boat comes along, but he refuses to get in, because God will save him, and the water rises. A helicopter comes along, but he refuses to get in, because God will save him, and he drowns.

He gets to heaven, and he asks God, "why didn't you save me?" God replies, "I sent a humvee, a boat, and a helicopter, what more do you want?"

George W. Bush is that guy.

#76 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 02:46 PM:

Speaking of wrongheadedness.... The latest Tom Tomorrow hilariously skewers neocons.

#77 ::: Hal O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:07 PM:

We've gotten sidetracked from my original question, which was, "What's Baker's next move when he insists Bush try to talk to them, and Bush does, and they loudly and publicly tell him to go screw?"

Leave aside how likely that may or may not be (clearly opinions differ) -- What's Plan C?

This isn't purely a speculative exercise. I heard Robert Siegel interview Robert Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations on NPR, and Siegel made similar points to what I have, and Haass made similar points to Ursula's. Whereupon Haass said something along the lines of, "I think it's worth a try."

What I heard in that was (and I could well be wrong), "Look, it's taken us 4 years to come up with a Plan B. We're too exhausted from that fight to come up with a Plan C."

And my point is, the best laid plans of mice and men, etc.

So, what would Plan C look like?

#78 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:35 PM:

You negotiate with the enemies you have, not the enemies you want.

#79 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 07:10 PM:

Jon at 75: in the version of the joke I know, the punch line is, "I sent you an Eskimo!"

#80 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 10:07 PM:

Here's the real reason Bush fired Rummy:

Rumsfeld memo admits Iraq strategy failing

We all know how W likes to hear bad news.

#81 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 07:04 AM:

No, the joke goes like this:

A humvee comes along, but he refuses to get in because God will save him, and the water rises. A boat comes along, but he refuses to get in, because God will save him, and the water rises. A helicopter comes along, but he refuses to get in, because God will save him, and he drowns.

He gets to heaven, and he asks God, "why didn't you save me?" God replies, "Who do you think sent the flood?"

#82 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Ursula wrote: "The US can't fix this mess, but no one else is going to be willing to try as long as the US stays in the way, trying to call the shots. US troops under Iranian or Syrian leadership, taking instructions from people who know the language and can tell civilian from insurgent..."

Um... are we living on the same planet?

Because on the planet I live on, Iran had a viscious war with Iraq, in which at least a million people died on each side. Quite recently.

And now you claim the Iranians can tell civilian from insurgent? Ursla, the Iranian definition of an insurgent is a Sunni.

The reason both sides in the Iraq civil war want us to go home is so they can slaughter the civilians on the other side. I assume all of you whined when we sat by impotent during the Bosnian genocide; now here you are whining because we are trying to prevent another one.

Every time I see criticisms of our policy in Iraq, they begin with the implicit assumption that the Iraqi political system is just like our own; that is, basically sound, stable, and fair, and willing and ready to run the country if only we'd stop interfering.

Iraq is not here. Iraq is different. It lacks the social captial and instuitions that allow us to be free. For all the talking liberals do about tolerating other's "differences," they seem constiutionally unable to recognize when someone else's culture is actually... different.

Let me put it in context: virtually every Iraqi, if they were Christian, would be a member of the Moral Majority. They, as a people, loathe and despise the very values that liberals endorse. They, as a group, do not understand what is wrong with theocracy and killing people who disagree with you.

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear: as individuals, Iraqis are indistinguishable from anyone else. As individuals, we are all the same; we all want the same things. But as groups, as cultures, we have the ability to be radically different. Culture transforms people. It produces identity, and influences choices. Including the choice to view Imams as the direct word of God.

We sent an army over there to build social captial the only way we know how. It worked in Japan, it worked in Germany, there was considerable reason to hope it would work here. There are many valid reasons to object to the war in the first place, and many more reasons to object to Bush's inept handling of it; but to forget the essential point - that we went over there to exteriminate a culture that was poisnous to everyone (them and us) and replace it with something more like our own because we assume everyone wants to be rich, free, and happy, and our culture has proven to achieve that - is to give into the liberal, PC idiocy that says "all cultures are equal" even while the liberal, PC idiots shudder in fear that they might ever have to live under a culture vaguely resembling a theocracy.

The quickest way to convert someone to a supporter of the Iraq war is to send them to Iraq. Once you recognize those people as people, just like your neighbors; once you see the terrible conditions they lived in, are living in, and fear living in; once you recognize that as individuals they want the same rights we have, even if as a group they don't know how to get there; then you understand.

We may fail in Iraq; but at least we tried. We didn't try in Darfur, Bosnia, or Rwanda. We lost no soldiers in those genocides, spent no money. Does that make you feel better?

#83 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 02:17 PM:

We sent an army over there to build social captial the only way we know how.

It isn't the only way we know how. It's just the worst possible way to build social capital. if we're very very lucky, we won't spend the next thousand years being hated by everyone in the middle east.

#84 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 02:26 PM:

We went over there to exterminate a culture that was poisonous to everyone (them and us) and replace it with something more like our own because we assume everyone wants to be rich, free, and happy.

Yahzi, do you really believe this -- and do you really believe that sending an army to destroy a culture (your words) because we think ours is better is a laudable or even a possible thing to do in Iraq or anywhere else?

Because if you do, I think you may find the conversation here quite frustrating...

#85 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Yahzi @82

The quickest way to convert someone to a supporter of the Iraq war is to send them to Iraq. Once you recognize those people as people, just like your neighbors; once you see the terrible conditions they lived in, are living in, and fear living in; once you recognize that as individuals they want the same rights we have, even if as a group they don't know how to get there; then you understand.

Nope. My neighbour, who is Iraqi*, and knows rather a lot about the people as people (and, indeed, family, what's left of them) thought the war was a terrible idea from the start. He thought this despite the terrible conditions under Saddam Hussein, and despite wanting the same rights as us and all that.

Why?

Because he knew we weren't in there to save them, or build their social capital. And he knew that we wouldn't save them, because that's a difficult, expensive and chancy thing to do, and we were never committed to it. Talk notwithstanding, our actions did not match those goals.

Try selling that line again, perhaps with people who aren't acquainted with the situation. Because it's no sale here.

------
* Iraqi expat sharing a semi-detached house in Scotland with an American expat. We do better than you'd expect.

#86 ::: Dickie Fox ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 04:45 PM:

(participant banned)

#87 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Yahzi said: We went over there to exterminate a culture that was poisonous to everyone (them and us) and replace it with something more like our own because we assume everyone wants to be rich, free, and happy.

Liily said: Yahzi, do you really believe this -- and do you really believe that sending an army to destroy a culture (your words) because we think ours is better is a laudable or even a possible thing to do in Iraq or anywhere else?

It's certainly possible. It's been a regular practice for several thousand years, starting from the Hyksos invading Egypt. As for how laudable it is, ask yourself this: was the destruction of Nazi German culture - and its replacement with an Anerican-styled democracy - a laudable act? Because we did the same thing in Japan, too, with what most people would consider laudable results.

Whether its possible in Iraq is a different question, given that Iraq is a small piece of Arabic culture in the middle of a large sea of Arabic states. Generally cultural reconstruction only works if you can control the entire culture (like we did with Germany and Japan).

Whether it's laudable in Iraq is both obvious and not obvious. It is obvious in the sense that the Iraqi people would much prefer a democracy to Saddam, the Taleban, or a theocratic state like Iran. However, it is not necessarily obvious that the price of such change (i.e. the war and ensuing nightmare) are worth it. Yet, if you look at how willing those people are to die for their freedom, you have to recognize that they must value freedom pretty highly. So why didn't they fight this hard to be free of Saddam? Because they didn't believe it would work. They're only fighting us because they think they can win, because they know we will never resort to the wholesale brutal tactics that Saddam used. Which demonstrates that all sides in this conflict operate from the assumption that the Americans are fundamentally good people. Well, all sides except for liberals, it would seem. :D

I think the Iraqi people would gladly undergo a war for the sake of their freedom. I think in this regard Iraqis are no different than Americans, who have undergone several wars for freedom, starting with a rebellion against a vastly superior military power. In short, I remain convinced that the individual Iraqi is by and large indistinguishable from the individual American.

So yes, it is certainly possible. And if you find present-day Germany preferable to Nazis, then it is possible for it to be laudable. Of course much depends on the execution of the act; but then, that is always the case. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The mere fact of war, itself, is not an automatic disqualifier; the mere fact of cultural reconstruction is not an automatic disqualifier. Bush's incompetence arguably is, but I've never defended his handling of the war; merely the idea of it.


Abi said: Because he knew we weren't in there to save them, or build their social capital.
Who is "we?"

If you are insinuating that the individual soldiers on the ground in Iraq are not, by and large, there to save the Iraqis from a tyrant, a civil war, and the possibility of a theocracy, then you are simply wrong. Insultingly so, I might add; so I hope this is not who you meant by "we."

If you are asserting that the American people voted to invade Iraq for reasons other than our sense of duty and obligation to a country we helped place under a tyrant's heel, then you have remarkably little faith in the American people. If were only over their for our own narrow commercial purposes, we wouldn't be spending billions on reconstruction. Nor would the Iraqi government have a billion dollar surplus of cash.

If you are asserting that George Bush invaded the country out of pure evil, then again you betray a level of paranoia and distrust that is unhealthy for a democratic society. There is an old maxim: "never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity." Again, I can't defend Bush's competence, because it's indefensible: but at the same time I find it hard to believe that our moral obligations to other human beings stops at an imaginary line drawn in the sand called a "national boundary."

(And as for the inevitable counter argument, then why aren't we in Darfur, my answer is, We should be, but liberals like you whine every time we invade somebody. :D )

We owe it to the rest of the world to help when we can. Sometimes that means bloodshed, and that is tragic but unavoidable. When we can't help, or believe our help is unlikely to succeed but likely to cause more damage, then we are not required to help. But that - inability - is the only case in which we are allowed to stand idle while others suffer.

Were we capable of helping in Iraq? The hawks swore Yes and the doves scream No. The answer was not - is not - as obvious as either side would have you believe. Like everything else in life, it is a difficult judgment call. People do the best they can. If you wanted a more nuanced judgment, you should have elected a more nuanced President. :D

But our moral obligation to our fellow man does not recognize national, cultural, or any other kind of boundary. Iraqi culture, however different than ours, is made up entirely of our fellow human beings, and as individuals, they are no different from us.


#88 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:31 PM:

If you wanted a more nuanced judgment, you should have elected a more nuanced President. :D

We did, but the Supreme Court gave it to the other guy.

#89 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Barack Obama said: We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged,

Now see, there's a nuance in there: Barrack isn't saying all wars are bad, or even war in Iraq is bad; he's saying this war at this time was a tactically unsound action. Proof of this is his willingness to commit more troops to Afghanistan. In other words, Barrack is not against the idea of war; he is against the inappropriate execution of it.

This is exactly the point I'm trying to get across. If Barack had been president instead of Bush, we'd still be in Iraq; we'd just have started the war a year or two later, after we had won Afghanistan, and the French and the Germans would be on our side this time. We wouldn't have made some of the mistakes we made (like not having an occupation plan). But we'd still be a player in the Islamic Reformation, because we can't avoid it. The world is just too small.

#90 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 01:46 PM:

James D. Macdonald said: We did, but the Supreme Court gave it to the other guy.

:D

In retrospect, Gore was unelectable. I think the only way a rich white man of the political class can be elected president anymore is if he's a Republican. The Dems need to stop putting up candidates who grew up rich, and start putting up people who connect with the Dem base. Like Clinton did, and like Obama does. Hell, even McCain didn't start out rich.

Enough of the second-generation aristocrats, I say! Off with their heads! :D


#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Yahzi, McCain might not have started out rich, but he was still privileged. (His father and grandfather were career navy, ending as admirals.)

#92 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:18 PM:

Yazhi: If you are insinuating that the individual soldiers on the ground in Iraq are not, by and large, there to save the Iraqis from a tyrant, a civil war, and the possibility of a theocracy, then you are simply wrong. Insultingly so, I might add; so I hope this is not who you meant by "we."

I shan't insinuate it. I shall say it bald to your face. We (speaking as one of those soldiers you are making into the strawmen of your rhetoric, I was there in OIF-1... the members of which are the closest you are likely to come to the idealist saviors of the Iraqis from themlselves of your fantasies) went there to do a job. We were told (somewhat incredulously) it was to save the Us (and maybe the world) from imminent attack by madmen with chemical weapons (and maybe nukes... or do you forget the speech Powell made at the UN, or Rice's assertions [though, personally I think lies is the better term] of Iraq having thousands of pounds of yellowcake from Niger, "unaccounted for).

We were not (and most certainly are not) there to save them from a tyrant. What motivated us, once the shooting started, was getting home in one piece. Most of us couldn't care less about the Iraqis, as a people, and the vast majority of us, painful as it is to say, don't really give a damn about them as individuals.

As for why we aren't in Darfur... Even if we could get consensus (hard to do when conservatives like you accuse everyone else of wagging dogs, but swallow "Terror Alerts" like Tums at a chili festival), the US hasn't the means, the money or the will... what with an army being, not so slowly, destroyed in Iraq, another war in Afganistan, troops guarding a border from an "invasion" which is actually no small part of how our economy works and a debt which isn't likely to be paid off in my lifetime, nor probably in my childrens'.

The answer to Iraq was obvious. If you don't believe it, go and read the "doves" of whom you are so dismissive. Like poor Cassandra no one listened to them before the war, and once it was seen they were right they were cast further into the wilderness, lest those who were the champions of this fiasco be forced to admit the woeful inadequacy of what passed for reasoned argument (or worse, their stupidty, cupidity and willful collusion in a farrago of lies).


I am not going to say all wars aren't worth fighting (I will however, again without categorisation say all wars are bad), but this one was patently unworth it, and foolishly bought; by virtue of deception, lies and subterfuge (not the least of which was the president failing to meet his legal obligations under the AUMF to engage in diplomacy and report the results back to Congress to get the final go ahead. Instead he pretended the predicate language of the explantion was the binding text of the law).

As for the nonsense that Gore was unelectable.... then why, pray tell did he get the majority of the vote.

#93 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:47 PM:

Terry said: Most of us couldn't care less about the Iraqis, as a people, and the vast majority of us, painful as it is to say, don't really give a damn about them as individuals

You are correct; I can't comment on that.

As for why we aren't in Darfur.

I am aware of that; which was my point about inability being a moral excuse.

I am not going to say all wars aren't worth fighting

But many, many liberals do say exactly that. It is against them that my arguments are directed. Also, I'm not sure this one was patently unworth it; success, after all, is still possible, and a democratic, secular Iraq would be a great boon to future generations of Iraqis and Americans (not to mention everyone else).

As for Bush's political and strategic handling of the war, we agree: he bungled it in every way possible, including deception and law-breaking. I'm just saying he did it because he was stupid, not because he was evil.


P J Evans said: Yahzi, McCain might not have started out rich, but he was still privileged.

I know, but he's a lot less privileged than the likes of Steve Forbes. My point was just that even the Republicans are retreating from the aristocratic class, at least for this election.

#94 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Yahzi @87:

Actually, the American people supported the Iraq war because they were convinced by the administration that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and was therefore a threat to the US. Lots of carefully phrased statements that led them to believe that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 helped the matter along.

Saving the Iraqis was, at best, second to preemption of a presumed existential threat.

As for Bush, sorry, no. He lost my presumption of mere stupidity right about here. A merely stupid man would not be joking about these things, but worrying that he might have been wrong. That kind of knowing mirth takes malice.

#95 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 03:48 PM:

Yahzi You are correct; I can't comment on that.

But you damned well did. You were rude when you did comment on it, If you are insinuating that the individual soldiers on the ground in Iraq are not, by and large, there to save the Iraqis from a tyrant, a civil war, and the possibility of a theocracy, ,then you are simply wrong. Insultingly so, I might add; so I hope this is not who you meant by "we."

I am not insulted by abi saying what she said. I am insulted by your use of me, and my fellows, to paint this as some wonderful war of humanitarian compassion. It's not, never was, and sure as shooting can't be turned into that now.

Neither did you say inability was a defense to not involving ourselves in Darfur... you attempted to make a jest about, "liberal" hypocrisy.

You may think Bush is stupid. I might agree, but that doesn't preclude his being evil. His record of actions, (Please don't kill me, the joke about the hidden WMDs in his office, the lies, the crimes, the sheer mendacity) makes a judgement of his being evil perfectly rational, requiring no paranoia.

In truth, I think a willingness to ignore the evil that he's done, and is doing; and brushing it aside with apologia of his supidity, combined with dismissive insults of the tinfoil-hat sort of paranoia on the part of those who see it for evil is more destructive of a democratic form of gov't than thinking evil is as evil does and calling it out.

#96 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:22 PM:

Terry said: But you damned well did.

You misunderstand. What I cannot comment on is your statement. I stand by my original assertion that the average soldier is a moral, decent person with due regard for the lives and suffering of his fellow man. If you choose to assert that yourself or your unit was different, I can't argue with you in that narrow case.

Neither did you say inability was a defense to not involving ourselves in Darfur

Nor did I say it wasn't. What I said was that inability was a moral excuse. When you pointed out our inability to effectively intervene in Darfur, I agreed with you that it was a legitimate moral excuse.

In truth, I think a willingness to ignore the evil that he's done, and is doing; and brushing it aside with apologia of his supidity, combined with dismissive insults of the tinfoil-hat sort of paranoia on the part of those who see it for evil is more destructive of a democratic form of gov't than thinking evil is as evil does and calling it out.

A failure to maintain perspective is even more poisonous to democracy. If Bush is evil, then what was Hitler? Or Jeffery Dahmer?

To bandy around the word evil is to debase the value of the term. Standing on stage next to the Stalins of the world, George Bush Jr. is not evil. While I agree that his level of moral development is not the highest possible level, this also does not equate to "evil." It is possible for people to not be as good as they can be, without being thouroughly depraved. By labeling everything you find objectionable as evil, you erase this distinction.

For example, while it is true that Saddam did not have WoMD, he was certainly trying to obtain them, and if he had, he would have certainly been willing to use them. While I agree that Bush made a tactical, political, moral, logical error in overstating the case, I think that a rational examination would have led to much the same decision: are we going to sit here and let this guy do this, knowing what it will mean in the future? Why, no, we are not. This time we're going to die for Danzig, because we understand the cost of doing nothing.

Bush may have been premature (and I believe he was); but at the same time, far too many liberals seem to believe that nothing need ever be done. Such a view ignores the lessons of history.

#97 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:28 PM:

Abi said: A merely stupid man would not be joking about these things,

Voltaire said: Life is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel.

Asserting a man is evil because of the jokes he tells is ludicrous. You've debased the term we used to reserve for mass murderers to mean "I don't like his sense of humor."

This is precisely the kind of ideological absurdity that I was complaining about. However offensive I may find Bush's jokes, I am not about to assume that my sense of humor is the only morally respectable one, and that every single person who disagrees with me is therefore a degenerate monster.

#98 ::: Yahzi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Just to be clear: I am defending George Bush as a person, not as a president. I am asserting that his intentions were good, however flawed his methods - and indeed, even his intentions, while as good as he could make them, could use a lot of work. Nonetheless, he is not a monster, unless we've totally forgotten what that word actually means.

I am also asserting that characterizing the political opposition as "evil" is not helpful to the democratic process, unless the target is in fact evil and not merely less than we would like them to be.

It might be helpful to understand that I do this as a life-long Democrat.

Now it could be the case that some here find Bush indistinguishable from Stalin; but if so, then there is nothing more that needs to be said.

#99 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:42 PM:

No, you trivialise the nature of the jokes (while discarding the rest of his evil acts).

"Don't kill me" was mocking someone at the moment of their death. It wasn't defensive it was cruel.

The deaths of thousands were the result of his lies about WMD, (and the risks of them even had he not been lying). He was making light of the effects, and the continuing repurcussions, of his lies

That's not trivial, and it's not taking his "japes" out of context. It is, in fact, returning context to someone who tried to hide his evil behind those bits of bandinage.

Again, I see your willingness to apologise such ills away; and use them to discard all the results of his actions as being a greater detriment than calling him on his actions.

Look at the arguments you made. You ignored the false pretenses of the war and chastised abi for not thinking we had soldiers running about dedicated to the idea of saving Iraq from Hussein.

You then admitted you were in no place to discuss the motives of the soldiers you had just abused her about. A person lacking in a generous nature would say you engaged in that cheap rhetoric expecting to be allowed to get away with it; shouting someone down with jingoistic lies.

Which is, in a quieter form, what you are trying to do again by accusing us of accusing Bush of being evil because of his humor.

No. We are saying his actions are evil, and his attempts to deflect us from looking at them with jokes is both intentional, and a continuation of his evil, which you are enabling by defending him.

#100 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:47 PM:

Yahzi @97:

Asserting a man is evil because of the jokes he tells is ludicrous. You've debased the term we used to reserve for mass murderers to mean "I don't like his sense of humor."

That's nonsense, and such arrant nonsense that I can't believe you're arguing in good faith. If you think that's what I said, there is no point attempting to continue this conversation.

#101 ::: Mary Dell notes use of reductio ad Hitlerum logic ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:50 PM:

Yahzi brings us a Godwin's law threefer--Hitler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer! I smell a troll.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2008, 04:51 PM:

Terry:

heresiarch's rule from here on: last word loses.

Anyone coming after can read the discussion and draw their own conclusions about the participants, their views, their motivations, and their ability to argue.

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