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January 15, 2007

Wingnut Spam
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:49 PM * 281 comments

Must be Bush is in trouble. Once more the mailbox is filling up with send-this-to-everyone-in-your-addressbook rightwing spam.

What do we have this time?

>>Subject: A petition

>>Mom was a homemaker and Dad worked all his life and paid into SS.
>>Dad has passed away and now Mom can barely make ends meet. While the
>>possible “illegal” alien in front of her at the grocery store buys the
>>name brands, Mom goes for the generic brands, and day old breads. She
>>doesn’t have out of state calling on her phone, because she can’t afford
>>it and shops at the thrift shops and dollar stores. She considers having
>>a pizza delivered once a week “eating out”. She grew up during the
>>depression, watched her husband go overseas to fight in WW II a year after
>>their marriage, and then they went on to raise, feed and clothe 5 children,
>>struggling to pay tuition for parochial schools.
>>
>>The Senate voted this week to allow “illegal” aliens access to Social
>>Security benefits. I’m sorry, but how can the Senate justify this slap
>>in the face to born and bred, or naturalized citizens.
>>
>>It is already impossible to live on Social Security alone. If they
>>give benefits to “illegal” aliens who have never contributed, where does
>>that leave us that have paid into Social Security all our working lives?
>>
>>Attached is an opportunity to sign a petition that requires citizenship
>>for eligibility to receive Social services. If you do not wish to sign the
>>petition yourself, please forward on to anyone you think might be interested.
>>
>>PETITION FOR: President Bush Mr. President: The petition below is a protest
>>against the recent vote of the senate which was to allow illegal aliens
>>access to our social security! We demand that you and all congressional
>>representatives require citizenship for anyone to be eligible for social
>>services in the United States.

[List of gullible morons who signed this “petition” snipped]

Wow. That’s something. What’s a “possible illegal alien”? Someone with brown skin? Someone who speaks Spanish? Someone whose family may have been citizens of the United States when Mom’s family was still digging praties in Erin’s Green Emerald Isle? This is the right-wing boogieman, and here he is in his full xenophobic Welfare Queen fairytale glory.

Leave aside the fact that internet petitions aren’t worth the pixels they’re printed on.

Leave aside the fact that Mr. Bush has done everything in his power to take away Social Security for everyone. (His rich pals don’t need it, and if he and his rich pals can terrify the workers with the prospect of a future spent without prescription drugs and eating cat food, hey, that’s a win for them!)

Let’s leave aside for the moment the fact that Bush and his astroturfers bring out the Illegal Immigrant Menace any time things go badly in Iraq—and they’re going very badly indeed right now as Bush tries to push a “surge” plan that doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Let’s also leave out the fact that illegal immigrants and their employers pay about seven billion dollars a year into social security, money that they will never personally see.

The plain fact is that this supposed vote to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants just plain never happened. Current US law forbids illegal immigrants from receiving social security. What did happen was that a totalization agreement was signed with Mexico. The United States has the same sort of agreement with twenty-one other countries. What it says is that a legal worker who worked in both countries is eligible for retirement benefits in either country based on their total wages over their working lives. No one says that worker has to retire in the US, either. That worker could retire in Mexico, too, and draw Mexican retirement benefits based on their entire life work history.

Please notice that this agreement only applies to people who are working legally, and, when stated plainly, sounds fair. That’s because it is fair.

Don’t you get tired of the right-wing noise machine trying to distract us?

Comments on Wingnut Spam:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:00 PM:

then they went on to raise, feed and clothe 5 children, struggling to pay tuition for parochial schools.


Hey, man, I got five kids to feed!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100802

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:36 PM:

Parochial school and five kids sound a lot like personal lifestyle choices.

And ... if Mom got married before WWII, she's in her late 80s now and her social security has been paid by the boomers. What other people in the checkout line buy has no effect on anything in her life. This is all emotion-laden language without any sort of sense behind it.

#3 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Funny how totalization agreements with, say, Canada don't inspire the same "OMG the aliens is takin' over!" panic, despite the fact these wingnuts and the idiots who believe them probably speak more Spanish than, oh, French.

Five kids and parochial school sounds vaguely Catholic to me, James. So, do you think the wingnuts are targeting illegal Irish immigrants this time? 'Cause we should put an end to these Irish Pride displays, like St. Partick's Day parades. They're in America now--why do they need to go waving Irish flags and wearing green and speaking that funny Irish talk and all?

#4 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:56 PM:

The part that's really funny is that true illegals are actually a net positive for Social Security. They often end up paying into the system through the usual withholding mechanisms using a false Social Security Number. Of course, without legal status they can never get that money back out. It works out to something like $5 billion per year being dumped into the Social Security "earnings suspense fund" from illegals, if this FreeRepublic article on the subject is to be trusted.

#5 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:59 PM:

She considers having a pizza delivered once a week “eating out”.

I could frickin' wish to have pizza delivered once a week. Pasta and beans gets really, really boring after a while.

#6 ::: Nikchick ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 11:38 PM:

Thanks for explaining what it was in particular that was being twisted for the purposes of this e-mail. I received it from a poor, deluded friend and though my gut told me right away that this was a fraud, I couldn't figure out the angle.

#7 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 11:51 PM:

Dad has passed away and now Mom can barely make ends meet.

If mom can barely make ends meet, where are the parochial school educated children, indoctrinated with family values? Shouldn't they be caring for dear old mom in her waning golden years?

The hypocrisy and idiocy of "petitions" like this make me more incoherent than usual.

Now, to be fair, this could almost be the tale of my grandmother, who raised 6 kids of her own and 4 step-children. The woman has over 40 grandchildren, and more than 10 great-grandchildren*. She just turned 74 a few weeks ago. Let me tell you, if she could "barely make ends meet," a family intervention would be staged. Bills would be paid, bank accounts would be established, the situation would be addressed by her family. Not everyone is that fortunate.

Ergo, when some butthead tries to manipulate me with drivel like this, it makes me angry. Hulk smash angry, with extra green.

#8 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 11:52 PM:

Here's an article from Snopes.com on the basic email that started this, minus the sob story about ol' Mom:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/socialsecurity.asp

Notice that most of senators on the list are Democrats or moderate Republicans.

#9 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 11:58 PM:

Next time you bump into one of these idiots, ask therm if Jesus was an illegal alien at any point in his life.

#10 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:27 AM:

They aren't trying to distract us; as far as I can tell this is the Republican strategy for the next election: hatred of the stranger, especially the Islamic and Mexican stranger. They have nothing else left. I fully expect race riots in LA, come the 2008 elections.

#11 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:30 AM:

"another payload of world trade because
goods are free to move but not people
oil is free to move but not people
jobs are free to move but not people
money is free to move but not people"
--new model army, another imperial day

#12 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:32 AM:

Why aren't the five kids taking care of their dear mother her dotage?

And what's with the quotes around "illegal"? Are they illegal or not?

Someone with brown skin? Someone who speaks Spanish? Someone whose family may have been citizens of the United States when Mom’s family was still digging praties in Erin’s Green Emerald Isle?

Yes. Yes. Only if they aren't white.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:40 AM:

Remember the last flap about illegal immigrants? Want to see how artificial it was? Go here.

#14 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:42 AM:

The petition is stupid, but I don't think it's a Bush administration thing. They've been mostly trying to quiet down the anti-immigration wing of the party, since illegal immigration is a coalition-splitting issue for them--small businesses (and large ones) depend on illegal immigrants, but the social conservatives tend not to like immigrants much, and people on or near the bottom of the economic ladder (which includes conservatives as well as liberals) see them (correctly) as direct competitors.

The "welfare queen" imagery is there, of course. It's just easier to talk about the welfare cheat driving a Cadillac and eating steak than to talk about perverse incentives or structural causes of poverty or that stuff. Similarly, it's easier to get people mad about "those people" coming over here and driving drunk (Anyone else remember the nationwide story about the illegal immigrant who killed someone in a DWI accident? When's the last time a traffic fatality was national news?) than to talk about the economic and social impact of immigration, not just on the whole country, but on the people at the bottom. Or about the level of crime and gang membership among second-generation immigrants from some countries, where the parents don't speak English and work 3 jobs, and the kids more-or-less run wild. Or....

#15 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:42 AM:

The thing I find most interesting about that is the assumption that everyone has the God-given RIGHT to buy name brands. From what my mom (who did not grow up during the Depression) says, that kind of penny-pinching was what blue-collar families with 3+ children did, period--and it's what young people and poor-to-lower-middle-class families do today.

And yeah, way to not understand the Social Security system at all and assume all Latinos are "illegal aliens."

#16 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:50 AM:

I'm fully aware that I'm looking like a moron here, but I'm having a lot of trouble interpreting the graph Teresa linked to at #13.

#17 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Well, from the "about" link at the bottom of the page:

1. How does Google Trends work? Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you enter relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. We then show you a graph with the results -- our search-volume graph -- plotted on a linear scale.

Located just beneath our search-volume graph is our news-reference-volume graph. This graph shows you the number of times your topic appeared in Google News stories. When Google Trends detects a spike in the volume of news stories for a particular term, it labels the graph and displays the headline of an automatically selected Google News story written near the time of that spike. Currently, only English-language headlines are displayed, but we hope to support non-English headlines in the future.

So, basically, there was a constant low level of news stories about immigration for a couple of years...and then a sudden huge spike around the start of April last year. A spike also in searches on Google for the term, which we might guess was driven by the increased news coverage.

#18 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:55 AM:

Ahh...I think my problem was I was expecting it to be more complicated than it is...like I said, I'm a dummy.

Carry on...

#19 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:21 AM:

"Why aren't the five kids taking care of their dear mother her dotage?"

Obviously, and after all her hard work too, the kids grew up to be no good liberals.

#20 ::: SPIIDERWEB™ ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:02 AM:

Here's the perfect retort. Something we can all relate to.

Take care of yourself.

#21 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:15 AM:

While reading the letter, I started singing "Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs" by the Austin Lounge Lizards softly to myself...

#22 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 06:20 AM:

Even had immigration been a Bush thing (which as albatross has pointed out it isn't; he's been backing some reasonable proposals, like amnesties and means to convert illegal immigrants into legal ones), ending the petition with a `demand' is *really* not the way to get *any* government to act, least of all this one.

But then if they were smart I guess they wouldn't be trying to get a petition signed via spam: they'd use this advanced thing called a `web page' so that they could actually collate the signatures.

Both the Rules apply here: Spammers are stupid, spammers lie.

#23 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 06:23 AM:

Hi Nix, nice to see you here. :)

I think you've missed the purpose of the email. I don't believe it's actually to try and get together a "valid" petition - I can't imagine the people originating it really cared about such a thing.

The aim is more to spread the meme of 'illegal aliens taking *our* social security benefits' throughout the population.

#24 ::: Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 07:23 AM:

If the letter had been about how women who stay home to care for children are the real losers in the Social Security system, I might have been sympathetic.

Did Dad pay into Social Security for Mom to make sure that she would have benefits? No? Then it was all their "choice," wasn't it?

One thing I would like to see is homeschooling families being required to pay into Social Security for the parent staying home to do the teaching.

#25 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 07:44 AM:

Oh, jeez, we gotta slog through these SPAM rightwingerie stupidity again?! This is the crap that got me started in the blogosphere. I waqs so glad when the signal to noise ratio increased, now we're back to sqaure one, again.

#26 ::: Bart Patton ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:11 AM:

>> Both the Rules apply here: Spammers are stupid, spammers lie.

Also, spammers live in vain.

#27 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:25 AM:

mythago@12: And what's with the quotes around "illegal"? Are they illegal or not?

We could only hope for such a grasp of punctuation.

It's more likely the writer--ignorantly, or deliberately in order to look "jus'-folksy"--used the quotation marks for emphasis. I see this frequently: Buy one, get one "free"!*

*Which always makes me wonder if they're actually going for truth in advertizing and there's some catch to the "free" item, but I digress.

#28 ::: Ken Hirsch ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:31 AM:

Leave aside the fact that Mr. Bush has done everything in his power to take away Social Security for everyone.

Ummm... by this do you mean when he proposed that younger workers be allowed to put 1/3 of their Social Security taxes in private accounts? That didn't even get introduced into Congress, did it? Isn't it a bit of an exageration--well, a lie, actually--to say that Bush did "everything in his power to take away Social Security?"

terrify the workers with the prospect of a future spent without prescription drugs

It was Bush that created the Medicaid prescription drug program, so... huh? Double huh? In a post where you're criticizing someone for an inaccurate scare message, is it really appropriate to use inaccurate scare tactics?

#29 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:37 AM:

I'd just like to thank Mr. Steve Taylor once again for restoring the "View All By" function. I think it will be coming in handy Real Soon Now.

#30 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:39 AM:

#28 Ken Hirsch, simply because the President failed in his bid to change Social Security in a way that would have lead to its destruction doesn't mean he didn't give it his best.

And the President was drug, kicking and screaming, to the Prescription Drug program, and then allowed the pharmaceutical companies to write the legislation he sent to Congress for their consideration.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:03 AM:

#28 Ummm... by this do you mean when he proposed that younger workers be allowed to put 1/3 of their Social Security taxes in private accounts?

Ummm... Yes.


It was Bush that created the Medicaid prescription drug program, so... huh? Double huh?

Medicare Part D

Any more questions?

#32 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Since we're into this science fiction thing, let me ask Theresa:

Has anyone written a story/novel where the US-Mexico border is actually closed and walled up -- and which then describes how the U.S. economy (realistically) goes into a deep crisis as a result?
:-S

#33 ::: Ken Hirsch ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Yes, I, too, remember when Josh Marshall cooked up the phrase "Bush's Social Security Phase-out plan" as a scare tactic. It was dishonest then and it's dishonest now.

I'm not sure why you post the link about the Medicare drug plan. I agree that there are lots of problems with it, but it hardly supports your contention that Bush wants to "terrify the workers with the prospect of a future spent without prescription drugs". Quite the opposite.

I guess if you want to be hypocritical and use inaccurate scare tactics in a post criticizing such, it's your prerogative, I just don't think the effect of the post is going to be what you want.

Don't think I'm a knee-jerk Bush supporter, either. I detest Bush. But please criticize him for his many real faults.

#34 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:19 AM:

#28: I think the way you describe Bush's proposal does not make clear the fundamental change it would have made to Social Security. His proposal would have privatized it, turning it from a bedrock people could build their retirement plan upon into just another private investment plan. Moreover, it would have required the government to borrow yet more money to cover the transition period.

Whether you are for the proposal or against it, I don't think anyone disputes that it makes a fundamental change to the nature of Social Security. Isn't it ironic then that in a comment where you suggest people may be exaggerating or lying that you, yourself, omit such an important point?

Also, I don't think it is an exaggeration or a lie to say that Bush did everything in his power to take away Social Security. It just turned out that this time, everything in his power was insufficient to the task.

#35 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:19 AM:

More on Bush's Social Security.

Will you at least admit that American health care is a mess, and that the Republicans in general and Bush in particular have done nothing to help and a great deal to hurt it? It is completely true and easily observed that people with no health insurance get no health care. That fewer and fewer jobs include health insurance, and that private health insurance is prohibitively expensive.

And, again, Medicare Plan D.

#36 ::: Ken Hirsch ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:46 AM:

"I think the way you describe Bush's proposal does not make clear the fundamental change it would have made to Social Security. His proposal would have privatized it, turning it from a bedrock people could build their retirement plan upon into just another private investment plan."

I said "he proposed that younger workers be allowed to put 1/3 of their Social Security taxes in private accounts". Is there something inaccurate about that? Saying that he was trying to "take away" Social Security is just inaccurate, inflammatory political rhetoric.

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Thank you for your opinion, Mr. Hirsch.

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Here's Bush's attempt to destroy Social Security, straight from the official White House web page:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/social-security/

#40 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:03 AM:

#36: Is there something inaccurate about that?

Please read what I wrote in its entirety. Did I suggest that your statement was inaccurate? I suggested that your statement was incomplete. Hence my words "omit such an important point."

However, given that you have not challenged that you omitted an important point, I must think you agree that you have done this. I still find it ironic that you accused others of rhetorical errors while committing one of your own.

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:04 AM:

The underlying theme here is that deserving hard-working white folks are getting screwed by 'the liberal elite' while undeserving lazy dark-skinned folks are getting all the gravy.

The appeal is very directly to white working class racism. It isn't as easy to do this as in the past (too many working class white people know working class black people) with regard to black Americans, but Hispanics/Latinos are another matter. Racism is blended with traditional xenophobia in a message that says that

(1) Deserving people are living in poverty;
(2) undeserving people are reaping unearned benefits from a system which doesn't give out unearned benefits; and
(3) this is the fault of those evil libruls in Congress.

Does this work? I'll note that every year I learn from my American government students that legal resident aliens don't pay taxes. There's an awful lot of mythology out there.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Fragano @ 41... legal resident aliens don't pay taxes

Are those students saying that I didn't have to pay for all those taxes when I was a resident alien, from 01/20/1989 to 06/22/1994? Boy, do I feel stupid.

#43 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Aside from the fact that "Mom" apparently has no assets, no retirement accounts and no support from her 5 children... doesn't the story say that "Dad" was a WWII vet? I'm pretty sure the dependents of a deceased veteran are entitled to some benefits on that basis, in addition to social security. (If not, they should be. "Dad" may not have given his life for his country but he certainly risked it, and he and his hypothetical family deserve our gratitude for doing so.) That may not include "Dad"'s now-adult children, but his elderly widow should certainly be getting a pension.

And, of course, if social security is inadequate for "Mom" living alone, that possible immigrant must have another source of funds to be raising *her* 5 children and still buying name brands. Maybe there's a worker or seven in that immigrant family? Might that have some bearing on their ability to afford the finer things in life? (Although I don't think name-brand food really qualifies - I've eaten both and I think blind taste tests would generally come out a tie.)


P.S. Yes, having 5 children and 1 wage earner is definitely a lifestyle choice, and a questionable one at that - to say nothing of the parochial schools - but because of the prevalence of propaganda in favor of such choices in the past, I'm inclined to give "Mom" a pass on that one.

#44 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Bart @26: Exposing spammers to the great pain of space seems like a truly excellent idea to me. The idea of cutting up a spammer is quite attractive too. (We could use them in the post-_Scanners_ Instrumentality universe, too, in place of the shielding mass of living matter. One or two trips and most of the spammers would be gone.)

Paul @23: I've been reading ML for, oh, years: I just hardly ever post because I don't have the literary genius of the rest of you.

#45 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:20 AM:

@32: I think the walled-up-borders was part of the plot of _Revolt in 2001_. (Of course, the economy wasn't exactly a plot point, what with the religious dictatorship and the prophet with the laughably silly name and all.)

#46 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:22 AM:

To be perfectly honest, the whole idea that if you need amounts of expensive drugs you have to pay a hefty percentage still just seems bizarre, looking at it from an outside perspective.

I mean, someone needing $1000 worth of drugs will pay $438, while someone needing $5000 pays $3500 - even the starting point, the 438/1000 point, is crazy. Even more so when you're talking about 'seniors', which I assume is code for "people who've retired".

#47 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:25 AM:

#43, Chris doesn't the story say that "Dad" was a WWII vet? I'm pretty sure the dependents of a deceased veteran are entitled to some benefits on that basis, in addition to social security.

I don't think so. I believe widows of soldiers who die serving are entitled to money, as they should be. But my dad served 5 years and was honorably discharged when WW II ended. He got help from the G. I. Bill (yes!!) but no pension, and my mother got nothing. It's probably different if you served 20 years. But it's all a story anyway.

#48 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:31 AM:

The story line about the grocery store check-out seems to be a favorite plot of these polemics.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:32 AM:

One thing they never mention when talking about how SS is going to run out of money: it's invested in US Government bonds, and, as I understand it, can't be invested in anything else. Wall Street isn't happy with the proposal, because of the sheer volume of money that it would have to deal with: you're looking at billions of dollars. The long-term return is, on average, probably less than on the government bonds, or so I understand.

#50 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Serge #42: They're also saying I don't pay taxes. That's just amazing.

#51 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:01 PM:

I'm still wondering about the Google Trends chart Teresa linked in her comment. It has no numbers on the side, so it's hard to tell whether we're talking about a dozen articles or a thousand. We could take the smallest visible change as meaning at least one, and work it out from there... but what if that really means a hundred? It reminds me of the "Gee-Whiz Graphs" in How To Lie With Statistics, except I don't think it's intending to lie. It's just incomplete.

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:07 PM:

The grocery-check-out-line story is a raw appeal to envy. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, so called because they lead to other sins.

#53 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:37 PM:

The best way to deceive is to tell deceptive part truths; this allows you to waste time with such questions as, "Is there something inaccurate about that?"

Troll. Paid?

#54 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Chris@43: (Although I don't think name-brand food really qualifies - I've eaten both and I think blind taste tests would generally come out a tie.)

That's because, in most cases, the generic products are exactly the same products as the name-brand ones, produced in the same factories, using the same ingredients, but without the same advertising expenses associated with the name brands.

#55 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 01:11 PM:

I don't think I've seen this point made anywhere, but re: Medicare Part D, the unlamented Richard Pombo was the only incumbent defeated in California--and his was the only campaign I noticed which made a point of the Congressman's achievement in supporting the "Medicare drug benefit."

Coincidence? You decide. (Yeah, there was a lot else against Pombo. "Unlamented" is my version of charitable.)

Also, more in line with the main subject, are my brother and I particularly unfortunate in our (non-overlapping, in this instance) e-mail acquaintance or is there a majorly offensive apples-and-oranges comparison of Katrina with the recent Colorado snowstorms going around, ending "the world doesn't owe you a living"?

Mine came with the subject heading "Westerners" but it may be going under other guises.

#56 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 01:24 PM:

My browser must have a really good Spam filter, because I'm not getting any of this junk. Of course, I do delete a lot of posts without reading every morning, but most of those are clearly spam. Come to think of it, I haven't gotten any penis enlargeement offers in months. No, I don't miss them...

#57 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Bush's rhetoric on social security doesn't match reality, in a pattern that may be familiar. Recall that Saddam kicked the inspectors out of Iraq, and that apparently our only enemy in Iraq is Al-Qaeda?

If at this point, you say "Oh, Bush is a terrible president on 99 issues but I totally agree with him on issue #100", it's probably time to do more research or distrust your sources on that last issue.

#58 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:55 PM:

#55: Actually, I've thought for a while that people who live in disaster-prone areas ought to perhaps be prepared for disasters, and not expect federal subsidy every time the predictable happens. After all, it amounts to a subsidy for living in disaster-prone areas, an idea you can practically find in the dictionary under "perverse incentive". Those of us who sensibly choose to live in tectonically stable areas a safe distance from the ocean might get a little tired of providing such a subsidy.

But somehow this subject never seems to come up when California has its 823rd earthquake and mudslide of the year or Florida has its 37th hurricane of the year, so it seems a bit unfair to apply it *only* to New Orleans. (It's only an unfair subsidy when there's a risk that poor people might receive it?)

#59 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:07 PM:

I don't have time to write the full story, so here is the plot summary:
------------------
GOODBYE CALIFORNIA

In the near future, a xenophobic Congress votes through the Maximum American Security Act, starting the construction of a giant fortified, guarded barrier between Mexico and the U.S.

Simultaneously, ALL immigration is banned for a period of 10 years.

8 years later, an American who has been lost in the Brazilian wilderness after a plane crash returns to L.A. ...

...and finds it in an advanced state of decay. Most shops are closed or burned down. Several major business districts are completely deserted, and rotting garbage lies in heaps on the untended, overgrown lawns.

He finds City Hall, surrounded by APCs and barbed wire, and begs for a talk with the mayor.

"What's happened to L.A.?" he asks the mayor. When I left seven years ago, this place was booming."

The mayor explains: "When the Feds closed the border, they shut out a major part of California's minimum-wage workforce. So wages went through the roof, labor shortages too... and then all the important people and corporations moved to Canada and Mexico.

"Now California is a Third-World country. I hear Texas is almost as bad. The Arabs are negotiating to buy Disneyland and turn it into a religious theme park."

The American understands, and takes the next train to Canada...

The End.
:-(

#60 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Chris @ #58: As far as I can tell, there isn't anywhere in the world that isn't a "disaster-prone area". It's easy to point fingers at Californians for choosing to live in an earthquake zone — but I don't see people blaming Missourians for the same choice, even though the New Madrid fault is one of the largest ones on the continent. According to St. Louis University, "The probability for an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or greater is significant in the near future, with a 50% chance by the year 2000 and a 90% chance by the year 2040." Maybe people are just saving up the "sucks to be you, you should have known better" comments for when the whole state gets knocked flat in (or before) 2040.

If you live somewhere that doesn't get quakes, you probably get hurricanes. Or tornadoes. Or flooding. Or ice storms. Or droughts. Or mudslides. Or...

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:17 PM:

Chris @ 58:

Earthquake insurance. If you can find it. And afford it.

Actually, the annual risk is quite low. On a long-term basis, it's 100 percent, but so is the probability of having a hurricane come through, if you're close to the Gulf or the Atlantic. Also remember some of the biggest quakes in US history were in the middle of the country: St Louis and Memphis are high-risk areas.

#62 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:27 PM:

Name brand vs generic: I frequently eat graham crackers for breakfast. The cheapest ones Kroger's sells, the FMV crackers, are crumbly, grayish, and taste like cardboard. The inexpensive store brand are just fine. Been my experience with several other foodstuffs too; the very cheapest aren't good, but the next level up compares well with the name brands.

#63 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Missouri isn't the only place that gets nailed when the New Madrid fault goes bonkers...

Try MOST of the Midwest. Think Chicago, and the key words are "unsecured masonry." The last time that fault let loose it rang church bells in Philadelphia. Ever heard of Reelfoot Lake? The Mississippi River ran backwards for three days, and the lake was part of the result.

It is my humble opinion that there is no such thing as a safe place. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunami or volcanoes -- there is something near your backyard that can kill you, and will try to, sooner or later.

There is a reason Mr. MacDonald keeps telling us that we should have a jump bag packed and by the door...

#64 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Lori @ 63

One of my friends was commuting one summer between LA and Dayton, Ohio. He said about St Louis (the flight change point) that 'the world market for used brick is not that big.'

#65 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Lexica #60: Until climate changes get more severe, and as far as I can tell, my beloved Southern New England is pretty damn safe. No earthquakes to speak of. I think there was a tornado once or twice but that was bizarre. There's flooding sometimes, but rarely catastrophic. We get occasional blizzards, but we've learned our lesson and know how to deal with them. And sure, every once in a while a hurricane reaches us, but by then they're usually not so strong and we can see them coming long in advance. And there's practically no poisonous snakes.

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Cambridge, MA, city website:
The largest earthquake in recorded Massachusetts history occurred off the coast of Rockport in 1755 causing extensive damage in Boston and Cambridge. It is estimated that the Cape Ann earthquake of 1755 was about 6 to 6.5 on the Richter scale. Since 1924 there have been 8 earthquakes in New England that have exceeded a magnitude of 4.2. In addition, there have been 10 earthquakes exceeding a magnitude of 4.5 in areas of New York or Quebec that border New England.

Speaking as a Californian, R4.5 is an attention-getter. In an area with fewer quakes and faults to absorb the shock, it will do damage (cracks, mostly).

#67 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:54 PM:

Ethan #65: So you're saying that you're cool with everyone in those flood/tornado/hurricane/etc areas packing up and coming to Southern New England, then? Cool! Maybe you could put a few ...million... of them up at your place for a couple months if they can't find a good job right away.

#68 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Oopsy! Apologies, Ethan, I got you cornfuzed with Chris @ #58. No more Milk Duds, they fry my brainz.

#69 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:27 PM:

If you live somewhere that doesn't get quakes, you probably get hurricanes. Or tornadoes. Or flooding. Or ice storms. Or droughts. Or mudslides. Or...

Yet everyone tut-tuts about those other foolish folk who live in an area prone to different disasters.

#70 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Lexica @ #60:
And it isn't necessarily "or." A not-inconsiderable chunk of Central Florida was plagued by tornados on Christmas Day. I come from that area myself, and was in Florida visiting family that day. None of my loved ones were hurt, but neighborhoods to eitehr side of my grandmothers' in Daytona Beach were completely wrecked. I came back to Seattle, and discovered that no one here knew that Florida ever had tornados. (Florida has one of the most serious Tornado Alleys in the country, across the center of the state.)

#71 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Ken Hirsch: I've been looking at your online profile. It's kind of odd.

#72 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Melody #67: My apartment's on the bigger side for its price range, but I don't think a million people would fit in it. We can try, though. As for finding work, well, I'd like to find some first, so if you could just hold off sending in the population rush...

And, OK, sure, we have some earthquakes (PJ Evans #66). But no poisonous snakes!

#73 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:08 PM:

#69 mythago: Quite so. I recall a SoCal person covering her eyes in horror at the sight of Coop City (a large collection of very tall brick buildings). "One good jolt," she said, "and they'd all come crashing down!"

"Well," I replied, "a lot of flat roofs in LA would collapse under about a foot of snow, too."

"There've been earthquakes in New York!"

"There's been snow in LA!"

The point, of course, is that while earthquakes and snow do occur in NY and LA respectively, massive instances are rare to the point of nonexistence.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:09 PM:

What, no rattlesnakes?

Well, maybe they've all moved elsewhere.

#75 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:27 PM:

I read a lovely book which pointed out that one [specific] abandoned quarry has a higher body count than all the C.Horridus in America since Europeans got here.

...ah, found it: Landscape, with Reptile, by Thomas Palmer.

People FLIP OUT on snakes for no reason. Someone did a study where they put a rubber snake on the side of the road to see who would swerve to hit it. People swerved... someone ran over it multiple times and got out to either bludgeon or shoot it. I don't remember the details, alas.

#76 ::: Ragnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:49 PM:

My first spring in Oklahoma was a bad one for Tornados. We had a warning every week in May, and it scared the crap out of me. I didn't leave the house or drive when there was a watch, and I got every piece of the Tornado kit. But those crazy Oklahomans just went about their business during a watch, and during a warning some of them would go OUTSIDE to try and see the thing. After the storms, they get the power back within a few hours and rebuild any destroyed buildings pretty quickly.

This winter, we had two big ice storms, the kind that wouldn't bother me too much but no one in Oklahoma could drive on ice, and they didn't have enough resources to clear the roads. The storm was on Friday. We're still iced over, and only now have the main streets cleared. A lot of people don't have power still. I have a supply of food and aren't worried if the heat goes out, that happened at the time at home. My neighbors who are so nonchalant about Tornados, though, are really freaked at this.

One man's disaster, I guess.

#77 ::: Ragnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:55 PM:

#73 -- the exact same point I tried to make, only better and shorter.

#78 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 06:03 PM:

Don't diss snakes to me. Snakes are serious considerations, hereabouts.

#79 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 06:15 PM:

Back on the topic for a second:

What would these people do if they retired to a foreign country (Poland, say, or even Mexico)?

#80 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 06:59 PM:

#43: Aside from the fact that "Mom" apparently has no assets, no retirement accounts and no support from her 5 children... doesn't the story say that "Dad" was a WWII vet? I'm pretty sure the dependents of a deceased veteran are entitled to some benefits on that basis ...

As Lizzy @47 mentioned, my mom is widowed and lives comfortably in senior housing on SS, and if she were getting some bennies from Dad's service in WWII I'm sure she'd mention it.

He was wounded and received a Purple Heart. At his funeral in 1980, we got a folded-up flag, and I think the VA paid for his headstone. Other than that, as far as I know, nada.

I wonder if "Mom's" day-old bread is caused by the donut hole ...?

#81 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 07:35 PM:

I haven't seen any evidence that Bush and company intended to destroy SS. Certainly there are smart people who apparently are acting in good will, who think privatizing SS is a good idea. The rhetoric that paints anyone who wants any changes to SS at all as the devil incarnate is the kind of crap that belongs in an Ann Coulter column.

Now, given the competence of Bush and company, I'd hate to see them try to fix SS. (And I'm not a big fan of the privatization idea, which looks like a combination of corporate welfare for the fund managers and a massive opportunity to privatize profits and nationalize losses.)

#82 ::: Paul W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 07:36 PM:

Here's a variation (or maybe a precursor) of the petition, spotted on a motorcycle forum about two weeks ago:

Subj: President signs E.O. for illegals to get FULL S.S.

If a person works for 10 years in Mexico and then gets into the USA illegally for a minimum of 18 months they can file and collect Social Security from us for the FULL amount of S.S. money. No money from Mexico. Talk about bankrupt the S.S. fund. It will only take a few years once word gets out in Mexico. It has been on Fox News for the last two days. So, I called my congressman to find out if it is true. It is true and if the congress doesn’t make a law within 60 days the Presidents Executive Order will be law. Rep. Camp said they have been flooded with emails and phone calls asking just how in the hell can this happen. We will see.

My response:

Oh for God’s sake.

You can go to the White House web site and view a list (with descriptions) of every executive order President Bush has signed. Here’s the link.

Take a look yourself. I did, and I didn’t see any EO giving illegal aliens social security. Or amnesty. Or anything even remotely similar.

C’mon, think about it. Leave alone, for now, the idea that GWB would give Social Security to illegal aliens (like, what?), do you believe he can, especially as unpopular as he is right now, and with an opposition Congress, impose controversial dictates on an unwilling America simply by signing executive orders? No way. And if he tried, there’d be a revolt in the legislative and judicial branches. He’d never get away with it.

This is the kind of World Net Daily alarmist crap right-wing radio and TV love to spread around to “energize the base,” or, in other words, to stir up the dummies. And boy, does it work!

Yours,
Paul W.

#83 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 07:43 PM:

There is an issue with building in dangerous places, though. While everyplace faces some dangers, not everyplace is equally dangerous. There are beach houses built in places where the owners could never get insurance, because the likelihood of hurricane damage is too great. There's no reason at all why taxpayers ought to subsidize that.

My feeling is that it ought to be easier to get help if you're on the bottom of the heap money-wise. I think it works out the opposite way in practice. Also, at some point, we need to either be able to tell people we're not helping out with any future disasters common to the area (we'll repair your beach house once, but neer again), or be able to tell them not to build someplace. I think this is a place where libertarian instincts (let people take risks they deem appropriate) run into the broader political world, in which well-connected and wealthy people get all kinds of goodies from the government. I get the benefits of living on the beach, and the taxpayers cover my insurance.

#84 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:12 PM:

Anne #62: There's a reason for that. Frequently, the not-bottom-level generic or house brands are in fact made by the same manufacturers as the name brands. In effect, they ARE the name-brand products, just packaged differently. Tells you a lot about the markup level on name-brand packaging...

#85 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:18 PM:

I've had Kaiser's Medicare Plus (non-profit HMO) for many years now. This last year, with Medicare D added, I paid about $300 more for meds. I'd like to go back to before, please.

#86 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:25 PM:

Albatross, I'm afraid there's lots of evidence going back a long way that they want to play fast and loose with Social Security. Best guess is that their buddies in the financial industry would love to get their hands on that much money.

("And now, from those wonderful folks who brought you the S&L scandal --")

The funds that support the poor, sick, needy, widowed, and orphaned ought not be at the mercy of the marketplace.

#87 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 08:34 PM:

I'm not sure we're disagreeing. I think a huge part of the push for private accounts is the extra business it would provide for some investment funds, and the huge extra block of money that would go into the stock market. I'm just saying that while I think they do want their hands on that money, I don't see any reason to think they want the old and poor to starve. They simply want a cut of what's spent to prevent it.

Similarly, I don't see any evidence that the neocons wanted a disaster in Iraq. Sure, part of their coalition was built on expected profits for weapon makers and military contractors and sweetheart deals for reconstruction contract, perhaps even on expected effects on oil prices. But they appear to have believed they were going to succeed, not fail. (If the neocons invested their own money on their predictions of the invasion's effects on oil prices, they may find themselves far more concerned with social security than they had expected to be.)

#88 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:24 PM:

Turning back to immigration...two of the things I have found out recently are: (1) that a great many of our current Mexican immigrants, with papers and otherwise, are fleeing the economic collapse of Mexican agriculture--they are refugees, in other words--and (2) that part of the reasons for this collapse is a result of the NAFTA-allowed imports of US rice and pork, the production of which is subsidized, like almost all US agribusiness. The Mexican federal government could protest those subsidies under NAFTA; for whatever reason it has not.

Difficult problem, deserving of study and thoughtful action, but is probably going to instead get yet more destructive political activity on both sides of the border.

#89 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:31 PM:

albatross - what evidence would you accept that Bush was trying to take actions that would lead to the destruction of Social Security as we know it? Massive defunding of the program in a time of tax cuts, war, and deficit isn't enough for you?

The payroll tax was bumped up in 1983 to pay for precisely the revenue shortfall that Bush was trying to use privatization to solve. Thanks to productivity increases, the end of the social security trust fund gets pushed back every few years.

I don't think anyone is arguing that the Bush administration actively wants the old and the poor to starve - I just don't think they care. Social Security stands as an example of Democratic success and how government can work, and there have been attempts to dismantle it as long as it has been in existence.

The "wanting a disaster" is a straw parallel. (Earth-S? Hrm.) I think a closer parallel is that it's clear that the Bush administration was never really trying to set up a democracy in Iraq, and there's much evidence they were devoted to letting the free market provide for postwar reconstruction. Were they trying to destroy Iraqi society and create a new refugee crisis? Nope. But how much do they seem to care about what happened?

With the Bush administration, the rhetoric rarely matches the reality, and reality rarely influences policy.

#90 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:36 PM:

albatross --

There are two widely historically supported views of what governmental mechanisms are for.

One is to secure the common welfare and to encourage a general prosperity; the other is to make secure established wealth and preeminence. (Wealth generation vs wealth concentration.)

The later really does want the old and poor to starve. It really does want to run blood in the streets and slaughter the tens of thousands.

It's built on a combination of fear and the belief in the inferiority of others, and the obvious inferiority of others -- in their suffering, dying, and impossibility of disobedience -- is required by the world view.

Look at the neocon pundit class response to the Iraq disaster -- it will turn out fine if only we kill more Iraqis. Maybe even all the Iraqis.

And yes, people like Brad DeLong think there's an economic case to be made for privatization of a portion of Social Security, and Brad's a smart guy. (Smart enough to recognize that anything the Bush administration has anything to do with will be worse, not better.)

The problem is that there is no market; you only have a market when you can say "no". ("No, I don't care if I ever have that." So you can have a market for shoes if there are fifty kinds of shoes, but not if there is one kind, and one maker.)

You have to be cared for when you're too old to work, or you die. There's no market there, just necessity.

There's also no honesty; thirty years of the exaltation of selfishness has left the answer to "why don't more people invest in stocks?" as "the people who deal in stocks consider defrauding me a virtue, and are able to get laws re-written to make their fraud legal". Take a look at the student loan particle or consider what the eighties Savings and Loan scandal means -- it means the government will fish you out of your giant fraud scheme and let you keep the money. (Much of which went to fund the current neocon political machine.)

Nothing, absolutely nothing, about stupidity precludes malice.

#91 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:46 PM:

A couple of months ago, Atrios got into an argument with Brad DeLong about "private accounts". There is no need for them, as there is no Social Security "crisis".

Nobody's said it more succinctly:

Atrios on private accounts

No

Look, people who advocate adding "personal accounts" to Social Security are just stupid people. Really, just morons. There's no reason to do it. There's no reason to take any part of Social Security contributions and put them in a little fund account with my name on it. If you think some Social Security contributions should be invested in the stock market (I don't) to raise returns overall, then it can be stuck into an index fund or managed by a fund manager or whatever. I still think that's a bad idea, but there's a rationale for it. There's no rationale for dividing that up into millions of individual accounts. There's no rationale for letting individuals "control their own money" by letting them choose across some finite number of managed funds. Social Security is a lovely program which works just fine and really needs no changes other than extraordinarily nonurgent tweaks to the tax formula at some point. And, no, there's no need for modest benefit cuts. There's no need for means testing it. There's no need for any of these things The Serious People like Bob Kerrey want to do. There's no need to strike a "grand bargain" which combines some stupid things with some smart things because there's no need to do so. Leave it alone.

There is no problem with the Social Security system. People who continue to argue that there is - and that the problem can be "solved" with the magic private accounts fairy - either have broken brains or are attempting to push an agenda for ideological reasons or for personal enrichment for themselves and their kind.

#92 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Ken Hirsch: I've been looking at your online profile. It's kind of odd.

Anyone want to bet that Mr. Hirsch is going to end up wishing that "online profile" was replaced with "X-ray" before long?

#93 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Teresa's pointed at the obvious reason for private "Social Security" accounts: not just controlling the money, but getting to rake off part of it no matter how poorly they do with the rest of it. They rake off even for work a pocket calculator could do; the provider of my employer's 401(k) charges .7% for an index fund covering the S&P 500, compared to the .18% (for small accounts; less for large ones) I just found.

Ken (if you're still listening): what do you think pulling 1/3 of the contributions out of the system would do, if not destroy it? SS is still running a surplus, but not that big a one.

wrt earthquakes: I don't know about Philadelphia, but a seismologist lecturing at the Boston science museum said that the story about ringing churchbells in Boston had no documentation. It is \possible/ that east-coast bells rang from some of the follow-on effects: the documented series of earthquakes, running (roughly) south of the Ohio, which may have been triggered by New Madrid kicking loose the more easterly faults. (One question I regret not asking is whether there might have been much worse quakes in KY et al much later if New Madrid hadn't happened.)

#94 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:45 AM:

My mother was a WWII veteran, and was in the labor force almost her entire adult life to retirement age... all of her sisters worked before they married, one of them who was also a veteran stopped after because her husband got annoyed when she couldn't get time off from work to go on a trip with him, another wound up working part-time for her husband who was an accountant (she was another WWII veteran), and the eldest sister after she retired for a while was taking college classes at University of Massachusetts in Boston or some such--she'd gotten accepted into Radcliffe when college age but the funds weren't there for her to do, not with five younger siblings (there was an older brother, who was an adult and I presume was working by then).

My mother's mother told her offspring that a woman should never be in the situation of being being unable to leave a bad husband due to financial dependence and inability to earn a living on her own to support herself and any children... and I expect that not planning finances out In Case something happened to the Meal Ticket, fell into the same category.

#95 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 04:23 AM:

Graydon #90: "Nothing, absolutely nothing, about stupidity precludes malice."

Good point. Very calculated, competent stupidity. Don't ever forget it.

Albatross, I have trouble believing that the entire administration is made up of people who are such morons that they're consistently working towards a world they don't want. Because they have been consistent in working towards all the things you said you don't believe they want.

#96 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 08:22 AM:

Albatross, given the number of times this administration has been told by experts that the things it wants to do are going to result in bloody disaster, and the administration has ignored them, punished them, and replaced them, learning nothing from ignoring, punishing, and replacing the previous experts who turned out to be right--well, that argues against the administration giving a sh*t about whether or not their pet policies are good for the country and the world as long as the administration gets what it wants.

I don't give their supposed sincerity the benefit of the doubt any longer. There isn't enough evidence for it, and plenty against it.

#97 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 08:51 AM:

Another reason for loving the thought of privatization is not restricted to the fund managers who'd benefit from the investment fees.
If lots and lots of money goes into the stock market, the price of stocks in general goes up (see the 1990s for an example of this, as the level of investment increased, partly because people wanted to get into a booming market, and partly becuse more money was going into 401ks and IRAs and had to be invested somewhere).
If the value of stocks generally will increase, then the value of one's investments increases, and they can be sold for a substantial profit. Eventually, of course, the market goes down, and many people will sell out, driving prices even lower, so that people with cash can pick up bargains, which can again be sold at a profit when the market goes up. There are those who hope that the amount of money that enters the market when private-investment SSA accounts arrive will make the 1990s increase in stock prices look like a molehill.
While selling high and buying low is part of the traiditional wisdom of Wall Street, so is working the angles. Promoting private SSA accounts is a way to bring a new angle into the picture.

#98 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 09:12 AM:

And now we have Dave Neiwert's summary of the anti-immigration presidential candidacy of wingnut Tom Tancredo.

Tomorrow, maybe, I'll figure out What I All Means; it's too latearly for me to think about this now.

#99 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 09:15 AM:

There's a certain comfort in the assumption of malice. Malice, whether directed at you personally or at you as a member of a class, implies that you matter . . . that you (or the class of which you are a member) at the very least count as an obstacle to be removed or a difficulty to be overcome. Stupidity and blind selfishness, on the other hand, don't care if you're in their way or not.


Either way, of course, you end up smashed. But it's doubly galling to realize that it wasn't even personal.

#100 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Oh. My. Goodness!

I believe that out of State long distance is actually cheaper than in-state?

When we were really poor, we NEVER had pizza "delivered." We bought the cheap frozen stuff at the store.

FYI - Illegals are now using valid IDs (see "Identity Theft"). They get jobs under these IDs and work, and pay SS & medicare taxes. (Google "ICE identity theft")

And there actually IS a problem with Social Security, but it's NOT that the system is "going broke." If you're interested, I did a blog entry on the subject some time ago. go here:
http://grndexter.livejournal.com/?skip=80
and read the entry titled, "Is Social Security "Going Broke"???"

#101 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:01 AM:

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

#102 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Not too long ago, Russia and Georgia got into a dispute. This escalated into a pretty severe shouting match, and one result was that Russia managed to deport every Georgian inside of 2 weeks. Legal or illegal Georgian residents, all sent "home." All their businesses shut down too.

If there was a "will" to end illegal immigration, or to "do something," then we could. But we as a country don't want to do anything about it, just bellyaching, since illegal immigration benefits the people who tend to vote republican, while hurting the people who tend to vote democrat. As this administration has repeatedly shown, there is nothing too important, nor too trivial, that it cannot be smothered with scortched earth partisan politics.

#103 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:43 AM:

A.R. #32: I'm not sure this is what you meant by "realistic", but there is "The Great Wall of Mexico" by that naughty man John Sladek, 1977.

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:58 AM:

a lot of flat roofs in LA

A little OT, but am I the only one who's been hearing people use 'rooves' as the plural of 'roof' for the past few years? I heard on the BBC yesterday, which I must confess shocked me just a bit.

#105 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 11:00 AM:

One of the (generally, few) benefits of getting divorced is no longer being in my wingnut brother-in-law's mailing list. I very nearly swallowed my tongue the day I saw my address right next to Bill "Papa Bear" O'Reilly. *shudder*

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 11:03 AM:

You want bad, Skwid? My sister-in-law's adoptive son was born last Friday, and January 12 is also Rush Limbaugh's birthday. (I much prefer my having the same birthday as Cardinal Richelieu.)

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 11:33 AM:

My birthday is the same as Ferdinand Marcos.

September 11.

Got you all beat.

#108 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 11:35 AM:

I'm sorry Serge but Skwid's is worse. He runs the risk of papa bear sending him an email.

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 11:42 AM:

bryan @ 108... I think my sis-in-law might disagree with you. When I told her about Rush last night, her reaction was "Gross!"

Sept 11, eh, Xopher? I'll have to remember that. Meanwhile, my birthday is also Arthur Freed's, who was in charge of MGM's musicals during its glory days. I'm not sure I want to sing in the rain, but a dream sequence involving Cyd Charisse, on the other hand...

#110 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:11 PM:

well then ask sis about getting an email from Bill papa bear o'reilly.

I think that's gonna come up higher on the gross o meter.

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Yes, bryan, but an O'Reilly email is not that likely to happen while birthdays happen no matter what.

#112 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Serge @ #109 - Cyd Charisse...sigh. I desperately wanted to be Cyd Charisse when I was 7. The style, the grace, the look, those legs. What a package.

#113 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Tania: Oh yes. And she wasn't blonde. I'm still sighing after The Green Dress from Singin' in the Rain.

#114 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Sigh indeed, Tania. I think my favorite Cyd Charisse musical isn't Singin' in the Rain', but The Bandwagon, where she gets to act a lot opposite Fred Astaire. And, of course, to play a bad girl within one of the movie's numbers. By the way, did you know that she is the aunt of Nana Visitor, who played Kira on Deep Space Nine?

#115 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 01:09 PM:

When you assume malice on the other side of political issues, one thing you do is make it almost impossible to backtrack on your own position. For example, if anyone who doubts that Iraq can be made into a democracy is a racist (thinking Arabs aren't good enough for democracy), is wilfully ignoring the threat of Greater Islamistan taking over the world, etc., then it's really hard to back up and acknowledge your mistakes. If anyone who considers the USSR a dire threat is a McCarthyite who wants to see the poor forever downtrodden, it's hard to acknowledge that maybe engineered famines and work camps in Siberia aren't consistent with a decent society. You can see the consequences of this in current debate over the Iraq war, which seems to me plainly lost (given political constraints on what we're willing to do--we aren't imposing a draft to put half a million soldiers there for occupation duty), but which various right wingers are still trying to somehow spin as a victory that's being misrepresented by the media.

Indeed, by labeling the other side as evil, you can ignore both the good and bad points they make. You can tune out all inconvenient information that way--anyone who mentions global warming is an environmental extremist, anyone who mentions growing inequality is trying to incite class warfare, anyone who disagrees with the minimum wage wants the poor to starve to death. So don't bother evaluating their arguments.

Graydon's post is a nice example of this. There are two theories of government, which are easily labeled as the good guys and the bad guys. The bad guys want the poor to starve and want blood in the streets. Or, change the channel, and there are two theories of government: the good guys who want to protect you from crime and terrorism and let you make a living, and the bad guys who want to tax you into poverty, and give criminals and terrorists more rights than citizens.

I know I make a lot of parallels between left and right. My reason isn't to justify the right or attack the left. It's because it's easy to see other peoples' blind spots. It's easy for most people on the left to see how absolutely goofy is was to claim we were going to make Iraq into a stable democracy in a couple years. Saying "that's because people on the right are evil and they wanted Iraq to fail" is a great way of avoiding the lessons of that disaster, which are about how people blind themselves to obvious facts that contradict their political position.

#116 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Peter:

I think we don't do anything to stop illegal immigration because it's a coalition-splitting issue for both parties. That's because illegal immigrants compete with people mostly at the bottom--the really good jobs someone who wasn't really bright enough to do much more than barely graduate high school can hope for are mostly immigrant jobs now. But the people who make most of the decisions and policy in both parties aren't in that category, and know almost nobody in that category. If you and everyone you know is college-educated and professional, the fact that all the construction jobs are now done by illegal immigrants means construction is cheaper, but doesn't mean you or your kids can't find decent work. It's not like this is hurting real people or anything.

Now, this is a complex issue. Immigrant workers, legal or illegal, probably add a lot to our economy, make things cheaper, etc. But the benefit probably lands more at the top, and the costs (competition for jobs, overwhelmed public schools and emergency rooms, more crime in poor neighborhoods) mostly land at the bottom. Since both parties are run from the top, it's easy not to worry about those costs so much.

#117 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 01:24 PM:

I miss John Sladek.

#118 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 01:59 PM:

albatross@115: Saying "that's because people on the right are evil and they wanted Iraq to fail" is a great way of avoiding the lessons of that disaster, which are about how people blind themselves to obvious facts that contradict their political position.

The point several people have tried to make is that refusing to learn from disasterous, fatal mistakes--not caring enough to learn from those mistakes, which cause so much misery and loss of life--qualifies as evil by virtue of not giving a damn.

When so many experts predicted exactly this result in Iraq, and were told to sit down and shut up by the administration--were, in fact, painted as terrorist-loving traitors for presenting inconvenient facts--over and over during the course of the war--for God's sakes, it doesn't take "being on the left" to think that people who so consistently ignored what they didn't want to hear really didn't care what happened in Iraq. They didn't care whether or not it failed. There's no practical difference between "wanted it to fail" and "didn't give a shit if it failed so continued to act in ways that were obviously leading to failure."

#119 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Serge and TexAnne - oh yes! Brunette, and fabulous. I remember having a slight bit of bubble bursting happen when I found out her singing was dubbed. I got over it. Look at how she can dance.

Another one for the list is Silk Stockings. Add in Garbo's Ninotchka, and you have a fun evening of compare and contrast.

Serge - I actually knew that, but only because my goddaughter's middle name is Nerys.

Unverified Trivia: In Singin' in the Rain, when Cyd is wrapped up in the long piece of fabric, Gene Kelly apparently got snapped across the chest by the end of the fabric, and it marked him like a whip. Yikes.

#120 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 03:00 PM:

"Kira Nerys—lovely Kira Nerys, how she dances."

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 03:17 PM:

Tania... You watch Turner Classic Movies a lot, don't you? So do my wife and I. And yes, Cyd knew how to dance. As for Silk Stockings versus Ninotchka, I think I prefer Cyd's. Got any favorite?

Xopher... Was that Gul Dukat?

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 03:44 PM:

Cyd Charisse, nee Tula Ellice Finklea...

#123 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Serge - Nope. I only get broadcast TV, so these days I rent. Decide on a theme, pick a night, plan a meal, etc. I don't have cable or a Tivo, because if I did, the husband and I might never leave the house.

My Cyd favorite is Ninotchka. My classic favorite right now is To Have and Have Not

When I was a kid we didn't have TV reception where I lived on the family homestead*, but we did have a TV. We had Pong, a videodisc player, and eventually VCRs, etc. Living with one's grandparents meant watching classic films. My aunts would send boxes of videodiscs and videotapes to the grandparents. I missed out on Saturday morning cartoons, but I got Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and Humphrey Bogart. I think I did ok.

*We didn't have phones either. And we were on the road system.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Tania @ 123... I think my favorite classic movie right now is Sahara. Bogart and his tank's crew pick up people on the way back home, and vanquish the Nazis as they go. I also never get tired of 12 angry men.

#125 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Re: Cyd Charisse -- if you ever get the chance, catch her dance on the volcano in _Sombrero_.

It's in the last part of the film (don't bother with the first two stories) and it is gorgeous. Choreography by Hermes Pan...

#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Lori... Is Sombrero the one where Cyd dances with Ricardo Montalban, and Ann Miller? If so, yes, I saw it. Amazing how things can be sexy without people touching.

#127 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Bob@91: to be fair, and without knowing the specifics, if it came down to an argument about economics between Brad and Atrios (whoever they are) then I'd probably go with Brad every time...

#128 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 05:53 PM:

(Okay, that was unclear. I know who Brad is, no idea who Atrios is.)

#129 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 06:07 PM:

Aconite:

Okay, but I'm finding it really hard to believe that most people supporting the Iraq war didn't care whether it failed or not. Bush is looking at the second worst thing that can befall a president (short of resigning in disgrace or being tossed out)--he's going to spend the rest of his life seen widely (and correctly) as a failure as president, somewhere between Carter and Nixon. The Republicans have just been handed their heads in the midterms, with more to come in 2008. The neocons have lost a great deal of their influence. Your model of the world seems to require that those people don't care about that. That lifelong Republicans who are intimately tied into that party and are a major power within it don't mind seeing their party get clobbered, and their own influence within the party dwindle. That people who spent years hoping for a shot at deciding US foreign policy based on a grand strategy of forced democratization and an updated version of an empire don't mind that they blew their shot at power, and will never see another. That people whose earning power as lobbyists is directly related to whether the Republicans are in power, don't care that the Republicans have signed their name on a genuine foreign policy disaster.

Now, if you say that they don't really care if they screw the nation over in ways that doesn't get blamed on them, while that seems uncharitable, it's at least plausible. But this isn't the CEO running the company into the ground to max out his stock options, it's the CEO running the company into the ground and destroying half his own net worth in the process.

I think that neocons in particular were blinded by an ideology. I think Republicans more generally were blinded by pretty rhetoric, and by some really effective us-vs-them group cohesion tactics. They seemed to believe that they were going to succeed, and that all the experts telling them they were nuts could safely be ignored. They imagined that their success would change the world for the better. And I suspect that too few of the decisionmakers had any real understanding of what occupation and nation building would mean. Maybe too few were ever in the military, maybe too few had studied up on insurgencies, maybe they were too effectively played by Chalabi and his cronies.

Now, this was goofy. There should have been some adult supervision, keeping the ideologues from running the show. Under Clinton or Bush I, there would have been--those guys had their flaws, but they were manifestly adults. I think a lot of people imagined Cheney would be the adult supervision in this administration, but it didn't work out somehow. Powell did his best, I think, but wasn't able to override the president.

And so we got a disaster. I can't see how any of the decisionmakers that got us into this profited from it. Even if they got rich as a result, I can't see how they would call it a profit. The way Lyndon Johnson had Vietnam hung around his neck, the way Nixon and Ford had Watergate and the pardom hung around their necks, that's Iraq for W. It'll be the first line in his obituary, forty years from now. The president who lost in Iraq, leading to timid US foreign policy for the next decade, probably one cause of the fast rise of China to prominence, the takeover of Taiwan, and the development by South Korea and Japan of open nuclear weapons programs.

I just don't see how this disaster could be attributed to indifference about the result. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

#130 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 06:26 PM:

Aconite, from a capitalist standpoint, the war hasn't been a disaster at all. Just the opposite: it's been a total success. Remember the military-industrial complex?

As for the elections, well, I'm a batty conspiracy theorist, but I believe that the Republicans gave the Democrats that election. Talk of voter fraud and massive protest if there seemed to be any problems was everywhere in the leadup to the election. To my mind, the Republicans thought, "Well, we'll give them this one, so they'll give up the vote-rigging talk. Then, in 2008, when it matters more, we'll rig it our way."

A lot of the election rigging is an indisputable fact of public record (an example: the shifting of voting districts actually means, nationwide, that Republican votes count more than Democrat votes). I don't think it's too farfetched. But I'm also a liberal wingnut, I guess.

#131 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 06:31 PM:

Ay, I obviously meant albatross, not Aconite. Sorry.

#132 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Have we shifted from wingnut spam and illegal immigration to Iraq? Okay.

All the talk of flowers and WMDs aside, SOME of us supported the idea of going into Iraq for other reasons. That we've historically ignored, and sometimes even supported other inhuman monsters who murder their own people by the bushel basket goes without saying, so that's wasn't really a justification either. That Saddam was a charismatic leader [by Arab lights] and had designs on the future would come closer, but it still fails the crucial test of a vital US interest imposed by the Weinberger Doctrine.

One of the MAIN reasons I was in favor of going in was to establish a strategic and tactical base of operations to stage a build-up in order to take on Iran. After all... we've been at war with them and their proxy "terror" armies for nearly 30 years now. They have been doing most of the shooting, but we've got in our licks too - such as nearly totally destroying the Iranian Navy at one point.

But before the initiation of hostilities in Iraq, or perhaps I should say, the continuation of hostilities, I had NO idea that the leadership in Washington DC was so totally inept and lacking in either the sense to listen to professional war-fighters, or the base knowledge required to realize what Albatross said, that they lacked "real understanding of what occupation and nation building would mean." (I believe that plans existed to provide for the establishment of control over civil affairs after the shooting stopped, but were ignored by the "leadership.")

It is my view that at the present time, there remain only two options. 1. Leave. NOW. or 2. Fight a holding action while the draft is re-established to build up and train US ground forces, and then PROPERLY occupy the nation and supply the currently lacking security that is needed for the establishment of civil order and self defense capabilities. (A five to ten year undertaking.)

I don't think that I could find any takers to bet that #2 will happen - especially with the near total lack of leadership now in DC in both the Congress and the Executive. Which leaves only option #1.

Then the question becomes - Iran.

#133 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 07:46 PM:

grndexter --

Iran has, through clever use of proxies and disinformation, caused the United States to kick its own ass.

In a just world, responsibility for this would be stapled to George W. Bush's forehead, and quite some other foreheads besides, but that doesn't change the fact that the US has just plain honest lost this one.

albatross --

Remember Teresa's discussion of how criminal organizations loot reputable firms they get control of? They don't generally care if the firm stays in business after, and I think a lot of that is what's going on here. It doesn't matter what the war in Iraq does so long as it serves their personal purposes. George cares if he has to wear "loser" for the rest of his life, but the folks who are raking off billions in misappropriated funds may not, since a quick victory is a worse opportunity for profit.

What would you consider evidence of being actually wrong and evil?

Oriental despotism works great if you're the god-king of Summer; it's about the best social organization you can get at that tech level and population size.

It isn't even vaguely appropriate at this tech level and population size, and much of what appears to drive the neocon movement is a terror of having to accept that the context in which many of their social axioms are defensible has been, and is being, replaced with a context in which their social axioms are not defensible.

#134 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 08:07 PM:
Oriental despotism works great if you're the god-king of Summer; it's about the best social organization you can get at that tech level and population size.
It isn't even vaguely appropriate at this tech level and population size, and much of what appears to drive the neocon movement is a terror of having to accept that the context in which many of their social axioms are defensible has been, and is being, replaced with a context in which their social axioms are not defensible.

Then I propose that we repatriate Bush, Cheney, and the neocons to Mesopotamia and Egypt in the fourth millennium B.C. They can found "civilization" for us (sorry, in a dark mood, recalling a Stanislaw Lem story in The Star Diaries along similar lines)

#135 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 08:21 PM:

It is my humble opinion that there is no such thing as a safe place. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunami or volcanoes -- there is something near your backyard that can kill you, and will try to, sooner or later.

There is a reason Mr. MacDonald keeps telling us that we should have a jump bag packed and by the door...

That reminds me: My house rode out the last tsunami, but it's 86 feet above and a block from sea level, so there is no guarantee that it will ride out the next one. When we went on tsunami watch the other night after that quake in the Kuriles, I realized to my chagrin that we are only prepared to shelter in place. I packed what I thought we'd need to camp in the car at the top of our road in case NOAA announced that this was THE BIG ONE, but it would really help my peace of mind to have a bag ready to go. Could somebody direct me to Mr. MacDonald's posts about jump bags? It's going on the top of my to-do list this time around!

PS: That night, our daughter was running a fever of 102.6 F, so we were only going to leave if NOAA was reporting huge waves out west. Does anybody have suggestions for safely moving a child who's ill? We were going to wrap her up, put a scarf over her mouth, and put a big bag of blankets and sickroom supplies in the car.

#136 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Jenny Islander, the last time I had a fever of 102.5F, I was driving home from the clinic and was able to brake quickly enough to avoid being hit by a driver going the wrong way, being chased by police.

Seriously, you do need to keep her hydrated and warm.

I was thinking it was time to link to Jim's winter advice. The Container Store has a wind-up radio/flashlight on sale for $9.99.

#137 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 09:23 PM:

I got an e-mail from Jerry McNerney's office, telling everyone on their mailing list about a mailer that the NRCC had sent out this month with this same theme: The Illegals Are Going to Be Collecting SS Because Your Congressman Voted For...

I referred them to this thread, specifically because it's the same meme in a different medium.

#138 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:20 PM:

grndexter #132: What, exactly, are you suggesting that the US do re Iran?

#139 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:21 PM:

McNerney's newsletter. I think we're going to be hearing a lot of this, for the next two years. And they're going to try to use it to turn people away from the polls, and crank up the DHS police as the shock troops of the right; in some states I expect a return to pre-Voting Rights Act turnout levels.

#140 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 10:23 PM:

grndexter: I had NO idea that the leadership in Washington DC was so totally inept and lacking in either the sense to listen to professional war-fighters, or the base knowledge required to realize what Albatross said, that they lacked "real understanding of what occupation and nation building would mean."

Were you paying attention at the time to what they were saying? I forget when -"we \make/ new realities for you reality-based types to discuss"- came out, but if it was before that should have been a huge warning; the stomping on Shinseki, and even the fact that they were obviously lying about WMDs (people who habitually lie can also be good at lying to themselves), happened way in advance.

As for "taking on" a nation much larger than Iraq, without even the figleaf of a casus belli -- why did you think that would work? Destroying Iran wouldn't need a base the size of Iraq, and making it over would have taken not the Right's wet dream of a million-man army but a million men on the ground (never mind how much support that would take) -- at a minimum.

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 12:53 AM:

The thing that worried me right up front was the rhetoric about the Iraqis welcoming the troops with candy and flowers, and the slow dawning of realization in me that the people talking like that weren't just spreading BS for the rubes, that they actually believed it. And the fact that our goal in Iraq almost instantly transitioned from the sensible one of removing a threat (apparently a nonexistent threat, but if there had been one, the invasion might have been a sensible response) to this bizarre theory, also apparently believed by the decisionmakers, that we were going to install a democracy in Iraq, and then the dominoes of Middle Eastern dictatorships were going to topple into the democratic world.

From this, I've watched a certain set of neocon/right wing types do their best Winston Churchill impersonations, talking about a Clash of Cultures and the threat of Islamic domination of the West.

I'm trying to remember this, because I assume I'll see it again--it's the signature of ideology and political necessity that's blinding otherwise smart people to obvious facts in front of their faces. It's the process by which we must have ended up in Vietnam, by which the Japanese must have decided to start an obviously unwinnable war with the US, by which the British and French allowed Germany to rearm and set the stage for the second world war.

#142 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 01:11 AM:

It should not be forgotten that everything happening in Iran right now is the chickens coming home to roost. The US overthrew a popularly-elected government in Iran in order to reinstall the Shah as our puppet. This, in turn, led directly to the rise of the Ayatollahs and the current regime.

Another thing I take delight in reminding right-wing diehards about: when Iran blew up in our faces, Iraq fought on our side. We took an ALLY and turned them into a rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth enemy. Not much more stupid than that.

I'll grant that Saddam Hussein was every horrible, evil, nasty thing the right-wingers say he was. But he was also the Very Large Cork in the mouth of the hornets' nest. We pulled the cork, and should not now be surprised by the predictable results.

#143 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 07:31 AM:

Jenny Islander@135:

Jump kits (that's http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/emerg_kit.htm if it doesn't come through in link form for some reason)

These ML archive threads talk about jump kits, and have useful discussions in the comment threads:

Emergency preparedness redux

Real emergency preparedness

#144 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 08:13 AM:

#134: "Then I propose that we repatriate Bush, Cheney, and the neocons to Mesopotamia and Egypt in the fourth millennium B.C. They can found "civilization" for us"

... sounds like an even darker version of Douglas Adams' theory that civilisation descends from a bunch of exiled telephone sanitisers, advertising account executives, middle managers and security guards.

#145 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 09:33 AM:

In #138 Fragano Ledgister wrote: "grndexter #132: What, exactly, are you suggesting that the US do re Iran?"

I'm not making suggestions. As I said, that is the question.

All the boogermen, the specters of evil that Bush raised to justify attacking Iraq are REALLY THERE in Iran. In addition, they have been, and continue to attack US Forces, kill US Citizens, and commit egregious acts of war. And they have have done so for nearly 30 years without a response from the US. Such lack of response is exactly what led Ossama to believe that we are weak and therefore an easy target, and that led DIRECTLY to the WTC's destruction.

If we consider the terrain in Iran, it's an ugly place to have to fight a war. Were we to send ground troops in there, we'd have two enemies - the Iranian fighters and the land. So should we bomb them back to the stone age to avoid the necessity of sending in troops? A country without electricity or potable water has a hard time maintaining the infrastructure to pursue war. (Yeah, yeah. Gas prices would go up. So what!)

Or is there currently REAL progress being made in Iran, politically? Were the recent elections that eliminated most of their Whack-Job Fearless Leader's support, and almost guaranteed that he'll soon be gone, enough to withhold the military card?

NK has, or says they have, nukes. But they can't deliver them reliably. Iran could deliver a nuke to anywhere in Europe, and is actively working on their missile program. Iran and the NK have a missile development agreement. What other treaties do they have between them? Perhaps a mutual defense treaty? If the US attacks Iran, does the PDRK fire a thousand (plus) artillery guns at Seoul and open a second front? (NK would get their head handed to them by the ROK army.)

DO we pre-emptively attack? DO we wait? WILL Bush wait? Or is he sending the 2nd carrier to the Persian Gulf as a goad, to provoke the Iranians into attacking it with Sunburn missiles and maybe sink it to give him the justification for a draft and to start WW IV?

And I realize that this will get me boiled in oil here - but the ONE thing I suggest at this time is that we DO reinstate the draft. Our nation's defense is too important to let politics destroy it, and the army is currently too depleted in manpower terms and equipment terms to fight a major war, or even another minor war. Both men and machines have been squandered in Iraq.

Iran is the puzzle. Will we solve it successfully? Don't know. My main hope now is that nothing happens until PERHAPS wiser, cooler heads take over in DC. Then we'll see just how intransigent Iran as a nation is, or if they and we can work something out that will save our children and their's.

#146 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 10:46 AM:

#134:
So that's where the mirror-universecame from!

And, just to add to the wingnut level, there's an op-ed by D'Souza in this morning's LA Times which apparently - I wasn't about to /pollute/ /my/ /mind/ read it - that argues that the terrorist are the fault of Clinton and Carter. I wrote and said that he's a wingnut.

#147 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 10:58 AM:

One of the MAIN reasons I was in favor of going in [to Iraq] was to establish a strategic and tactical base of operations to stage a build-up in order to take on Iran.

How about Afghanistan?

#148 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 11:14 AM:

grndexter: All the boogermen, the specters of evil that Bush raised to justify attacking Iraq are REALLY THERE in Iran.

You mean "bogeymen", and no, they aren't. Iran has no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, nor does it have any links to al-Qaeda. WMDs and links to al-Qaeda were the reasons for invading Iraq.

In these respects, of course, Iran resembles Iraq very closely.

In addition, they have been, and continue to attack US Forces, kill US Citizens, and commit egregious acts of war.

Iran and the US have committed acts of war against each other. The difference is that the US has actually attacked Iranian soil, and Iran hasn't attacked US soil. Both sides have killed each other's soldiers and civilians - the US directly, Iran generally indirectly.

And they have have done so for nearly 30 years without a response from the US.

Wrong, as noted above. In the last 30 years, the US has a) invaded Iran b) shot down Iranian airliners c) attacked Iranian warships. Iran, meanwhile, has confined itself to supporting other groups such as Hizbollah, who, very occasionally, kill an American or two. Compared to the US record of supporting countries that have killed Iranians by the hundred thousand, I think this shows remarkable restraint.

Such lack of response is exactly what led Osama to believe that we are weak and therefore an easy target, and that led DIRECTLY to the WTC's destruction.

Oh, yes. Osama. Remind me, have we arrested him yet? Don't you think we should, before we get distracted again?

And I realize that this will get me boiled in oil here - but the ONE thing I suggest at this time is that we DO reinstate the draft. Our nation's defense is too important to let politics destroy it

And what are you going to do with this large conscript army that will make the country any safer? If you want to reduce the risk of a nuclear attack, you could look into securing nuclear materials. If you want to fight terrorism, you could beef up port security. NONE OF THESE REQUIRE TWENTY DIVISIONS OF INFANTRY. The only time that twenty divisions of infantry will be any use in actually defending your nation is if Canada decides to invade.

When you start defining other nations as puzzles (German: Frage) you start looking for solutions (German: Endlosung).

#149 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 11:19 AM:

CHip: Destroying Iran wouldn't need a base the size of Iraq, and making it over would have taken not the Right's wet dream of a million-man army but a million men on the ground (never mind how much support that would take) -- at a minimum

More like two million, actually. One per forty citizens. So that's a six-million-man army, allowing for troop rotations.

#150 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 11:21 AM:

grndexter @ 145

Which Iranian leader are you speaking of? Their Prime Minister, or the Ayatollah Khamenei, who actually has the power (and may or may not be a whackjob, since the US media don't seem to have a clue about him)?

Also, all the experts on nukes agree that Iran will need at least five years to reach the level of weapons, and they still won't be able to reach the US with a missile.

Nuking a country without being (genuinely) attacked by them first should get us 'rogue nation' status, and get Bush and Cheney on the short list at the Hague.

#151 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 11:51 AM:

ethan@131: Ay, I obviously meant albatross, not Aconite. Sorry.

Oy vey, people. What's with the constant confusion?
Aconite: glossy green leaves, yellow flowers, root system, smells of chlorophyll.
Albatross: feathers, webbed feet, smells of fish, flies long distances.

Brush up your biology, eh? Sheesh.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 12:01 PM:

Albatross, they both start with A.

Oops, I meant Aconite. :-)

#153 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 02:26 PM:

I never really believed it when some of the rasfc people said they got confused simply because two characters' names started with the same letter. However, I think you guys have just settled the question.

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Meanwhile, joann, I wonder what went thru Bill Shakespeare's head when he wrote Twelfth Night? I mean, one character called Viola, the other Olivia?

#155 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 04:19 PM:

148 ajay:
Iran has no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, nor does it have any links to al-Qaeda. WMDs and links to al-Qaeda were the reasons for invading Iraq

Iran is working on nukes (the UN inspectors found weapons grade residue in their refining equipment. Our "intelligence" services are notoriously inaccurate about these things.) To answer a later statement about controlling access to nuke material - Iran has their own uranium mines. And I believe it was IRAN who gassed the village during the Iran/Iraq war, not Saddam. (But they couldn't have if "they don't have...)

No terrorists? Iran has Hezbollah. Created, financed, and trained by Iran. (Al Queda is just one group. There are many. Just because a terrorist sponsoring State has no known links to THAT PARTICULAR group, doesn't mean they aren't a terrorist sponsoring State.)

Iran and the US have committed acts of war against each other. The difference is that the US has actually attacked Iranian soil, and Iran hasn't attacked US soil. Both sides have killed each other's soldiers and civilians - the US directly, Iran generally indirectly.

And what country was responsible for the taking of the US Embassy and hostages in Tehran, (embassy grounds are sovereign Territory of the nation that operates the embassy - thus US Territory)?

In the last 30 years, the US has a) invaded Iran b) shot down Iranian airliners c) attacked Iranian warships. Iran, meanwhile, has confined itself to supporting other groups such as Hizbollah, who, very occasionally, kill an American or two.

I missed the US invasion of Iran. When did that happen? It was a Hezbollah suicide bomber that blew up that MARINE barracks and killed 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army soldiers. Iranian gunboats and frigates have attacked US Navy ships on the high seas.

At the time THE (singular, not plural) Iranian airliner was shot down, US Naval forces were being engaged by Iranian Navy surface units in international waters. The primary blame for the shootdown incident rests squarely on the shoulders of the airline pilot or those who ordered him to do what he did. The airliner was not flying in established civil aviation corridors, took off from the airport and set a DIRECT COURSE for the Vincennes (CG 49), failed to answer or ID on both military and civilian emergency radio channels, had its IFF squawk turned off, and was duplicating the behavior of the Iranian air force a week earlier just before they fired anti-ship missiles at US vessels. There is a lot of information about the naval engagements that didn't make it into the newspapers, either.

Perhaps one of the things we could do with the expanded army would be to enforce our Southern border with troops. Currently the hapless National Guard is not allowed to even defend themselves, but have to run away when gun toting people come across the border from Mexico shooting at them. They have to RUN and leave the border open. Or maybe some of them could have gone to Iraq and helped to establish security after the opening phase of the war? Some of them could be sent to Central and South America to help build market roads for the people and dig wells? There is a lot of work in the world to be done. Soldiers don't have to be fighting all the time.

The surest way to avoid war is to be ready for it. The most certain way to end up at war is to appear weak and defenseless to those who would rule the world.

#156 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 04:46 PM:

The primary blame for the shootdown incident rests squarely on the shoulders of the airline pilot or those who ordered him to do what he did.

Those who ordered him to do as he did? Do you mean fly a regularly scheduled route, taking off in a normal fashion from a civilian airfield enroute to another civilian airfield, in a civilian airplane? Those orders?

The reason Vincennes shot down that aircraft was because the CIC talker on board Vincennes wrote down the altitude numbers on the status board in the wrong order.

I missed the US invasion of Iran. When did that happen?

Hint: Desert One.

#157 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 04:59 PM:

grndexter @155
I don't know if you're trying to make us even more of a bunch of hypocrites on the world stage, but a number of your proposals would have that effect. For instance:

The surest way to avoid war is to be ready for it. The most certain way to end up at war is to appear weak and defenseless to those who would rule the world.

I get the feeling that the leaders of both Iran and North Korea agree with you.

embassy grounds are sovereign Territory of the nation that operates the embassy

I know the Iranians agree with you there (vide Irbil).

Perhaps one of the things we could do with the expanded army would be to enforce our Southern border with troops...Some of them could be sent to Central and South America to help build market roads for the people and dig wells?

Now, that is an either/or, I think. I reckon shootouts on the border, with the inevitable mistakes and deaths of innocents that will occur, may somewhat damage the US Army's ability to be perceived as a friendly force in Latin America.

#158 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Well... here's the version that I read. They were there, I wasn't.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/flight801/stories/july88crash.htm

Hint: Desert One.

THAT is considered an "INVASION"??? ROTFLMBO!!! They didn't even make contact with the enemy! Intent doesn't count. To say nothing of the fact that it was a direct response to the Iranian INVASION and CAPTURE of US military, civilian, and diplomatic personnel, and classified materials at the US Embassy (sovereign US territory). Have to do better than that if you're going to say we invaded Iran. IF you want to classify it as a military response, it should be considered a "counter-attack" - not an "invasion."

#159 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 05:36 PM:

grndexter @ 155
Perhaps one of the things we could do with the expanded army would be to enforce our Southern border with troops...Some of them could be sent to Central and South America to help build market roads for the people and dig wells?

Peace Corps. What they do, and do well. The neocons are not fond of them, because they don't promote America Above All.

#160 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 05:52 PM:

grndexter @ 158
They didn't even make contact with the enemy! Intent doesn't count.

Who said invasion require contact with the enemy? Intent is the important part: that's why they were there, in another country without permission from its government.

Sounds like an invasion to me.

(Shooting down that Iranian airliner, even though it was a most regrettable mistake, is still an act of war. Look up the Lusitania some time.)

#161 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 06:14 PM:

Never mind that this whole thing started when the CIA reinstalled the Shah, toppingling a popularly elected Iranian government to do it.

If the US was really in favour of democracy, rather than capitalism, the later half of the twentieth century would have been a very different creature.

#162 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 06:29 PM:

grndexter, you may be unfamiliar with the backgrounds of the people with whom you're interacting, so allow me to drop a hint in your ear that some of those people have extensive career-military experience. As in special ops experience. You may wish to take that into account before you blow off their statements.

#163 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 06:32 PM:

I gotta respond to this from #145: Such lack of response is exactly what led Osama to believe that we are weak and therefore an easy target, and that led DIRECTLY to the WTC's destruction.

I've always found it pretty obvious that bin Laden attacked because he knew we would react the way we did, if not in the specific then in the general outlines. He knew we'd strike back, blindly, and make it look like we wanted war with the entire world of Islam--which we have. He wanted a holy war; for that, he needed to attack a strong country that would fight back.

And Aconite #151: Geez, I said I was sorry, what more do you want? I know that "aconite" is a kind of large bird, I've read the poem (y'know, "'Why look'st thou so?'--With my cross bow/I shot the Aconite."). Jeepers. No need to condescend.

#164 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 06:40 PM:

Xopher at #104:

I've always pronounced it 'rooves'. A bit of googling gave me this:
http://www.bartleby.com/64/C007/0165.html
so yeah, I wouldn't be suprised to hear it on the BBC.

#165 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 06:40 PM:

ethan@163: I've read the poem

Then you know that having Aconite around your neck is Really Not Good. Excellent. As long as we're clear on that.

#166 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 08:30 PM:

Albonite: glossy green feathers, webbed flowers, smells of chlorophyll, flies fish.

Acotross: yellow feet, root system around your neck, smells of long distances, Really Not Good.


Also:

The surest way to avoid war is to appear weak and defenseless to those who would rule the world.

The most certain way to end up at war is to be ready for it.

#167 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 08:34 PM:

Arrrgh, should have been "webbed chlorophyll" and "smells of flowers" up there. Sorry about that.

#168 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 08:49 PM:

#162 Aconite:

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for members and former members of the SOC, as I do for any other career military folks. I come from a military family. Although not "impressive" as such things go I did my time, went where I was told to go, did what I was told to do in both the surface Navy and the Seabees.

In my family my father is a retired Seabee, a distant uncle was a Full Bird in the AF (I even met him once! ;-D), a brother is retired Army, a brother-in-law is a retired USCG CDR, and I have a son and a daughter on active duty. [The son is currently enroute to the AO under discussion, the daughter just returned from a deployment last summer and will probably be going back next year. If you're a praying person, prayers on their behalf are solicited and appreciated.]

BUT - my family history, my personal history, the military past of these folks, or the stars on someone's shoulders, none of these provide error insurance. We can all make mistakes. We can all be sincerely WRONG, which is one of the principle reasons I like to discuss things.

When it is an issue that is and could cost lives, any and every thought and viewpoint should be examined.

#169 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 09:32 PM:

MD² @ 166 and 167

Are you sure it isn't glossy yellow feathers?

(ROFLMAO)

oh yes: your written English is working just fine.

#170 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 10:32 PM:

When it is an issue that is and could cost lives, any and every thought and viewpoint should be examined.

He stood there paralyzed, staring at the glass of wine in his hand, as if he would never move again. He could see the whole universe in there, but had no time to answer all the questions, let alone examine all the arguments to even only one of them.

Eventually he just drank it, without so much as an afterthought.


Sorry, couldn't resist.

More seriously:

BUT - my family history, my personal history, the military past of these folks, or the stars on someone's shoulders, none of these provide error insurance [...]which is one of the principle reasons I like to discuss things.

That a discussion should be left open to everyone is a no brainer to me too, but don't you think those who've dedicated their lives/time/work to a subject have a right to expect their words will hold a greater weight ?

That it falls on the laymen to prove the craft-masters wrong, and not the contrary ?

Sorry if I've been reading too much into your argument, and just missed the point, it's pretty late here. If it happens to be the case just ignore me.

@P J Evans:

a) Maybe, never actually seen one of those but in an imaginary dictionary, so I may have side-stepped the truth a bit without noticing.

b) Thanks, means a lot. It's just that I sometimes feel so constrained trying to write in English. The sentences just don't flow as fluently as they do in French.

#171 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 10:50 PM:

joann at #153:

I never really believed it when some of the rasfc people said they got confused simply because two characters' names started with the same letter.

Oh, hell, yeah. Initial letter, sure: but the names just need to be a similar length or shape on the page and I'll get confused.


Serge at #154

Meanwhile, joann, I wonder what went thru Bill Shakespeare's head when he wrote Twelfth Night? I mean, one character called Viola, the other Olivia?


Serge, I see your "Twelfth Night", and raise you a "King Lear": what was Bill the Shakes thinking when he called one character "Edmund", and another (apparently distinct!) character "Edgar"?

I'm sure there are other examples from Shakespeare, too, but those names are all hopelessly jumbled together in my head.

#172 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 11:42 PM:

abi, MDsqared, in all respect, there are some ideas held commonly by most nations, and the fact that those nations are opposed to each other does not mean that one side or the other is hypocritical in holding the same ideas. It's where they differ that matters.

The idea that is most often given as "if you want peace, prepare for war" goes back at least to Ancient Rome. The first enunciation I can find for it is in Horace, but perhaps you will find more respectable the formulation: "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace", from George Washington's First Annual Address to the Houses of Congress, 1790.

The idea that military affairs must be left to the military, or that soldiers (etc) have a better appreciation of the underlying issues than mere civilians can do, on the other hand, is one that I find somewhat less respectable.

The present government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has no use for secular democracy, and is only interested in diplomacy with the west in order to set western powers against each other. Thus, it will talk to the EU (and talk, and talk) so long as the EU does nothing to impede its aims, which are plainly to develop a nuclear capability. But this is only because the EU and its members have no power over Iran, but have some influence over its major adversary, the US.

This government is covertly at war with the US, and has been for many years. These people are not stupid. They have read history, and they know what would happen if the citizenry of the United States actually flat-out supported a war against them. It last happened in 1941, but if something like Pearl Harbour happened again, and the smoking gun was in their hands, they would be lucky personally to survive the year. They therefore wage assymetric war through catspaws, sponsoring terror. They won't ever present the US with a clear-cut causus belli.

But does this mean that the US must simply ignore them, indefinitely? What policy would you approve?

#173 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Well... here's the version that I read. They were there, I wasn't.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/flight801/stories/july88crash.htm

The results of the investigation that was promised when that article was written (did you notice that it was written the day after the event when what happened other than that an unarmed civilian airliner had been shot down wasn'known?) was that ... the CIC talker on Vincennes wrote down the altitude numbers on the status board in the wrong order.

No one quoted in the story you reference "was there."

Try this reference, instead: http://navsci.berkeley.edu/ns401/NS401%20Fall%2006/Vincennes-Lesson%20Guide&CounterBattery.pdf

Intent doesn't count.

Bullshit.

Please look this stuff up. Like you said, you weren't there.

#174 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 03:26 AM:

Dave Luckett (#172):

I must be pretty exhausted, because I don't see what I said to elicit that comment...

So far, what I said was:

"The surest way to avoid war is to appear weak and defenseless to those who would rule the world."

I think we can agree that's what Iran is doing right now ?

"The most certain way to end up at war is to be ready for it."

If you have a tool ready for use, chances are you'll use it. At the very least said chances are more important than if the tool wasn't there or still in safety lock (Do I have a gift for stating the obvious, or what ?).
One of the Chronicles I read from the "Tales from Froissart" particle was showing that old curse of uncontroled professional military (there it was mercenaries): a lord going to war with its neighbour because he had to keep the soldiers of his own land occupied.

Note that it doesn't invalidate "if you want peace, prepare for war" at all.


The idea that military affairs must be left to the military, or that soldiers (etc) have a better appreciation of the underlying issues than mere civilians can do, on the other hand, is one that I find somewhat less respectable.

My point wasn't that they necessarily have a better appreciation of the situation, and certainly not that it should be left to them, but rather that, given they're supposed (yeah, I know) to be the ones whith access to the most up-to-date formations and informations on the subject at hand, they should get to have thge first blow in the sparing contest. I know it gives them a great edge because that way they get to shape the debate, but I still think it's only fair.

#175 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:09 AM:

MD^2 @ 174: "The most certain way to end up at war is to be ready for it".... doesn't invalidate "if you want peace, prepare for war" at all.

It doesn't? Funny. It must just be me.

#176 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:58 AM:

An effective army is the jump-bag of nations.

#177 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 06:24 AM:

Another proverb:

"If all that you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

The military should have a lot of input on what uses it's put to: While the politicians can come up with all the hare-brained schemes they want, it's the military that's going to have to go and try to carry them out.

#178 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 07:59 AM:

Iran is working on nukes (the UN inspectors found weapons grade residue in their refining equipment. Our "intelligence" services are notoriously inaccurate about these things.)

Yes, they are, aren't they? Which direction were they inaccurate in about Iraq?

I believe it was IRAN who gassed the village during the Iran/Iraq war, not Saddam. (But they couldn't have if "they don't have...)

Well, you're absolutely wrong. Sorry.

No terrorists? Iran has Hezbollah. Created, financed, and trained by Iran. (Al Queda is just one group. There are many. Just because a terrorist sponsoring State has no known links to THAT PARTICULAR group, doesn't mean they aren't a terrorist sponsoring State.)

Yes, but - and follow me closely here - going after every random terrorist group in the world would be really stupid. Iran (Shia) supports Hezbollah (Shia) but helped the US fight al-Qaeda (Sunni) in 2001.

Mr Macdonald has dealt with the Vincennes business and the fiasco that was EAGLE CLAW - and, yes, sending armed troops into another country without permission is an invasion, no matter how badly you muck it up.

Or maybe some of them could have gone to Iraq and helped to establish security after the opening phase of the war?

That is actually a surprisingly good idea, insofar as the war was a good idea to start with. Unfortunately, without a time machine, there is no way that having a great big army in 2008 will allow us to send more troops to Iraq in 2003.

Some of them could be sent to Central and South America to help build market roads for the people and dig wells? There is a lot of work in the world to be done. Soldiers don't have to be fighting all the time.

It's a feasible idea - though it might be cheaper to expand the Peace Corps, as suggested by PJ Evans above, rather than train lots of people to fight wars and then send them off to do aid and relief work.

But that's not really helping defend the nation, which was your reason for wanting a great big army in the first place. You aren't arguing for a draft because it'll allow us to build roads in Guatemala; you're arguing for it for the defence of the United States. Remember?

#179 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:02 AM:

Lexica (#60) - I'm in the south west of Western Australia. The continent itself is largely tectonically stable (to the point where a tremor gets headlines and the occasional jerk as the Australian plate heads toward where Japan is now is major news around the country). Our biggest problem is the weather, and probably the best illustration of this is that today (19 JAN 2007) there are reports in the news about communities in South Australia being cut off due to flooding, while in Victoria they're hoping that the bushfires which have been raging for 50 days will actually be able to be beat, due to some rain falling in the right areas. We also had some major storms along the south-east coast of this state a few weeks back, due to a rather weak cyclone crossing the coast in the North-west (where they build for such things), and then not losing all its strength before it reached the south coast (where they don't).

There's also the long-term disasters, such as the drought which is contributing to both the bushfires (lots of dry vegetation around to act as tinder) and the floods (drought-affected soil actually starts to become water-resistant, so when rain *does* happen, the water pools on the surface, and causes a flood). We're sort of used to these, though. To the point where there's actually a poem ("Said Hanrahan") about the way that the farmers here have a rather negative outlook on whatever is happening, weather-wise.

Randolf (#88) - I'd guess the reason the Mexican government isn't protesting US subsidies on rice and pork in NAFTA is they've a (probably accurate) perception that it wouldn't achieve anything. Let's face it, when the rest of the world can't get the US *or* the EU to put agricultural subsidies into the GATT, it's a pretty fair guess that a smaller, less powerful government caught on the downside of a free trade agreement which is structured (as most US trade agreements are) to provide the benefits to the US isn't likely to get a hearing. Australia's been trying our hardest to get the US to ease off a bit on agricultural protectionism for decades (wheat, lamb, beef - all we'd like to do is sell the bloody stuff, thanks), even to the point of going to war in Afghanistan in the hopes of getting a favourable outcome, and we still haven't achieved jack. If there's one thing we've learned in the last twenty years over here (and all over the non-US and non-EU world, too) it's that "free trade" means we have to open up *our* markets and dismantle the protections on *our* industries, but you folks don't have to open yours, or stop your own protectionist practices.

It's a lovely little hypocrisy which is a hangover from colonial days, and it's a strong factor in my own ongoing distrust of US politicians and traders.

Albatross (#115) - Point taken; whether on the left or right, the people are people. However, they're equally likely to be selfish in both the short and long term (which can lead to the whole "blood in the streets" thing, because an overclass looking out for their own interests and an underclass looking out for theirs *will* clash) as they are to be altruistic. In the case of political positioning, particularly among the publicly visible members of the political classes, I would argue this selfishness should *never* be underrated as a driving force. Most people do the things they do for their own reasons - and those reasons can be as self-centred as "it makes me feel good" or as altruistic as "it will change the world for the better", and quite often both at once ("I feel good because I am being philanthropic by making this change for other people, which will make a good impact on my public image, and therefore lead to more good feelings for me").

In principle, I'm an anarchist of the moderate type (I believe strongly the most ideal form of government should involve the participation of all persons; modern representative democracy demonstrably does not). I'm also a socialist of the moderate type (I believe we all have a duty toward our fellow human beings, and where you have a large grouping of people, this is best administered through government channels in order to ensure this duty is actually carried out). I also distrust politicians these days, mainly because their career tends to revolve around the extreme short term (three to four years), while the decisions they make have their primary impact in the long term (twenty to fifty years). I'm also suspicious of them because the political environment in most countries appears to have been engineered so there is an absolute minimum of accountability in both the short and the long term for the decision makers (thus making it possible for the vast majority of politicians to make the decisions which will get them re-elected *now*, and not worry about whether or not there's going to be a negative impact in ten years).

grndexter (#132) - Oh gods above and below. You cannot seriously believe that winning a war in Iran is possible? I realise there's a strong tendency on the part of the people of the US to believe that the rest of the world doesn't fecking well exist, or that anywhere which isn't seen regularly on television is still at stone knives and bearskins levels of technology (or just plain stupid) but this time there are a lot more nations watching than you'd think.

Which nations? Well, let's start with *every* *single* *nation* which was once a colony of either the British, the French, the Spanish, the Germans, the Belgians, the Portugese or the Italians. That pretty much covers all of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as the whole of the southern Pacific, everything south of the US border, everything *north* of the US border and a fair old swag of Europe too. See, we've largely learned from history - we know what a colonial overlord looks like, and depending on which ones we got, we know what a bad one looks like too. You folks, you're not good colonial overlords, trust me. (Actually, I can't think of any nation which was). We are watching. We are watching, and there are probably people worrying (as I'm worrying now) because they can see the conqueror strain in the Western culture coming out good and strong in the US culture, and we're trying to figure out "who's next?"

Oh, by the way, there are probably a lot of people looking at the current situation in the Middle East and seeing parallels to the beginning of World War Two. You need to know what the equivalent of invading Poland is going to be. Would it be Iran? Would it be somewhere else? Keep an eye on what the rest of the world is saying.

#180 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:46 AM:

grndexter@168: BUT - my family history, my personal history, the military past of these folks, or the stars on someone's shoulders, none of these provide error insurance.

Dave Luckett@172: The idea that military affairs must be left to the military, or that soldiers (etc) have a better appreciation of the underlying issues than mere civilians can do, on the other hand, is one that I find somewhat less respectable.

I don't see where anyone said or implied either of those things. I see a couple of places where people indicated that military people probably have a better grasp of military issues than non-military people, and that it's generally a good idea to go on the assumption that an expert probably knows more than a layperson. My plumber is not infallible, but if that plumber and six or seven other Master Plumbers tell me that my understanding of sewage-related codes is faulty, I am going to reexamine what I thought was true and see if it is so, rather than assume they're all idiots because I see things differently.

MD²@166: Ow. I owe you.

#181 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:46 AM:

Grndexter (132):

"One of the MAIN reasons I was in favor of going [into Iraq] was to establish a strategic and tactical base of operations to stage a build-up in order to take on Iran."
You know, it's hard to think of a polite way to say this. I gather it has never occurred to you that we don't have the right to invade Iraq in order to use it as a convenient base of operations for invading Iran?
"After all... we've been at war with them and their proxy "terror" armies for nearly 30 years now."
No, we haven't. Relations with Iran have ranged from "strained" to "practically nonexistent", but we have not been at war.
"They have been doing most of the shooting, but we've got in our licks too - such as nearly totally destroying the Iranian Navy at one point."
That's the sentence that made me wonder whether you're a troll. As Jim Macdonald and others have pointed out, Iran has not been doing most of the shooting.
"1. Leave. NOW. or 2. Fight a holding action while the draft is re-established to build up and train US ground forces, and then PROPERLY occupy the nation and supply the currently lacking security that is needed for the establishment of civil order and self defense capabilities. (A five to ten year undertaking.)"
It's always easy to respond to a losing situation by saying we should throw more resources at it. That way, if we stop anywhere short of Gotterdammerung, you can claim that you were right all along, and that if only we had the balls to see it through (implicitly: like you do - only not, y'know, in the sense of actually doing anything about it), we would have won!

Yeah, right. And in theory, you can recover from a string of losing bets at Roulette by continuing to bet, and doubling your bet each time. Eventually the ball has to land on your number, and when it does, your winnings will cover all your previous losses. This is the underlying theory behind Bush's Surge. In practice, it's a fast and effective way to lose every penny you have.

#182 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 09:04 AM:

"It's always easy to respond to a losing situation by saying we should throw more resources at it. That way, if we stop anywhere short of Gotterdammerung, you can claim that you were right all along, and that if only we had the balls to see it through."

This is the basic rhetorical technique by which the War Party, in every country and every era, invariably tries to retroactively portray itself as having been right, no matter how catastrophic the results of their policies. "It would have worked if we'd just fought harder, and if the Enemy At Home hadn't Stabbed Us In The Back."

When the last three humans are fighting over dented cans of food in the radioactive rubble of the last city, one of them will be explaining to another that everything would have worked out fine if the third guy hadn't betrayed the war effort.

#183 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 10:59 AM:

#173 James D Macdonald:
Thank you VERY much for the link. I stand corrected in my belief that the cause of the Airbus shootdown was due to anything but a loose canon on the Vincennes.

This is the first time I have seen this information. What can I say but "Wow!" I have seen rats peering out from behind protective cover before, but this Rogers is good. This guy seems to me to be the kind of person that you wouldn't want to share a driveway with.

In the Counter battery segment, I note that he keeps referring to the initial investigation, yet avoids flat out denying that events as described by others (many others) were false, and in his remarks, he attempts to marginalize the vital importance of Link 11 in determining what happened.

To me, the final evidence of the probable truth in this matter is that Rogers retired as an O6. Had events transpired as presented in the original investigation, he'd have probably worn stars. Even some common incompetents and run-of-the-mill screw-ups get stars on condition of retirement to the fleet reserve. Rogers didn't.

The above is just my opinion, for what it may or may not be worth, but again - Thanks!

#184 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Dave Luckett (#175):It doesn't? Funny. It must just be me.

It doesn't because when I say "The most certain way to end up at war is to be ready for it", the gun is in the hand and the safety off, while "if you want peace, prepare for war" can just mean that there's a gun in the holster, with the safety on.

So it's not just you, and it may even just be me.

I know, I'm blurring lines and splitting air uselessly. Thankfully Mr. James D. Macdonald is there as always to put things into the right perspective again.

@aconite (#180): Na, you don't. Unless it's a cup of coffee.

#185 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 03:07 PM:

"It's always easy to respond to a losing situation by saying we should throw more resources at it. That way, if we stop anywhere short of Gotterdammerung, you can claim that you were right all along, and that if only we had the balls to see it through"

Apparently "the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent" (attributed to Keynes) applies to wars, too, an insight which I'd really rather not have had.

#186 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Returning to Mexico--

Grndexter@155: "Perhaps one of the things we could do with the expanded army would be to enforce our Southern border with troops." It would take a lot of troops. But let's grant those troops and look at consequences. To begin with, thousands of Mexicans would die, trying to cross the border. And then hundreds of thousands would starve at home. Revolution in Mexico a near certainty, leading, to unknown but probably hard consequences for the USA. This is a non-starter; no matter how difficult dealing with Mexican refugees is--and, for the most part, the undocumented Mexicans are refugees--this would be worse both ethically and pragmatically. I don't cotton to mass murder and mass starvation, or to tearing families apart, like US and Mexican immigration policies have been doing for years.

Meg Thornton@179--"I'd guess the reason the Mexican government isn't protesting US subsidies on rice and pork in NAFTA is they've a (probably accurate) perception that it wouldn't achieve anything. [goes on to summarize the Australian difficulties getting the USA to agree to anything like that]" You might be right. On the other hand, never underestimate the corruption of the the Mexican government. The US has already ratified NAFTA, and would have a great deal of trouble repudiating it. There might be an agricultural exemption I don't know about, though.

#187 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 03:42 PM:

This is the first time I have seen this information. What can I say but "Wow!"

This was hardly unknown. I read it in Surface Warfare magazine back in '88 or '89, and the scuttlebutt was all over the tin can navy for months before that. Eventually Newsweek did a story on the Airbus shootdown, and Ted Koppel did a TV program.

When Admiral Crowe put on his press briefing the next day, though, the only version he would have seen was an OPREP from Captain Rogers, and it might well have been slanted.

Then, I suppose, the story was forgotten in the press as other stories came, and went, and were in turn supplanted by yet more stories.

If you're of a mood to see other stories of Odd Captains, get a copy of The Arnheiter Affair by Neil Sheehan, about ninety days on USS Vance back during Vietnam.

#188 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:47 PM:

#182 Patrick:

*Ouch* I wish that didn't have the ring of currently-applicable truth....

#189 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 09:12 PM:

On the military's right to precedence over civilians when deciding on situations where they might be used:

The question under discussion was, I took it, policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. The question is Lenin's: "what is to be done?", where a policy of doing nothing is also a policy.

I quite agree that those with genuine military expertise must be consulted, and their opinions accorded extra weight, if some sort of military policy or operation were being contemplated. I do not see how their special expertise is relevant to a general discussion of the situation that has not proceeded as far as that.

I do not know what is to be done about Iran. I think something has to be. I am open to suggestions as to what. Therefore, I asked about what policy would be favoured.

As to why I ask this, I think that I am a citizen of a democracy, which means that not only have I a right to an opinion on policy, but that my opinion has a weight equal to any. You may, if you like, tell me that this is not true, or shouldn't be. But alas, this is one of the abiding flaws of democracy. Perhaps you might care to discuss what system of government you favour, instead.

#190 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 10:05 PM:

Why does something have to be done about Iran?

They're in a demographic trap, they've got the whole nasty industrial/post-industrial social transition going on, and they've got reasonably competent government. They're going to be keeping themselves busy for at least the next twenty years.

The idea that pursuing nuclear power is illegitimate is laughable -- globably we need to go carbon emission negative within a decade, and as a state, Iran has been credibly threatened with pre-emptive nuclear attack. Of course they are pursuing nuclear power and an independent deterrent.

It is a nice government?

Hardly.

But, you know, from their point of view, the whole get-the-US-to-take-out-Iraq thing is a legitimate security objective, they're at least potentially a source of stability, rather than Hobbessian collapse, and the idea that they think they need more trouble than regional stability is already giving them is highly dubious.

It's also at least as democratic as the UK was in 1850; a tendency to greater social freedom is built into a system like that, given generational time.

#191 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 11:33 PM:

grndexter: And I believe it was IRAN who gassed the village during the Iran/Iraq war, not Saddam. (But they couldn't have if "they don't have...)

Run out of tinfoil, have we?

(note to abi: please be careful of facts when dealing with the wingnut. Consulates, even if recognized (was Irbil?), are not sovereign territory.)

The A's:
Curls up, but can't swim:
Stickly Prickly, that's him.
Can't curl, but can swim;
Slow Stolid, that's him.

MD^2 may remember what happened to the jaguar who relied on that rhyme....

Graydon: It's also at least as democratic as the UK was in 1850; a tendency to greater social freedom is built into a system like that, given generational time.

I must have forgotten the part where Victoria disqualified a third of the candidates because they weren't sufficiently CofE. Care to enlighten?

#192 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 01:55 AM:
I must have forgotten the part where Victoria disqualified a third of the candidates because they weren't sufficiently CofE. Care to enlighten?

But of course -- time for some basic British political history. It was not necessary for Victoria to have done it, as they would not have been able to become candidates in the first place. I would direct your attention to the Corporation Act of 1661 as well as the Test Acts of 1672 and 1678, which restricted access to civil or political office to those who specifically accepted the Anglican views on royal supremacy and the nature of the Eucharist, intentionally excluding Roman Catholics, Protestant dissenters, and Jews. The first two groups gained their civil rights in 1829, but Jewish emancipation was not passed in Britian until 1890. Some vestiges of this remain to this day -- not only is the sovereign barred from being a Catholic, so is the Prime Minister (effectively) as British law still bars a Catholic from advising the sovereign on appointments in the Church of England.

Even with the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts in 1828 and 1829 and the first Reform Act in 1832 the vast majority in Britain could not vote. Something closer to democracy as we know it had to wait for the Reform Act of 1867 and following legislation over the next 20 years. I think it would be perfectly accurate to say that Iran today is more democratic than Britain in 1850, at least in respect to universal suffrage.

#193 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 03:30 AM:

Graydon: "Why does something have to be done about Iran"?

Well, they sponsor Hez'bollah, for one thing, which means they support and sponsor terrorism. Also, for a country with very modest energy requirements and large reserves of oil and coal to be furiously pursuing nuclear technology is deeply suspicious. I don't believe it is for solely civilian purposes, as you imply. They are also vigorously stirring the pot in Iraq, with an view towards hegemony there. I have no idea how serious they are about reconstituting the Islamic Caliphate, but that they are a theocracy is hardly to be doubted, so what they actually intend to do and will do is extremely problematic. I am actually inclined to believe that they really do intend to expunge Israel from the map, if they can, and they believe that one day they will be able to. That would certainly involve a nuclear war.

I think that's enough reasons to think that something should be done. Or at least some coherent policy applied, and its contingencies considered.

#194 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 03:33 AM:

Sorry, that reads wrong. I don't mean that Graydon implied that the Iranian nuclear program was for purely civilian purposes. I mean the opposite: that he did imply that it was not, and that I agree with him. Unlike him, I regard this as alarming.

#195 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 08:48 AM:

194: Unlike him, I regard this as alarming.

Dave Luckett, for some time now, I've been undecided whether you are simply someone who misses the forest of the point of the discussion for the trees of detail, or someone who consistently and deliberately misstates others' positions as a rhetorical tactic. I believe I have just made up my mind.

#196 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 09:11 AM:

David Luckett@193: surely that "something" has to be a policy of containment? Invading has worked so well in Iraq, and Iraq was much weaker than Iran. Time was on our side, before we invaded Iraq; maybe we can still enlist the old bastard as an ally.

#197 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 10:42 AM:

Dave --

Israel has a very credible nuclear deterrent.
(Despite being being two bombs long and one bomb wide.) They are not at significant risk of nuclear attack from anyone in the region.

I can see a lot of benefit to Iran in having their own deterrent; I would go so far as to say that, after the US has threatened you with preemptive nuclear attack, you have to be insane not to be seeking an independent nuclear deterrent. Nor can the US unthreaten that; after Bush got a second term, he stopped being an abberation and started being the will of the Sovereign People. (Never mind repeated unrebuked statements in the US press to the effect that the appropriate tactic in Iran is to kill everyone, comprehensive genocide, starting back in the hostage crisis period.)

It's also quite possible that the folks running Iran can do the math, and do not even vaguely like the prospects of sea level rise; that their stated oil reserves and their real oil reserves do not match; that their concern for pollution, standard of living, and technological achievement (including all the basic, basic things -- dental xrays! -- that come from nuclear medicine) is real and substantial. [Never mind that your line of argument means that Canada's nuclear power program is deeply, deeply suspicious.]

Taking control of as much of Iraq has their co-religionists in it is a perfectly sensible state goal, too; they recently fought a bloody, protracted war with Iraq, those co-religionists were subject to substantial repression under the former Iraqi government, and the existing border was a colonial hangover anyway. There's a lot more population involved, but it's effectively equivalent to the US deciding to keep Guam after the Great Pacific War.

Hezbollah is exactly as much a terrorist organization as George Washington's army; it has never been more of a terrorist organization than, say, Irgun, no matter how it pleases the US to label it. If it was ok for France to support George Washington's army, and ok for the one-time leader of Irgun to be Prime Minister of Israel, without diplomatic demur, Hezbollah is legit unless you wish to take an explicitly hypocritical view of matters.

Claude --

Thanks! Saved me looking up some dates.

#198 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:02 AM:

Randolph Fritz (#185): Apparently "the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent" (attributed to Keynes) applies to wars, too, an insight which I'd really rather not have had.

Clausewitz: "It would be better, instead of comparing [war] with any art, to liken it to trade, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities; and it is still more like State policy, which again, on its part, may be looked upon as a kind of trade on a great scale" (sounds a bit different from what I remember of the french translation I read, but still).

From which we may add: "State policy can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent".

Damn.


Dave Luckett (#175): It doesn't? Funny. It must just be me.

Sorry in advance for this one, I know it may be seen as a bad slip, just can't resist:

Flying will make you free doesn't negate flying won't make you free (see Daedalus & Icarus... and maybe a bit of Discworld).

The question under discussion was, I took it, policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. The question is Lenin's: "what is to be done?", where a policy of doing nothing is also a policy.

Problem (partly ?) identified, I guess. I hadn't even started talking about this (or when I later hinted at it, it remained peripheral). I can understand that, in the light you were looking at them, you'd see more in my words than what very little they were supposed to mean, which is basicaly that I think specialists should have precedence in the order of discourse.

CHip (#191): MD² may remember what happened to the jaguar who relied on that rhyme...

He graduated, became a quite competent, if socialy inept, librarian with a taste for Salmunori, and died seven years later of a short, comic illness.

Oh, you meant before that, didn't you ?

Well, yes, I had it in the back of my mind. Along with the wife whose hand is always opened and the wife whose hand is always closed, and the farmer's mad son.

And coffee.

Mmmmm, coffee.

Thanks though, for I couldn't for the life of me remember where that particular tale was from.

#199 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 01:15 PM:

Aconite, you are of course entitled to make what you will of my words, and of Graydon's. But tell me, if Graydon's post at #190, where he says of Iran:

"They're in a demographic trap, they've got the whole nasty industrial/post-industrial social transition going on, and they've got reasonably competent government. They're going to be keeping themselves busy for at least the next twenty years (...) as a state, Iran has been credibly threatened with pre-emptive nuclear attack. Of course they are pursuing nuclear power and an independent deterrent."

does not convey to you his lack of alarm over the development of Iranian nuclear weapons, I wonder what would?

Graydon, the present government of Iran has repeatedly stated that a major aim of its policy is to remove Israel from the map, and it was perfectly well aware of Israel's nuclear capacity when it said this. Israel's deterrent would certainly deter you or me from attacking it, most especially with nuclear weapons, or threatening to. But do the leaders of Iran think the same way? I am perfectly prepared to entertain argument that they do and they must, but from what I have seen, this is not certain. When a nuclear war is in prospect, I would like to make preventative measures as certain as possible.

#200 ::: David Parsons ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 01:15 PM:

#192 « I am actually inclined to believe that they really do intend to expunge Israel from the map, if they can, and they believe that one day they will be able to. That would certainly involve a nuclear war.»

Oh, of course it wouldn't. If Iran really wanted to expunge Israel from the map, what they would do is just wait, and eventually Israel will do something so brutally cruel that even their superpower lapdog will have to withdraw their support. And without the steady stream of US dollars and arms, Israel would quickly implode.

All a nuclear war would do, aside from converting a lot of research money into radioactive dust, is open the dollars and arms floodgate even further. I believe the United States is still capable of being offended by atrocity, but if even one Iranian nuke went off in Israel, the USA wouldn't give a damn about the 150 nukes that would be dropped on Iran about 4 hours later -- all that would happen is a "we support our bloody-handed ally" resolution, followed by a gift of US$100 billion (or about 35 euros, but it's the thought that counts), 150 replacement nukes, and three or four attack subs.

#201 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 01:47 PM:

My reaction to post #200 is "But think of all that precious archaeology turned to dust!"

It is possible my priotities are wrong, but still suspect that's an important point, there.

#202 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Graydon @ 197 -- You're welcome.

#203 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 02:18 PM:

I suppose the lesson here is that nations never prevaricate, talk tough or otherwise obfuscate the issues. Neither are they capable of pursuing a course that is reasonable if one assumes that X is the case and to have X in fact be the case if that course would be unreasonable if Y is the case, because in that case the law of the universe dictates that Y will automatically be the case.

This natural law is tripled in force when the nation under discussion is ruled by the swarthies or is otherwise opposed to American goodness.

#204 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Dave Luckett@199:
Just as you reframed the statement that military experts have more experience in military matters and thereby have a measure of credibility that should be taken into account when discussing military matters as "soldiers should have a bigger vote than civilians," you misstated Graydon's position that nuclear development does not in and of itself constitute a buildup to war as lack of concern concerning nuclear development.

You've done this kind of thing in too many conversations, with too many people, on too many topics, for me to think it is accidental that you keep reframing the discussion at hand in ways that subtly or not-so-subtly insult your partners in discussion by ascribing to them views they do not hold and words they have not said.

#205 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Is there any substantial doubt that Iran is trying to get nuclear weapons? I think that's reasonably well established. The questions to ask are:

a. Does that imply a major risk to us or our interests?

b. If so, what should we do about it?

c. Can we afford to do any of those things?

I'm sure Iran having nukes is a bad thing for us and the world. Each pair of mutually-hostile nuclear powers which might go to war with one another increases the odds that we'll see a nuclear exchange in our lifetimes, and that will have a lot of nasty effects. Other nations may feel the need to get nukes to have a deterrent against Iran, since they may not feel comfortable trusting one of the existing powers to provide it. More sources of bomb-grade material means more chances for terrorists or other crazies to get hold of a bomb.

I'm not sure what we can do about it at this point. Invading Iran is presumably off the table, given how the invasion and occupation of Iraq has gone. Bombing Iran is probably not so wise while we still need some semblance of peace in Iran-influenced Iraq, and afterward, is likely to cost us a lot. (I am confident in my country's media and politicians. If we blow up a bunch of stuff in Iran with cruise missiles, and then Iranian suicide bombers blow up some stuff here, the whole country will understand that while our attacks were legitate military acts in service of democracy and global goodness, that the Iranian attacks were terrorism.)

Looking further ahead, missiles and nukes are 1940s technology. Chemical weapons are 1914-era technology. Biological weapons made with modern technology and the backing of someone who does the engineering work to figure out how to deploy them are scary as hell. I don't see how to keep small countries and subnational groups from getting hold of this technology, over time. This is a big problem, it's one of the core lessons we probably should have taken from 9/11 (but we didn't, because it was more fun to blow stuff up from planes).

I'm not sure how we ought to address Iran's nuclear program. It looks to me like we have no good options here.

#206 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Graydon said (#197):
It's also quite possible that the folks running Iran can do the math, and do not even vaguely like the prospects of sea level rise; that their stated oil reserves and their real oil reserves do not match; that their concern for pollution, standard of living, and technological achievement (including all the basic, basic things -- dental xrays! -- that come from nuclear medicine) is real and substantial. [Never mind that your line of argument means that Canada's nuclear power program is deeply, deeply suspicious.]

Given that most of Iran is fairly high in elevation, and that all of its major cities are inland, they're probably not that worried about rising sea levels. Realistically, Iran has far less reason to worry about sea levels than do countries like, say, the US.

I'll grant that the rest of your points have at least some validity (though I'm not sure that dental X-rays require secretly enriching uranium).

Re Canada's nuclear program: Well, it is suspicious -- after all, we know that Canada has tried to attack the US!


Taking control of as much of Iraq has their co-religionists in it is a perfectly sensible state goal, too; they recently fought a bloody, protracted war with Iraq, those co-religionists were subject to substantial repression under the former Iraqi government, and the existing border was a colonial hangover anyway. There's a lot more population involved, but it's effectively equivalent to the US deciding to keep Guam after the Great Pacific War.

Actually, I think Iran's leaders are smart enough not to try taking direct control of parts of Iraq, for all sorts of reasons, starting with the headache of trying to rule over millions of non-Persians who've never been under Iranian rule before. What would suit them much better would be: a) a friendly/puppet Shi'a-dominated regime ruling over a nominally independent Iraq; or b) Iraq partitioned into separate, weaker countries, with (again) a friendly/puppet Shi'a regime in the southeast.

Guam? I have no idea how that's supposed to be remotely relevant, let alone "equivalent."

#207 ::: Toru Ranryu ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:09 PM:

First post. Pet peeve.

Iranian leaders never said that Israel should be "expunged from the map." For one thing, the statements weren't made in English but in Persian. This isn't mere pedantry. Persian doesn't even have an expression corresponding to "wipe off the map." For another thing, Ahmadinejad wasn't talking about the country of Israel but the regime. A better translation of what was actually said would supposedly go something like:

"this regime occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history"

Less ominous. Something that will inevitably happen, not necessarily in the near future, and even without Iranian involvement.

Ahmadinejad's actual words were mistranslated and taken out of context to facilitate a confrontation with Iran. The idea that a muslim country would initiate a nuclear strike against Jerusalem, a city they consider to be holy, is completely absurd. I hate to see this misconception linger on here in the comment section at Making Light.

#208 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:17 PM:

Graydon: Hezbollah is exactly as much a terrorist organization as George Washington's army.

I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but I think you've just topped your statement to the effect that the Southern planter class should have been hanged. Aside from all the usual arguments about separations (or lack thereof) between civilians and military, do you have any idea what an insult that is? Most of the Continental Army had much better aim than Hezbollah....

Claude: Your figures fail to answer my point, and contradict your own claim; you discuss voters, and speak of 1850 before acknowledging that most of the restrictions were lifted decades before. I specifically said candidates; as has been stated repeatedly on this blog, being able to vote is only half the battle, if that -- having candidates one can support may be the greater part. And don't give me the usual line about the candidates who are disqualified in the West by media abuse, economics, etc; Iran had all of those tools and \still/ had over a thousand candidates ruled off the ballot by Qom.

#209 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:22 PM:

Peter --

Just because you don't lose coastline doesn't mean that you don't have problems with shifting water tables and salt. I don't know how Iran would be affected; it's entirely possible that what they're worried about isn't the salinity of their cropland but trying to get through a summer where there's a month of 50 C daytime high temperatures and all the crops die of the heat, instead.

US sovereignty over Guam (and a bunch of other islands) was a policy change brought on by a war and a certain element of territorial convenience. Same with the present Iranian interest in the Shia parts of Iraq; it would be useful to their strategic position, and not too expensive.

#210 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Way behind. working my way backwards, ran into this:

When the last three humans are fighting over dented cans of food in the radioactive rubble of the last city, one of them will be explaining to another that everything would have worked out fine if the third guy hadn't betrayed the war effort.

Now I'm too depressed to go further.

It is basically, a conspiracy theory, and like all good conspiracy theories, it is completely valid within it's own reference system. And people are notoriously bad at seeing their reference system, which means it's almost impossible to show them the flaw in their logic.

Which is a very long way of saying "people suck, I'm going to bed now."

#211 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Aconite, I can only say that I never said, and never implied, what you say I said, just as on the last occasion when you tried to force words on me.
This is what I said:

"I quite agree that those with genuine military expertise must be consulted, and their opinions accorded extra weight, if some sort of military policy or operation were being contemplated."

This is almost exactly the same as your later: "military experts have more experience in military matters and thereby have a measure of credibility that should be taken into account when discussing military matters", so it is plain that we do not really differ on that point.

I was reacting to your post to grndexter: "you may be unfamiliar with the backgrounds of the people with whom you're interacting, so allow me to drop a hint in your ear that some of those people have extensive career-military experience. As in special ops experience. You may wish to take that into account before you blow off their statements."

This is a far more general statement, and it is unqualified. The subject then was #155, which was a discussion of, among other things, the Iranian nuclear program, Iran's foreign policies, and the Vincennes shooting down an Iranian civil airliner. These are matters not purely military, and I do not believe that the military has any special claim to precedence of opinion over them. In the last case, far from it. It was, as Mr Macdonald's link makes clear, a military blunder.

But your post, quoted above, implied that the military and those with military experience did have a claim to precedence of opinion on all these matters, and you did so (then) without qualification. I protested the general application thus: "The idea that military affairs must be left to the military, or that soldiers (etc) have a better appreciation of the underlying issues than mere civilians can do, on the other hand, is one that I find somewhat less respectable" and then, taxed on that, supplied a qualification ("if some sort of military policy or operation were being contemplated") to which, as it turns out, we both agree. In all this, I have not insulted you, or anyone.

Graydon, for his part, certainly doesn't seem as vexed as you about my impression that he doesn't view an Iranian nuclear weapon with any particular alarm. (This is an impression that I have, and which I am perfectly willing to have corrected, but it hasn't been, so far.) I think he is perfectly correct in saying that it makes good sense for them to develop one, from their point of view, but I still see something alarming in that event.

But I say again, I have not insulted you or anyone, and your repeated willingness to see personal insult in perfectly politely expressed opinions that are not even particularly at variance with your own does you no credit.

#212 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 12:52 AM:

'"this regime occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history" Less ominous.'

Sounds pretty ominous to me.

#213 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 01:01 AM:

Toru Ranryu: Welcome, twice welcome, for your correction. I am very glad to know that I am relying on a mistranslation, and that Ahmadinejad didn't actually say that.

Nevertheless, and taking your interpretation as exact, "this regime occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history" does seem to me to refer to an actual action, and the sense of "eliminated from the pages of history" seems very radical - by which I mean, from the roots.

So what did he mean? It seems to me to imply that his government endorses the use of extreme measures to eliminate Israel, to blot it out of existence; for it seems to me that the words refer not to the government of Israel, which is transient, but to Israel as a (mostly) secular Jewish state. It does not seem to me possible to eliminate this from the pages of history without eliminating Israel itself, as a nation. But perhaps that is incorrect.

And, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Golden Mosque of Samarra widely revered as a holy place among Muslims, too?

#214 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 06:18 AM:

Dave Luckett said (#213):
And, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the Golden Mosque of Samarra widely revered as a holy place among Muslims, too?

There's no comparison between the Golden Mosque of Samarra and Jerusalem. The latter is the third holiest city in Islam, for all Muslims, and is of course mentioned prominently in the Qu'ran. The Golden Mosque of Samarra was really important only to the Shi'a; for most Sunnis, it was somewhat meaningful (because a couple of Muhammad's female relatives are buried there), but otherwise not particularly important. Since it was first built in the 10th Century, it naturally isn't mentioned in the Qu'ran.

#215 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 08:03 AM:

#214 : Peter Irwin said:
"...Jerusalem. The latter is the third holiest city in Islam, for all Muslims,..."

Except the Wahabbi, I believe? Who I believe rever NO place or artifact.

#216 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 08:59 AM:

Peter Erwin #214: Can we agree that they are both holy places to Muslims, though the Golden Mosque is much the less?

#217 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:10 AM:

Dave Luckett@211:

Yes, of course my sentence, "You may wish to take that into account before you blow off their statements," as you say, "implied that the military and those with military experience did have a claim to precedence of opinion on all these matters [...]." I can see that now. I don't know how I missed it.

As I said before, you pull this tactic repeatedly, with many people, on many topics, and then act bewildered at the response you get and chastize your discussion partners for getting their panties in a twist over some perfectly politely expressed point of yours. Eventually, people get such headaches trying to reason with you that they simply stop--which it is, come to think of it, rather past time I did.

#218 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Graydon said (#209):
Just because you don't lose coastline doesn't mean that you don't have problems with shifting water tables and salt. I don't know how Iran would be affected; it's entirely possible that what they're worried about isn't the salinity of their cropland but trying to get through a summer where there's a month of 50 C daytime high temperatures and all the crops die of the heat, instead.

Potentially true. And I would agree that developing nuclear power for the intermediate term is not irrational, even for a nominally oil-rich country like Iran. However, given that Iran has admitted to purchasing centrifuges and engaging in uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation research in the 1980s and early/mid 1990s -- well before the present scientific consensus on global warming solidified -- it's a bit difficult to see this as a noble, far-sighted attempt to deal with global warming.

And given that Iran's contribution to global CO2 levels is minor compared with that of the US, Europe, or (in the not-so-distant future) China and India, an Iranian nuclear program offers very little prospect of affecting global warming. (What it does potentially offer Iran is reasonably priced energy once the oil runs low, which is not to be sneezed at, but that's about it.)

US sovereignty over Guam (and a bunch of other islands) was a policy change brought on by a war and a certain element of territorial convenience. Same with the present Iranian interest in the Shia parts of Iraq; it would be useful to their strategic position, and not too expensive.

Huh? U.S. sovereignty over Guam dates to 1898, following the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War; it was previously a Spanish colony. The only time it's been out of US control was the three years that the Japanese occupied it during the Second World War (which I have to assume is what you meant by "the Great Pacific War"). The population in Guam was (and is) miniscule in comparison to the US, and Guam borders on nothing but open ocean.

Now, if you were talking about Iran's interest in some small island in the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean, with a population of 30,000 or so, you might have a valid analogy.

#219 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:15 AM:

Dave #216: No, the Golden Mosque is holy only to the Shi'a. You cannot say "Muslims" when you're talking about important differences between Shi'a and Sunni. Your statement is technically true, but misleading. It's like saying "Christians acknowledge the Pope as God's emissary on Earth." That's true; there are Christians who do that. But the statement implies that all Christians do, and that's false.

#220 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:29 AM:

So, a good nights sleep, and I'm feeling a bit more optimistic. I have decided that it might be possible to address the logical fallacy that brought me down last night, though I don't know how.

So, if someone you're having a discussion with says "It'll just work out if we don't give up." What's the best, to the heart of the matter, way of showing this is fallacy?

Come to think of it, I now recall asking if there were any fairy tales about someone who kept driving onward even though it was a lost cause, and that was about the time I realized that Fairy Tales seem to be great for "don't give up" inspiration, but don't quite make the distinction for kids of "don't be an idiot about it either".

I can think of a number of fairy tales where the moral of the story is "dont' quit. don't give up." which is about the level of thought process of some ijits I know who argue "we'll win in Iraq if we just don't give up". Fairy Tale logic is really hard to dislodge.

But I can't think of any fairy tales where the moral of the story is "know when you've lost" or "know when to quit" or "know when you're beaten" or whatever.

It's actually interesting to me that there are myths such as sysiphus but none where some sysiphus like character says "screw it, I quit". Which would seem to point to an emotional response to "we can do anything if we just try hard enough and dont ever give up" which would mean it is mostly impervious to logic.

Unless, of course, there were a similar emotional response that counters it. A fairy tale that shows to keep fighting in an unwinnable war is moronic. But the lack of myths and legends and fairy tales with that moral seems to indicate such an emotional response doesn't exist.

Which would mean, to know when to give up requires that logic must somehow win out over emotion. And that ain't easy.

Anyway, if anyone can think of a fairy tale, myth, legend, where the moral of teh story is "know when to quit", or "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." let me know.

#221 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:42 AM:

#220 Greg London:
I looked for a title for this legend, but can't find one. Perhaps this will do for your purpose?

http://www.crystalinks.com/greekeducation.html
"Legend has it that a young Sparta boy once stole a live fox, planning to kill it and eat it. He noticed some Spartan soldiers approaching, and hid the fox beneath his shirt. When confronted, to avoid the punishment he would receive if caught stealing, he allowed the fox to chew into his stomach rather than confess he had stolen a fox, and did not allow his face or body to express his pain."

#222 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Greg London said (#220):
Anyway, if anyone can think of a fairy tale, myth, legend, where the moral of teh story is "know when to quit", or "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." let me know.

Would the tale of John Henry be at all relevant? (True, he beats the machine; but he still dies in the end, and the machine will undoubtedly be rebuilt, or replaced with a better model.)

It wouldn't surprise me if there were some Trickster-type legends or myths with that kind of moral, since at least some of the Coyote or Raven stories I vaguely recall revolve around the "hero" being an idiot who suffers from his own stupidity.[*] But I'm afraid I can't think of anything specific at the moment.

[*] Where "stupidity" is often an attempt to be devious and clever. (Which of course couldn't possibly apply to any current political leaders I could think of...)

#223 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Greg @220

How about the story of how to catch a monkey?

Put a nut into a jar with a narrow mouth. The monkey reaches into the jar - its empty hand fitting through the neck - and seizes the nut. Its full hand won't fit back through the neck, but it will let itself be caught by humans rather than let the nut go.

#224 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Perhaps, Aconite, you would have more success with reasoning with me if you actually used reason, rather than groundlessly claiming to be insulted. Your words, which I quoted in full and in context, bear implications that you do not mean. Your course is simply to correct them.

Xopher, I stand corrected. Mind you, Peter Erwin appears to differ somewhat to you when he says: "for most Sunnis, (the Golden Mosque) was somewhat meaningful (because a couple of Muhammad's female relatives are buried there), but otherwise not particularly important", but I understand that at least to Sunnis the place was not important. Other than that, I asked to be corrected if I was wrong, and I do not resent it.

See, here's the thing. I have no idea what the leadership of Iran might do. I'm not sure that anyone does. They are, by their own proud testimony, running a theocracy, and theocrats are prone to existential interpretations of fact. For all I know, they might regard the sanctity of Jerusalem, or anywhere, as being beyond their poor power to add or detract. They might, for all I can tell, regard its great holiness as being actually enhanced by a decisive act of jihad at the site. I really don't know, but the possibilities of them disposing of a nuclear arsenal disturb me. I am not certain of their pragmatism, and we are, after all, talking about nothing less than nuclear war.

Far up, Randolph Fritz at #196 made the perfectly sensible suggestion of a policy of containment. I quite agree. I would myself prefer that part of this policy would be to prevent, if peacefully possible, the acquisition by this government of nuclear weapons. I wonder if you agree?

#225 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Dave Luckett (#224):
Mind you, Peter Erwin appears to differ somewhat to you when he says: "for most Sunnis, (the Golden Mosque) was somewhat meaningful (because a couple of Muhammad's female relatives are buried there), but otherwise not particularly important", but I understand that at least to Sunnis the place was not important. Other than that, I asked to be corrected if I was wrong, and I do not resent it.

No, I agree with Xopher. To be more precise, the Wikipedia article on the Golden Mosque says that local Sunnis (i.e., those actually living in Samarra) hold it in "high esteem." It wouldn't surprise me if the average Sunni Muslim in Indonesia or Pakistan or Morocco hadn't even heard of it until recently. As a possibly relevant example, I note that this site, listing mosques around the world, places Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem by themselves at the very top -- but doesn't even list the Golden Mosque of Samarra (though it does list the much older "Great Mosque of Samarra").


grndexter (#215): I believe the Wahhabis are primarily opposed to what they see as "polytheism" -- that is, veneration of saints and holy men. So they would object to pilgrimages to the tombs of Sufi saints or Shi'a imams -- but not to the basic concept of the three main Islamic holy sites.

#226 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 12:12 PM:

I find myself thinking that The Lord of the Rings manages to combine "don't give up" with the "stop digging". Look at how often plans are changed in response to events.

Snow in the Misty Mountains -- new plan.

The Breaking of the Fellowship -- new plan.

Seeing the Black Gate -- new plan.

Shelob -- new plan.

Sam and Frodo are clear about their objective, they stick to it, but they don't blindly follow a single plan. They don't give up; they adapt.

#227 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 01:04 PM:

#221: chewing on stomach: ouch.

#222: John Henry: That might work. Wikipedia says "Henry became an important symbol of the working man. His story can be seen as an archetypically tragic illustration of the futility of fighting the technological progress" That the "working man" identifies positively with him might be a problem. But the futility of trying to win the unwinnable and dying in teh end might be really, really powerful.

#223: Catching a monkey: Now that's funny. I'd love to turn to some guy arguing to "stay the course" and tell him he's like a monkey with his hand caught in a jar. Even if they don't understand the principle, they'll immediately know it's a put down.

#226: LotR: yeah, but that's an example of how to do it right, not a demonstration of doing it wrong. There's a strain of military hawk who seem to base their entire military strategy off of the story "The Little Engine that Could". If you just keep trying you'll eventually win. It's a psychologically deeply ingrained concept that is highly resistant to objective evidence to the contrary, logic, and other reasonable approaches.

When some ijit says "We'll win if we just have the will" or "if we don't back down now", which invoke the base "Perserverance overcomes all", there needs to be an equally powerful legend that says "No, really, it doesn't".

Sometimes the little engine that could won't get up the damn hill. But I think it needs to be put in context of a narrative that demonstrates it. John Henry actually sounds better and better the more I think about it.

It's kind of weird to me that it's a relatively recent myth. I suppose a lot of survival in history was based simply in the "don't give up" approach that maybe its part of our biology.

John Henry works too because it's an american legend, so less likely to have to explain it.

Monkey-Jar thing is funny too. But will have to do a Cliff Claven moment after saying the initial remark.

Hm, calling someone "John Henry" isn't really too much of an insult. Might have to keep both handy. Start out with the "You're like a monkey with his hand caught in a jar", and then go on to reference John Henry to explain that you're going to get a whole bunch of people killed in an inevitable defeat.

I would like something a little more insulting, though. Any foolish protaganists that keep digging themselves deeper?

#228 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Is the current strategy really based on the Litle Engine, or on Mickey Mouse? You know, "If at first you don't succeeed, try and try again," as Dennis Quaid reminded his alien buddy in Ennemy Mine.

If Bush is Mickey, who is Goofy?

#229 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

#230 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 02:15 PM:

#229: Hadn't heard that one. It definitely fits. I'm a little concerned that wikipedia says "the term has also acquired a negative connotation as a derogatory term for African Americans." Which could derail a conversation.

It isn't quite as strong as John Henry. Rabbit gets away just fine in the end, none the worse for wear. And is still pretty cocky towards fox. John Henry dies.

Worth keeping in mind, though, if for no other reason than tarbaby describes a military quagmire pretty well.

#231 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Greg London:

Anyway, if anyone can think of a fairy tale, myth, legend, where the moral of teh story is "know when to quit", or "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." let me know.

Boy, this takes me back: Russian Folklore at the UW. Instructor spent the first 15 minutes of each class talking to the Russian language students in Russian, leaving the rest of us to sit around stare at each other uncomfortably. As W.C. Fields used to say, "Ah, the good old days! May they never come again!"

Anyway, there is a Russian tale that covers this. My old textbooks aren't out of the moving boxes yet so you'll have to look up the details online or at the library, but in this story the greatest of all Russian fairytale heroes (it says so on the label attached to the back of his neck) is traveling via horseback--think of a combination of Trickster and Hercules and you've got the right flavor--and rides into a clearing. Smack in the middle of it there's a rock with a suitcase handle sticking out of it. (Insert the "Now there's something you don't see every day, Chauncy" line from Rocky & Bullwinkle here.)

The hero, being the great hero he is, vaults off his horse, grabs the handle, and tries to pull it free from the stone. It doesn't budge. He tries again. No dice. And again. No better luck.

What the hero doesn't know is that the handle has been linked (by a jealous god/evil spirit? I can't remember) to the core/center of the earth. (It may have been the Worldworm: it's been a long time since Russian Folklore class.) So the hero, angrier and angrier after having strained over and over again to pull up the handle, summons up all his strength and heaves and heaves at the handle in one long, mighty pull!

And his heart bursts and he drops down dead.

The End.

Does that one fit?

Serge:

If Bush is Mickey, who is Goofy?

On my part, I'm more worried about who's standing in for Ludwig Von Drake.

#232 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Ludwig von Drake.... Bruce, this brings back lots of fond memories. I absolutely loved those 'documentaries' of his.

#233 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 04:13 PM:

The frog that blew herself up, trying to be as big as an ox?

#234 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Folktales of people who went on too long?

Peter Rugg, the Missing Man of Boston
Vandecker, the Flying Dutchman

or

Charlie on the MTA

#235 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Peter, in 218 --

"Once the oil runs low" could be happening now; we have no way to tell, but the folks paying for the Iranian nuke programs do.

I don't think it's only an attempt to deal with global warming, but I think it's silly to insist that energy diversification can't be part of the logic involved. These guys are neither dumb nor owned by oil companies.

Guam, from 1898 to 1950 -- later than I recalled -- was a playing card in the game of empire which happened to be in Uncle Sam's hand; an exchangeable colonial territory, like the northern half of the Marianas swapped between Germany and Japan. After 1950, it's -- officially, anyway -- part of the United States forever, and the people who live there are citizens.

Dave Luckett --

You still haven't come up with anything I'd consider a good reason to be worried about Iran having nuclear weapons. They have effectively no ability to project power, know this, and have no prospect of changing it any time soon.

#236 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 06:36 PM:

#231: Does that one fit?

I think he would need to try much longer so the reader gets that it's impossible, but then keeps on trying anyway. And THEN he drops dead.

Funny fairy tale, though.

#237 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 07:06 PM:

An american tourist is walking down Yonge Street in Toronto and sees a man jumping up and down on a manhole cover yelling "29, 29, 29". The tourist asks the man, "Hey buddy, why are you jumping up and down here on this manhole cover and shouting '29'?"

The man says, "Well, I can't really tell you that. It's an ancient native ritual that is supposed to clear the mind and bring bliss to the soul. It's something one must experience on their own - you can gladly try it out yourself".

The tourist thinks about this for a moment, then his curiosity gets the better of him, and he says, "Okay."

So the tourist gets on the manhole cover and starts jumping up and down yelling "29, 29, 29". While in mid-air, the man yanks the manhole cover away and the tourist plummets into the hole.

The man then calmly places the manhole cover back in place, gets back on and resumes jumping: "30, 30, 30".

#238 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 08:10 PM:

Serge @ #228: Is the current strategy really based on the Litle Engine, or on Mickey Mouse?

Actually, Mickey Mouse isn't such a bad comparison for not knowing when to quit: the Sorceror's Apprentice segment of Fantasia?

#239 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 08:12 PM:

Greg London, askinf of folktales of people who went on too long?

Would the Danaides fit ?

#240 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy?

#241 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:47 PM:

#234 JDM:

Personally, I always what kind of twit poor Charlie married - that she didn't hand him a nickel along WITH or instead of the danged sandwich. And wouldn't she have to pay a dime just to get on the platform? I liked the song - even if I've never been in Boston and am not likely to ever go there.

#242 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:52 PM:

Graydon: "They (Iran's leaders) have effectively no ability to project power, know this, and have no prospect of changing it any time soon."

I wonder if you would be kind enough to point me in the direction of the source of your knowledge on this point? I do not seem to find in the references available to me anything like this degree of certainty about their capability, still less about their future capability, and least of all about what they know, or think they know. I would be greatly relieved to know that my anxieties are groundless.

#243 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:52 PM:

237: omg is that funny.

238: Sorceror's Apprentice: except Mickey tries to stop it as soon as it gets out of control. The idea is a story where its out of control, unwinnable, but the protaganist wants to keep going, thinking it will work anyway.

239: Danaides: Trying to fill a sieve with water would work. But for the Danaides it's punishment fated on them, not something they chose and want to do.

Hm, I just realized that the problem with the John Henry legend is that he wins in the end. He dies, but he wins. The point is that the task must be unwinnable, the person must choose to do it, the person must continue to think they can do it, and in the end, they must fail to do it, and there must be some bad consequences for continuing to try to accomplish the impossible.

So far, the only thing that fits all those requirements is a monkey with his hand in a jar.

monkey grabs the prize in the jar on his own choice, person approaches monkey to catch him, monkey continues to hold onto prize even though it means he'll remain trapped, monkey is trapped by human in the end.

the tar baby is close, but in the end, rabbit is unharmed. John Henry actually does the impossible task, which defeats the purpose I'm looking for.

Phyric victory is still a victory. I'm looking for an unwinnable contest or challenge that the person keeps trying to win.


Guess I'll have to go with monkey caught in jar. Weird, but it works.

#244 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 11:48 PM:

Greg London: It isn't quite what you are looking for, but the Greek mythos is filled with stories in which mortals attempt tasks beyond their strength or nature, and are doomed. The myth of Icarus -- intoxicated by the experience of flight, he flew too close to the sun on wax wings -- leaps to mind, as does, more grimly, the fate of the satyr Marsys. He was challenged by Apollo to a flute-playing contest, to be judged by the Muses. He lost, and Apollo flayed him. The moral of the story is, When the gods challenge you to a contest, politely declare yourself overmatched, and decline...

#245 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 12:07 AM:

Okay, so would the frog who blew herself up trying to be as big as an ox fit? (Aesop, I think.) Greatly paraphrased:
Frog kid, trying to describe the size of the ox: Mom, it was huge!
Frog mom, puffing up: This big?
FK: No, lots bigger!
FM, puffing up farther: This big?
FK: No, lots bigger!
FM, puffing up farther: This big?
FK: No, lots bigger!
FM takes a much deeper breath, and explodes.

#246 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 12:10 AM:

Greg: I don't think #221 is what you're looking for; IIRC the story was originally told \by/ the Spartans, to whom that was an excellent example of proper behavior. ("So what if he died? He set a good example!".)

Graydon: The BBC reported over three years ago that Iran had announced a final successful test of a missile capable of hitting Israel; this was item #2 from Googling "iran missile test". Please explain how this matches your "effectively no ability to project power". Project complete control, maybe no; project power, how not?

#247 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Greg PS: what about "Baker's Blue Jay Yarn"? Early Twain, possibly from bits he'd heard; "dumb as Baker's blue jay" could be a suitable epithet, although not as pointed as you might like. Jays are often portrayed as laughing at people or other animals, so one that makes a fool of himself in front of other jays is losing spectacularly even if not fatally.

#248 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 12:56 AM:

#244: The myth of Icarus ... the fate of the satyr Marsys.

Icarus sort of works. But he fails because of arrogance not because the task is impossible. If I remember correctly, the tale is one of obeying your parents. His father also straps on wings and warns his son not to fly too close to the sun. The son disobeys and dies. The task itself is possible because his father also does it, but does it correctly. However, in discussing political topics with wingnuts, I really dont want to invoke anything with the moral of obey your elders. Because rightwing wingnuts usually have a patriarchical view with rightwing presidential wingnuts being "dad" and us civlians being "kids".

That's a different moral that also needs breaking, but I think there are a few fairy tales and myths for that one already.

Although, I suppose one could argue that invading and occupying Iraq *could* be accomplished if one only executed it properly, and maybe had a bit of luck. Maybe "obey your parents" could be spun around to mean "obey your generals when they tell you you'll need half a million men and several years of occupation" Hm. will have to think about that one. Too tired right now.

As for Marsys, well, I'm hearing the Charlie Daniels Band everytime I try to think about it and the devil went down to georgia drowns out all thoughts. maybe if I sleep it off....

;)

#249 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 03:14 AM:

There is a story in Norse mythology where Thor, his servantboy and Loki are visiting the giants, and invited to perform in contests. Loki agrees to an eating-contest, and loses. The servantboy agrees to run in a race, and loses. Thor is invited first to quench his thirst in the giantking's horn, but try as he might he can't empty it in one go. Then he tries to lift the giantking's pet cat, but try as he might he can only get it to lift one leg, and all the giants laugh that he can't do what their own children do as a game. And finally, he's invited to wrestle, and since he hasn't done well so far they'll give him an easy opponent, a feeble old woman, but he can't wrestle her to the ground and is finally forced down on one knee.
When they leave, humiliated, their giant companion reveals that the giantking's castle was full of illusion. Loki had tried to eat faster than fire, the servantboy had tried to run faster than a thought, and Thor had tried first to drink the ocean in one gulp, then to lift the world-serpent, and finally to wrestle old age itself.

Probably not suitable to your purposes though, as it is revealed that Thor actually very nearly achieved each of these things, and the giants were more terrified of him after each contest.

#250 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 09:19 AM:

Chip in 246 --

Israel gets hit with missiles weekly; it has little effect on policy. Even if -- which there are no reports of, for the sound reason that there aren't presently any in Iranian hands -- the government of Iran comes into possession of a nuclear warhead for such a missile, that's still not a means to project power against Israel because Israel has a substantial and credible nuclear deterrent.

(In fact, you might want to flip this around; Israel is sitting there with a substantial thermonuclear arsenal and the ability to hit Moscow, never mind Tehran. Does this do the Iraelis any good in getting Iran to do things? It does not.)

Projecting power is the ability to put compelling force into play. (The thing that makes you a Great Power/Regional Power (Great Power = European Regional Power between 1815 and 1914) is the ability to wage offensive war within your region. They're closely related but not identical things, because the scope of compelling force can be much more limited than war.)

Iran hasn't got either of those by conventional means, and isn't likely to for a generation. (Hamas is not a clear case of an Iranian tool, any more than the Continental Congress was a tool of French policy.)

Given that generation, the appropriate tactic is to get them enmeshed in trade and the global expansion of individually accessible choice, rather than trying to crush them into powerlessness.

#251 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Graydon, #250, it's certainly arguable that Israel is a regional power. Look at how much offensive war they've indulged in. But, unlike the Great Powers of Europe, they can't sustain a war on their own resources.

Maybe the nature of war has changed. Hasn't the USA been buying small arms ammunition from all and sundry, because there isn't the manufacturing capacity in the USA (though that's more likely a sign of not being willing to spend money to do the job properly).

Even WW2, Britain could have kept going on the British manufacturing capacity. We out-produced Germany on fighter aircraft and bombers. American munitions production won the war, but if it wasn't there Germany wouldn't have had an easy victory.

Now the habit seems to be short wars fought with stockpiled supplies of high-tech munitions.

But how much of that is political stupidity?

#252 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 10:28 AM:

#237 -- the funny thing about that, from my point of view, is that I remember first hearing it more than 25 years ago -- as a Yale vs. Harvard joke. (I think it had a Yalie jumping up and down and duping a Harvard grad... but it could have been the other way 'round; it's obviously an easily transposable joke.)

#253 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Even WW2, Britain could have kept going on the British manufacturing capacity. We out-produced Germany on fighter aircraft and bombers. American munitions production won the war, but if it wasn't there Germany wouldn't have had an easy victory

Or any sort of victory... could Britain have built nuclear weapons on its own? (NB: the Manhattan Project was expensive partly because it tried every technique at once. A putative Tube Alloy Programme could have focussed on, say, the reactor/plutonium route alone, at far less cost.)

#254 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 10:48 AM:

On fairy tales and failure:

The protagonist always wins, no matter what the odds, but very often fairy tales depict other people trying the same tasks and failing. Canonical example: three brothers (or two sisters, or what-have-you) set off to accomplish some task.

The older siblings are always greedy and arrogant: they refuse to help the animal caught in a trap, or be polite to the old person who turns out to be the one person who could help them accomplish the task. They always fail.

The successful protagonist wins because ze is kind-hearted, and accepts help from allies, in addition to not giving up. I can't think of a fairy tale off the top of my head where somebody succeeds without help from anyone.

That might not help with people who are convinced that they are in the right, though.

Another story about "hubris punished": the old fisherman catches a magic fish, and asks the fish to give him a nice house to live in instead of a hovel. But his wife wants an even nicer house, and then a palace, and then she wants to be Queen, and then she wants to be Pope, which is obviously impossible, and the fish finally gets mad and sends them back to their old hut.

#255 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 11:19 AM:

So, if someone you're having a discussion with says "It'll just work out if we don't give up." What's the best, to the heart of the matter, way of showing this is fallacy?

Just say, "That reduces to the Halting Problem, which was shown to be non-computable by Turing in 1936." That's what I do.

#256 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 11:28 AM:

:)

Alex, who are you having your discussions with?

#257 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 11:37 AM:

247: Baker's Blue Jay: that's actually pretty cool. Must make a note of that one.

#258 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 11:49 AM:

American munitions production won the war,

I thought it was won because the Russian Army inflicted 5 million KIA's on the German Army in the Eastern Front.

#259 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 12:02 PM:

The thing is, it's not impossible for us to hold down Iraq, it's just more expensive than it's worth. If we were willing to reimpose the draft, put a couple million people in Iraq, and spend 5% of GDP for the next 20 years, we could surely hold the place down. It's just that the costs aren't in line with the benefits we'd receive as a country.

The Bush administration and people like Lieberman who have invested a lot of credibility in the war face larger benefits from winning, or at least not losing, than the rest of the country. So they have more incentive to spend more money and lives trying not to lose it.

Holding down Iraq wouldn't cost as much as, say, defeating Japan in WW2. But while defeating Japan was necessary to prevent another attack a few years later, keeping Iraq from turning into a multiethnic bloodbath is nowhere near as important for the future of our country. Having lost this war is going to cost us, but not even remotely in the same range of costs as we would have faced by losing, or even drawing, in WW2.

#260 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 12:56 PM:

The Russians generally built their own weapons. A more accurate version would be "American production of six-wheel lorries, alumina, molybdenum, Spam (aka "Second Front In A Can" to the Russians), railway engines and corn, and the ability of the Royal Navy to get it through to Russia, won the war".

#261 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 01:26 PM:

#248: It was Ikaros' master (as in master/apprentice, not master/slave) Dædalos, not his father, who warned him not to go too close to the sun. There's an alternate version of the story where Dædalos failed to make wings that would actually fly, and Ikaros succeeded, so Dædalos sabotaged the wings, Ikaros fell to his death, and Dædalos made up the story about him flying too close to the sun.

#262 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 04:53 PM:

ajay said (#253):
Or any sort of victory... could Britain have built nuclear weapons on its own? (NB: the Manhattan Project was expensive partly because it tried every technique at once. A putative Tube Alloy Programme could have focussed on, say, the reactor/plutonium route alone, at far less cost.).

But would Britain have had enough scientists to accomplish the job in a reasonable amount of time? It's true that several of the best European physicists had ended up in Britain by the late 1930s (e.g., Leo Szilard, Rudolf Peierls, Otto Frisch); but so many more ended up in the US: Fermi, Segre, Teller, Bethe, Wigner, von Neumann, Ulam, etc., not to mention the presence of Americans like Oppenheimer, Compton, Rabi, Feynman, Seaborg, etc.

#263 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 07:45 PM:

...could Britain have built nuclear weapons on its own?

No. They were stretched to the limit, and absolutely could not stretch further to undertake a Manhattan Project.

They turned everything they had on the subject of fission - which was a substantial amount - to their American allies, and asked us to pursue it.

#264 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 05:12 AM:

Most sources (e.g., Ovid) say that Daedalus was in fact Icarus's father as well as master.

#265 ::: moon_custafer ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 03:49 PM:

There's an Ogden Nash poem - I think it might be The Strange Case of Mr. Wood's Frustration, or, A Team That Won't Be Beaten Better Stay off the Field, about a man who is eaten by the lobster on his plate, all the while insisting that he is the one eating it.

#266 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 11:09 PM:

Graydon@250: credible to whom? We're talking about a bunch of theocrats here, just like Shrub; how sane do you expect them to be? Note that I spoke of projecting power, not control as you tried to redirect to. As for the weapons Hezbollah (not Hamas) fired -- aside from whether Iran is foolish enough to give weapons to a loosely-controlled 3rd party (if Hezbollah is that) after the Aghanistan example of how thoroughly that can blow back, there's a limit to what can be smuggled; I haven't seen anything plausible (and don't expect to) answering whether Hezbollah was just blowing smoke about rockets that could have reached deeper into Israel.

#267 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 09:21 AM:

CHip:

Iran has failed to go to war with the US, or to restart the war with Iraq, though they had no love for either of us. They've managed not to kick off a war with Israel, though they are certainly capable of starting one. They hid their nuclear program as best they could. These don't look like the actions of madmen unconcerned with worldy consequences, they look like the actions of people who know how the war with the US or Israel will end if they start it, who understood that another war with Iraq would be just as disasterous as the last one, and who were pretty clear on the unpleasant consequences of having their nuclear program detected.

I think a lot of this "they're crazy fanatics, so deterrence can't work on them" line is being pushed by people who want to justify a first strike on them.

I find the claim that Hezbollah had more effective missiles available in the Lebanon war last year, but didn't use them, completely implausible. They shot off thousands of missiles at Israel, and did as much damage as they could. If they'd been able to hit further, or even if they'd been able to aim their missiles to within a block or two, they'd have used that ability to do more damage and try to force Israel to stop fighting.

#268 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 11:49 AM:

#263: The Manhattan project cost $1.9 billion in 1945 dollars. Actually less than the $3 billion development cost of the B-29 that carried it.

But if you break that down and assume a plutonium-only project, you could end up with less than half that - the uranium enrichment program at Oak Ridge was the biggest item on the bill. Call it $900 million in 1940 dollars, or £240 million. Compared to a total military budget per year of arounf £4 billion (45% of GDP), that looks possible - it's only a few per cent of the budget a year.

In this neutral-US timeline, there wouldn't be a Normandy landing; the British Army alone wouldn't have had the resources. Assuming that the decision was therefore made to win the war from the air (as people like Bomber Harris wanted), you can assume less spending on tanks and lorries for the Army, which should compensate for the Westminster Project or whatever it was called, allowing a test of the first plutonium gadget (or "thingie") in the South African desert around 1945 or so.

The RAF wouldn't have needed to develop a new aircraft, either - the Lancaster was quite capable of carrying a Fat Man weapon to Germany.

#269 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Chip --

These are the crazy theocrats who have successfully used a concerted, multi-year, complicated disinformation campaign to get the US to take out their major regional threat for them.

So far as I can tell, their realpolitik is doing just fine.

#270 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 12:03 PM:

The war with Iraq was a given from the moment Bush took office. The only question was what pretext he was going to use.

I wouldn't give Iran too much credit for that one, unless they were on the ground in Florida.

#271 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 04:33 PM:

"Okay, Ali, your first job here in Palm Beach County will be to work out the layout for the ballot. You've had some design experience, right?"

#272 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 05:08 PM:

Of course, with a US neutral timeline, the British would have to invest heavily in the Pacific theatre, which would render any assumptions based on our timeline's war expenditure moot.

#273 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 09:29 PM:

albatross: don't put words into my mouth. I proposed no action; I argued that Graydon et al. were dismissing a possibility without thought. And I suspect you're right about the missiles Hezbollah had; I disagree with the proposal that those missiles are a measure of Iran's capabilities.

Graydon: it only took a small band of lunatics to grossly misuse the U.S.'s war machine. Those of us who grew up on Dr. Strangelove et al. wonder how many it would take to let off a couple of missiles.

#274 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Graydon at #250: "Israel gets hit with missiles weekly; it has little effect on policy."

I wonder, Graydon, if you would consider the recent war in southern Lebanon as an example of how Israel's policy is affected by being hit with missiles? I must admit that to me, it seems to be one.

#275 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 10:49 PM:

Ajay at #263 - I enjoy alternate history as much as the next SF fan, but, sorry, no.

In '39, Bohr noted that a fission bomb was theoretically possible, but to bring it into being would require "turning all of America into a factory". He wasn't far wrong.

A hypothetical UK Bomb Project couldn't have concentrated its efforts on a Plutonium bomb, because Plutonium didn't even exist until a year into the Manhattan Project. So England couldn't have decided to bet the house on a bomb technology that - not only was untested - didn't yet exist.

(The Manhattan Project pursued both Plutonium and Uranium because nobody knew if either route would work, or even if either one could even be built.)

And the UK went bankrupt financing WWII - you can't just wave away the simultaneous costs of both a) fending off Nazi Germany without American support AND b) increasing the UK's military budget with a Manhattan Project-sized gamble.

They couldn't afford it. The Quebec Agreement admits as much.

Now that we know how it's done, yes, it's cheaper to do. But at the time, the UK admitted that the scale of the Manhattan Project was out of reach for them.

#276 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 06:06 AM:

Unfortunately, Britain didn't (quite) go bankrupt due to WW2; I say "unfortunately" because bankrupts get their debts washed out. Britain was repaying the US for fifty years after the war was over.

(I'm scrabbling here, but conceivably in this timeline the US is neutral because the Japanese army decided to go for the Northern rather than the Southern Resource Area, and is rolling into eastern Siberia rather than moving into the Pacific. No threat to the US, no Pacific War. In fact, the US might not be entirely unsympathetic to the sight of their WW1 ally taking on the evils of Communism.)

As for the resource question, don't forget that the Soviets managed it in 1949, with a GDP even less than that of the British Commonwealth, no war loans, and an economy tremendously damaged by the war. It's a question of priorities; and if the chosen strategy for the war was a Douhetian one of destroying Germany from the air, building better bombs would be close to the top of the list.

(Another point: even £240 million is probably too high an estimated cost, as British wages were considerably lower than American wages in the period in question. You can take about 30% off labour costs in that budget.)

Point taken about plutonium - but what's to stop the British switching from uranium to plutonium once it's discovered, because of the cost of enrichment?

#277 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 07:12 AM:

While everyone is in the middle of panicking over the possibility that the Iranians will one day have a nuclear weapons program, might I point out a pair of feuding nations which not only have viable (and active) nuclear weapons programs, but have actually tested their own nuclear devices.

Say hello to both India and Pakistan, folks. They've been having their own little low-key war since the partition, and they've shown no signs of dropping the feud. Both have support from major powers to keep going with their fightin' and feudin'. If I'm going to worry about the possiblity of a nuclear war being kicked off, I'll worry about *that* one, thanks.

#278 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 08:40 AM:

ajay said (#276):
As for the resource question, don't forget that the Soviets managed it in 1949, with a GDP even less than that of the British Commonwealth, no war loans, and an economy tremendously damaged by the war. It's a question of priorities; and if the chosen strategy for the war was a Douhetian one of destroying Germany from the air, building better bombs would be close to the top of the list.

Except that the Soviets had several advantages. A minor one was that they were rebuilding their economy with appropriated German industry. The major ones (in this context) were: 1) They knew the bomb was possible, because the Manhattan project had demonstrated it (recall that in 1939, no one was sure how much fissile material would be needed, and the Germans miscalculated and concluded an atomic bomb would require tons instead of pounds); 2) They had inside information on how to do it, from Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall within the Manhattan Project.

And, as I mentioned earllier, there's the critical problem of not having enough top scientists to make the project move forward fast enough. It's not enough to just throw money at a project like that.

Point taken about plutonium - but what's to stop the British switching from uranium to plutonium once it's discovered, because of the cost of enrichment?

Part of the point about plutonium is that it was first discovered and isolated by American scientists (chief among them Glenn Seaborg), who then continued to work on discovering different separation techniques. Part the Manhattan Project was a four-pronged investigation into different methods of separating plutonium, including important research and development by the Dupont Corporation.

Also, if the British are spending money on uranium enrichment, and then switch to plutonium generation and isolation... isn't that getting closer to the Manhattan Project's "investigate both paths at once"?

#279 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Plutonium's existence, and how to manufacture it, was described by British scientists at the Cavendish Lab, as well as by US scientists at Berkeley.

I think you may be overestimating the importance of having lots of Nobel laureates. The Manhattan Project wasn't a scientific project but an engineering one, and good engineers don't have to be geniuses.

As for the Soviet espionage point, which is a good one: bear in mind that the US bomb project started even before Britain entered the war, let alone the US, with the Einstein-Szilard letter. If I were writing this up as an alternate history, I'd make the Anglophile and civilised Leo Szilard into the British mole inside the US project, feeding information from the peacetime US project to the embattled British developers in order to help them fend off the Nazis. If not Szilard, then Wigner, "the conscience of us all" as Szilard called him.

Anyway, I don't want to go on rehashing this question for ever. I didn't say that a British-only bomb project would necessarily be successful, just that it would be conceivable.

#280 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 06:07 PM:

The main atomic bomb secret is that the bomb is possible at all. That cat came out of the bag at Hiroshima. Everything after that is math, engineering, and manufacturing.

As has been pointed out many times, this is 1940s technology.

#281 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Did Germany have enough of the goods to make a bomb?

http://www.ww2pacific.com/u-234.html

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