Saturday, May 31, 2008

Incredibly good judgment in action

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Report: Obama Quits Trinity [Byron York]

CNN is reporting, based on CNN contributor Roland Martin, that Barack and Michelle Obama have resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ.

(The Corner at National Review Online)

Incredibly good judgment operating with such a long delay as to be completely useless, that is.

Winning in Iraq

Barring some unusually extensive adjustments to the numbers in the ensuing days, the death rate from violence in Iraq has reached historic lows in the period since the Coalition invasion effort.

The data are current as of today from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count ( The top line of the graph (red) represents civilian and Iraqi security force deaths combined. The lower line of the graph (blue) shows the deaths among coalition forces.

The peak for coalition deaths during this time period was 131 in May of 2007.

In blunt terms, this means victory in Iraq, Not just deposing Hussein and ensuring that Iraq would not provide WMDs or WMD assistance to terrorists, but the establishment of a U.S.-friendly regime--and representative government on top of that.

Four things to note if that type of victory ensues:

1) President Bush gets a great deal of credit for persistence despite failing to implement COIN tactics earlier than he did.
2) Bush helped prove that the a representative government can win an unpopular and protracted war. The supposed inability of democracies to meet this sort of challenge had served to give our enemies confidence in their eventual victory.
3) Our armed forced from the support services on up to the leadership deserves huge credit for resolve and adaptability.
4) Al Qaeda has received a severe blow to its credibility worldwide, largely as a result of the desperate tactics it employed in Iraq while trying to discourage the war effort (that is, killing and terrorizing civilians to perpetuate unrest.

Even today, the typical news of violence from Iraq consists of things like suicide attacks on markets and other targets of zero military importance. Coalition and Iraqi security forces won credibility from Iraqis by default as well as through spectacular effort.

A secure Iraq will be able to consolidate and exploit its oil resources with assistance from foreign investment. Its people will benefit as a result.

And won't the Iranians be jealous?

Devil* Rays blank Chisox to take 2-1 series lead

Mostly I stick with updating my Rays reports with a summary of each series. Tonight's victory was sweet enough to warrant an exception.

Pitcher Scott Kazmir extended his streak of fabulous pitching by hurling seven more shutout innings against the AL Central-leading White Sox and the bullpen made it stand for a 2-0 home win and guaranteeing the Rays no worse than a series draw in the four-game set.

The White Sox have proved a tough opponent. Chicago's pitching staff is every bit as solid as the Rays and the team has much more major league experience than the upstart Rays. Playing this well against tough teams bodes well for the rest of the season, especially since Tampa Bay has only shown hints of their offensive potential.

Added "Politico" to Essential Links

Politico has established itself as the go-to source for political news on the 'Net, and thus warrants inclusion on the "Essential Links" in the sidebar.

Politico's reporting on Bill Clinton's complaints about Hillary Clinton's press coverage serves as an example of what should not be missed.

Obama's Iraq problem (Updated)

Power Line echoes a new dimension of the Obama credibility crisis.
The widespread conviction among Democrats that we are destined to fail in Iraq was the key to Barack Obama's emergence as Presidential front-runner. He postured himself as the candidate who had opposed the war from the beginning. But what helped Obama in the Democratic primaries may prove his undoing in the general election. Through the months when Obama's dedication to failure was bringing him closer to the nomination, conditions in Iraq were improving, not worsening. This contradiction is now becoming acute, and Obama faces it squarely as he tries to decide whether, how and when to go to Iraq.
The cornerstone of Barack Obama's qualification for office has been his recognition--minus access to intelligence--that going to war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do. As Power Line and others note, Obama's position on the war served him well in the Democratic primary race. On the other hand, it has also been noted that Obama's position has been suspiciously political, coming to the fore as Obama vied for votes among a primarily anti-war black constituency and then moderating into agreement with the president's strategy later on.

The incongruity between Obama's position on the war and the reality of the situation in Iraq is growing, threatening to turn into a yawning abyss that will ultimately swallow Obama's credibility. Right now it looks likely that the administration's goals for the Iraq War will pan out, with Democratic defeatism the greatest threat to a positive outcome. With one day to go in the month of May, deaths among coalition forces and deaths among Iraqi civilians/Iraqi security forces both seem poised to end up at historic lows dating back to the very beginning of the war.

John McCain's strategy of inviting Obama to Iraq for a lookaround does seem intended to play up the latter's insulation from the facts on the ground.

The newest addition to the Jedi blogroll, American Power, treated the same subject (Obama and Iraq) and provided a Youtube video accompaniment that seems a perfect match.

See Obama. Hear Obama campaign on the surge. See Obama. See Obama on the surge. See Obama campaign contradict Obama on the surge.

The surge has done what Obama (the guy with the awesome judgment) said it would not do. It provided for a moderation of sectarian violence and a stepped-up pursuit of AQI safe havens that enabled the Iraqi government to begin to consolidate its role as a non-sectarian peacekeeping force.

That is success in Iraq.

Friday, May 30, 2008

For posterity ...

Hopefully the Rays can hang onto their lead in the AL East while finishing a four-game series against the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.

Tampa Bay3222.593-
New York2627.4915.5
Streaks: L1
Last 10: 7-3
Home: 21-10  Road: 11-12
Runs Scored: 249  
Runs Against: 224

Force Protection scores substantial support contracts

The US military's announced contracts for May 29 included two substantial ones awarded to Force Protection, Inc. Both contracts involve support services for Force Protection vehicles already ordered by the military.

The two contracts total $43,677,353.

That should help ease some of the fears of FPI shareholders

PolitiFact keeps right on bungling

The smooth-talking Barack Obama blurted out that his uncle helped liberate Auschwitz.

Once again, it looks like a job for PolitiFact.

A good summary can make or break one of these :
SUMMARY: In recounting a World War II story about his uncle, Obama named the wrong concentration camp, but we found other details were correct. His uncle saw the horrors of the Holocaust.
Other details, eh? Here is how PolitiFact remembers Obama's speech:
“I had an uncle who was . . . part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps,” Obama said in the speech on May 26, 2008. “And the story in our family was that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months. Right? Now obviously something had really affected him deeply. But at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain.”
I added bold emphasis to mark the relevant portion. There isn't really much detail, there. We do have the following:
  • he had an "uncle"
  • the "uncle" was with the American troops who went into Auschwitz
  • the "uncle" was with the American troops who liberated the concentration camps.
1) Obama was apparently not referring to a real "uncle" (brother of his father or mother) but to a "great uncle." "Uncle" may refer simply to a close male friend of a family, however, so it's fair to read Obama charitably in using the term to refer to his great uncle.

2) As PolitiFact notes, it was Soviet troops who liberated (using the term advisedly) Auschwitz so that portion of Obama's speech is just as false as could be, perhaps even qualifying for the dreaded "Pants-on-Fire" cheesy graphic.

3) Obama's great uncle was plausibly part of the liberation of a work camp known as Ohdruf, part of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The PolitiFact ruling? Mostly true!

Is it not obvious that the Auschwitz claim is Obama's key claim in his statement? Everybody knows about Auschwitz. Say "Ohdruf" or even "Buchenwald" and you get a "Huh?" from the average person.

But one more thing. Review the PolitiFact summary again. Obama's (great) "uncle saw the horrors of the Holocaust." Is that so? Even if it's plausible that this great uncle was part of the company that liberated Ohrdruf, how can it be so easily said that he "saw the horrors of the Holocaust"? PolitiFact offers some evidence that Ohrdruf manifested the horrors of the Holocaust (striped outfits along with the smell of feces and urine, anyway). But Obama's own description of the incident is built on an inference. The great uncle spent considerable time in the attic when he got home, therefore he must have seen something horrible.

Couldn't simply serving in Patton's army account for that?

The Obama gaffe (and it is that) cannot be better than half true even through the absorption of true incidental details such as the existence of a (great) uncle who helped liberate a work camp other than Auschwitz. And it is simply amazing that PolitiFact would assure readers on such thin evidence that "(Obama's) uncle saw the horrors of the Holocaust."

I agree with TalkLeft's "Jeralyn" that one would hope that an intellectual president would be aware of the location of Auschitz (Poland) as part of his awareness of international history. That is the key aspect of the Obama gaffe, and it is that aspect that is downplayed by the PolitiFact kid gloves treatment of justifying the incidental details of the story to find it "mostly true."

This PolitiFact entry was by Robert Farley and researched by Angie Drobnic Holan.


Additional information regarding Ohrdruf may be found here.

SPT "In the Know" on Douglas Feith

My local newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times, came up with a cute little jingle some time ago. "In the know, in the Times, whoa whoa whoa whoa" or something to that effect set to music. The idea, of course, is that reading the Times gives you the information you need to know, such as the information in Douglas Feith's recent book on the manner in which decisions about the Iraq War were made.

Well, apparently not. Though the pathetic search feature at the Times cannot be discounted as part of the problem. Search for "Feith" and the most recent story mentioning Feith was from Dec. 2007, before Feith's book was published.

To its credit(?) the Times' search engine doesn't have anything this year for "McClellan" either.

In the know, baby.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reuters' McClellan video adds little to nothing

Getting McClellan on camera for comments provides the opportunity for McClellan to clarify whether or not the preliminary reviews of his book are accurate. The Reuters video fails in that respect. The video succeeds in highlighting the criticisms attributed to McClellan, however, and Reuters even takes the step of providing additional content apparently intended to buttress the claims reported from the book, as with the material featuring Richard Clarke.

If you like your news fluffy, Reuters has delivered.

A question for Iraq retreatists

The number of fatalities among civilians and Iraqi security forces due to violence in Iraq looks like it will fall below the levels from December of '07, fulfilling my prediction that levels would drop lower than those from April.

For proponents of the effort to continue stabilizing Iraq through US military presence, those numbers are good news. They might also be good news to those who want the US to precipitously withdraw. With violence down, they might say, it is time to bring our troops home.

Is it?

The refrain from many in the troops home now camp consists of the assertion that the US presence in Iraq precipitates exactly the violence that the troops are currently trying to squelch. Yet the following story is typical of the type of violence that makes up the bulk of civilian death counts in Iraq.
A suicide bomber blew himself up Thursday in a crowd of police recruits in northwestern Iraq, killing at least 16 men and wounding 14 others, an official said.


Nobody has claimed responsibility for the latest attack. But it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, underscoring Iraqi claims that insurgents have fled to remote areas to escape a U.S.-Iraqi offensive under way in Mosul, about 74 miles east of Sinjar.

The top official in Sinjar, Dakhil Qassim, said the casualties would have been higher, but the security services had received tips that police recruiting centers would be targeted and had issued a warning on Wednesday advising people to stay away.

But a crowd still gathered at the center in Sinjar. Those killed included 14 recruits and two policemen, while 14 other people were wounded, Qassim said.

"We told them that there (was) no more recruiting for security reasons," Qassim said. "But people gathered at recruiting center anyway hoping that some official might register their names."


Will Iraqi police recruits somehow not be collaborating with the United States if US troops are withdrawn? What is the reason for killing Iraqis who are trying to join the police?

It is possible that al Qaeda just wants casualty numbers high in order to provide more reason in the United States to withdraw troops (innocent people are still being killed by Bush's war, people might say).

Or, it's possible that al Qaeda finds Iraq's security forces unacceptably opposed to its purposes.

The question: Why should anyone expect this type of killing to stop following a US withdrawal?

The objective press? (Updated)

Pew Research has released a study comparing the press coverage of our presidential candidates. Republicans will probably not react with surprise that John McCain has received the short end of the stick from the mainstream press.

One wonders how different the study might have been if either Obama or Clinton had sewn up the nomination early. One might argue at least a couple of angles. Perhaps the press would have focused more harshly on Obama without Clinton to draw their fire. Or perhaps the press would have circled the wagons protectively around either Democratic candidate.

Regardless of the might-have-beens, the results provide an interesting read. Click the link at the top of the clipped image to read the story.
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The story puts an interesting spin on its reporting of the survey data.

The lead graph:
If campaigns for president are in part a battle for control of the master narrative about character, Democrat Barack Obama has not enjoyed a better ride in the press than rival Hillary Clinton, according to a new study of primary coverage by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.
The next two paragraphs concern the treatment the Democratic candidates received from the press. The press is presented as treating the candidates a certain way--more or less equally.
But then we get to John McCain, and something changes:
On the Republican side, John McCain, the candidate who quickly clinched his party’s nomination, has had a harder time controlling his message in the press. Fully 57% of the narratives studied about him were critical in nature, though a look back through 2007 reveals the storyline about the Republican nominee has steadily improved with time.
Suddently it's not the media treating McCain a certain way. It's hapless McCain unable to control his message. McCain probably needs the PR version of Depends.

By the fifth paragraph the candidates are mentioned together, but simply to note that the tenor of coverage was reflected in public polling. Some newspaper folks will get a tug at the corners of their mouths at that one. Still relevant after all those years.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Iraq and MRAPs in the news (Japan)

A story in Japan's Mainichi Daily News held content relevant to the waging of the Iraq War as well as a report of the successful service of an MRAP vehicle.

First, a reminder of the depravity of the religious extremists trying to foment violence in Iraq, as teenagers were apprehended after information surfaced that they had been trained for suicide attacks:

The youths, who were not identified, began crying as they were led into the police station and said they were forced into agreeing to the suicide attacks.

"The Saudi insurgent threatened to rape our mothers and sisters, destroy our houses and kill our fathers if we did not cooperate with him," one of them told reporters.

Yeah, of course you say that if you're a suicide bomber apprehended by the authorities. In Iraq, however, the story is consonant with the type of barbarity that turned al-Anbar against al Qaeda. The youths' story is plausible on its face.

How I wish MRAPs were mentioned by model and manufacturer in mentions like this one.
Despite a cease-fire by militia fighters loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a roadside bomb struck a U.S. mine-resistant armored vehicle on the southern edge of Sadr City, engulfing the MRAP in flames and smoke. The U.S. military said there were no casualties.
A tool of war trumped. Meh.

Addendum: Just ran across another version of the story. The MRAP involved was the Navistar MaxxPro, if this photo (and caption) is any indication.

clipped from
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Jane's and the MRAP

The hunt for MRAP news today revealed a story for Jane's, the premiere publisher of military hardware reference works. I found two paragraphs particularly notable.
Such is the global profile of the MRAP programme that it has understandably received extensive coverage across the media. That coverage has seldom been as accurate, informed or as impartial as it could and perhaps should have been.
I'll take my hit for uninformed comment! But somehow I doubt they had me in mind. On the other hand, I've been reasonably impartial. I can also think of some stories in mainstream sources that either had an odd focus or a corrupting bias.

The other paragraph consisted of a new tidbit of information on the subject of PVI's Alpha and Golan vehicles:
The following vehicles were eliminated from the competition: the Textron M1117 Armored Security Vehicle (ASV), the Oshkosh-offered Thales Bushmaster, the GPV offering, and following small low-rate initial production (LRIP) orders: the PVI-offered Rafael Golan and Oshkosh (PVI-designed) Alpha, would all be eliminated from the competition. The bulk of the 60 Golans and 100 Alphas ordered have since been declared excess property by the marines and will be employed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The CBP could certainly use some armored vehicles if the phenomenon noted a few posts ago continues to creep over our southern border.

Devil* Rays take 2 of 3 from Rangers at the Trop

The Tampa Bay Devil* Rays notched a 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers earlier today at Tropicana Field, taking the three game series two games to one. Righty Matt Garza registered the win, striking out 10 and allowing 2 runs in 8 innings pitched.

Texas bats exploded during Tuesday's game, as the Rangers won that game 12-6. Texas has been one of the top hitting clubs in the league for most of the year.

Andy Sonnanstine was roughed up for the second start in a row, which should put his place in the rotation in question despite a 6-3 record.

All of the Rays' starting pitchers are young, and this year is only Sonnanstine's second in the majors. With Jason Hammel waiting in the wings to provide occasional starts, the Rays could option Sonnanstine to Durham at some point and rely on Scott Kazmir (4-1), James Shields (4-3), Edwin Jackson (3-3) and Matt Garza (4-1).

With a bit more seasoning, Sonnanstine may prove to have the type of mettle that James Shields has developed over time.

Next up, the Chicago White Sox visit St. Petersburg for a four game series.

The one-line review of Scott McClellan's book (Updated)

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new book, according to early review by Mike Allen, takes President Bush to task for a number of things, including operating on the basis of propaganda.

Given the timing and apparent content of McClellan's book, the final line of Ed Morrissey's sight-unseen book review seems destined to summarize it perfectly: " If the press secretary was that interested in truth, he took an awfully long time to tell it."

Hugh Hewitt talked to Allen last week about the book. Hewitt, amused that Douglas Feith's book shedding considerable new light on the decisions leading to the Iraq War has failed to cause so much as a blip in the mainstream press, noted to Allen that McClellan's book was likely to be reviewed heavily in the mainstream press. Allen agreed, with a wry chuckle of his own.

A satirical site called Scrappleface has an entry that rivals Ed Morrissey's in terms of pith:

McClellan: Publisher Using Me Unwittingly to Sell Books

by Scott Ott for ScrappleFace · 2 Comments

(2008-05-28) — Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who claims in a new book that Bush administration officials used him to promote the president’s policies and to defend top officials, today said he suspects he’s being used unwittingly by his publisher to pass along information “just to sell books.”

(read more)

Vaclav Klaus on global warming and environmental alarmism

Power Line blog posted a portion of an address by former Czech Republic president Vaclav Klaus.

I was prepared to post a portion of what Power Line posted, on the relationship between communism and the modern environmental movement--but another portion of the excerpt drew my attention because it appropriately frames the entire issue:
The real debate is and should be about costs and benefits of alternative human actions, about how to rationally deal with the unknown future, about what kind and size of solidarity with much wealthier future generations is justified, about the size of externalities and their eventual appropriate internalization, about how much to trust the impersonal functioning of the markets in solving any human problem, including global warming, and how much to distrust the very visible hand of very human politicians and their bureaucrats.
(Power Line)
That last line sums up the trepidations I have about a unified US government under President Obama. By all accounts an ambitious man whose historic footprints trail through leftist fens.

Update: The Czech proprietor of The Reference Frame, LuboŇ° Motl, stopped by the comments section and left a link to a video of the press club event at which Klaus spoke--at CSPAN. Sincere thanks to LuboŇ°.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mass of murders in Mexico

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico: An underworld war between rival drug gangs and police has escalated into open bloody conflict in Mexico, with residents in this northern border city fearing an unparalleled bloodbath by the weekend.

The body count from the conflict is already staggering. So far this year, nearly 1,400 people have been murdered, an increase of more than 40 percent over the toll from the first five months of 2007, according to authorities.
(The News)
Iraq Coalition Casualty Count reports about 3500 violent deaths among security forces and civilians combined thus far in Iraq this year, just to provide a comparison.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Devil Rays sweep into first place

The Tampa Bay Devil* Rays completed a three-game weekend sweep of the pesky Baltimore Orioles, moving ahead of the Boston Red Sox by 1/2 game as the former AL East leaders lost their third straight to the Oakland Athletics.

Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria was the hero of the weekend, clubbing two home runs to pace the Rays' 11-4 Saturday victory and doubling in Carlos Pena in the bottom of the ninth frame on Sunday to secure the 5-4 win. Pitcher Matt Garza, who pitched 7.1 innings in Friday's shutout of the O's, get honorable mention.

The Rays are starting to hit. Carlos Pena has come alive in the cleanup spot. If Pena gets hot then the three and five spots might catch the fever.


Ecuador shopping for Super Tucanos

QUITO, April 29 (Reuters) - Ecuador will buy 24 warplanes made by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer (ERJ.N: Quote, Profile, Research)(EMBR3.SA: Quote, Profile, Research), Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told Reuters on Tuesday.


Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said he planned to beef up it country's air force to protect its porous border with Colombia after that country bombed a leftist rebel camp inside Ecuador.

The March 1 incursion briefly raised the threat of war, but tensions eased during a regional meeting a week later. Ecuador has severed diplomatic ties with Bogota and tensions remain high between both countries.


I guess Ecuador doesn't want anybody messing with its rebel (FARC) bases.

Seriously, it is possible to see an analogy to Pakistan with the latter's reluctance to allow US strikes against Taliban targets in Pakistan. Though Pakistan at least says that it is willing to conduct operations against Taliban groups if good information comes to light. I don't know that is the case with Ecuador. One might dare to hope that the Super Tucano, a capable turboprop fighter thought valuable for counterinsurgency operations (COIN), is regarded by Ecuadorean leaders as a tool to use against unwelcome FARC bases in Ecuador rather than (or in addition to) providing security against Columbian incursions.

We'll see how it pans out.

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Super Tucano of Colombian Air Force
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Columbia ordered 24 Super Tucanos a couple of years ago, as it happens. The Super Tucano above is with the Columbian Air Force.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More astonishing ineptitude at PolitiFact

PolitiFact is apparently continuing its effort to give Media Matters a relative boost to its credibility.

John McCain recently attacked Obama after Obama had focused on the deficiencies of Bush's foreign policy with the statement that he would meet, for example, with the leaders of Iran without any preconditions.

Looks like a job for PolitiFact.
In trying to portray Sen. Barack Obama as a neophyte when it comes to international relations, Sen. John McCain seized on some comparisons Obama made between the relative threat of Iran now vs. the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
If I were into minor points, "seized on" is rather prejudicial language. Let's just say that it doesn't particularly fit the paradigm of objective news reporting. But the PolitiFudging hasn't really even started yet.

The first part of McCain’s recap of Obama’s quote puts the context accurately, that Obama noted the threat from Iran was tiny “compared to the threat once posed by the Soviet Union.”

But McCain veers off the rails when he takes the next step, claiming that Obama characterized the threat from Iran as tiny or insignificant. Obama never said that.

Uh--where did McCain supposedly claim that Obama characterized the threat from Iran as tiny or insignificant?

Here is how PolitiFact reported McCain's words:
“Senator Obama claimed that the threat Iran poses to our security is ‘tiny’ compared to the threat once posed by the former Soviet Union,” McCain said before the National Restaurant Association in Chicago on May 19, 2008. “Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant."

“On the contrary, right now Iran provides some of the deadliest explosive devices used in Iraq to kill our soldiers. They are the chief sponsor of Shia extremists in Iraq, and terrorist organizations in the Middle East. ... Should Iran acquire nuclear weapons, that danger would become very dire, indeed. They might not be a superpower, but the threat the government of Iran poses is anything but ‘tiny.’ ”
That is at most an implication that Obama called the Iranian threat insignificant. But finding that implication demands that McCain be read less than charitably. Happily for those with a liberal bent, PolitiFact is up to that task.

How should one charitably read McCain?

Obama emphasized that since talking to the Soviet Union took place despite the USSR's considerable nuclear and conventional firepower that therefore talking with a less threatening foe makes good sense. Read with only modest charity, McCain addressed Obama's point directly: Iran, despite its relative weakness in conventional military terms, serves as a major threat because of its rogue nature and willingness to use terrorism. McCain is saying the same thing that PolitiFact notes that Obama admits about Iran, and proceeded after the comments quoted by PolitiFact to use that point to undermine Obama's rationale for having unconditional meetings with Iran.
"... is anything but tiny.

Senator Obama has, Senator Obama has declared, and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the President of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union. Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess. An ill conceived meeting between the President of the United States and the President of Iran, and the massive world media coverage it would attract, would increase the prestige of an implacable foe of the United States, and reinforce his confidence that Iran's dedication to acquiring nuclear weapons, supporting terrorists and destroying the State of Israel had succeeded in winning concessions from the most powerful nation on earth. And he's unli- unlikely to abandon the dangerous ambitions that will have given him a prominent role on the world stage."

(The Hotline at National Journal)

Let me emphasize the point again. McCain no more claimed that Obama said the threat from Iran was tiny than Obama said the threat from Iran was tiny. If PolitiFact flunks McCain's truthfulness on that point--and they did, just one notch above "Pants-on-Fire"--then they should equally flunk their own truthfulness. But of course they won't. At most you'll see a correction minus the stupid graphic implying an immoral twisting of the truth. And probably not even that.

But the ineptitude at PolitiFact gets even more stupefying in this entry. The authors (Update: actually just Robert Farley, unless we count his editor) found a source saying that the threat from Iran is actually worse than the threat from the Soviet Union because Iran cannot presently be regarded as a rational actor.

Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, Dale said, while unapologetically supporting terrorist groups like Hamas, who would have little hesitation about setting off a nuclear weapon in the United States.

“You could definitely say it’s more dangerous than the Cold War,” he said.

PolitiFact has apparently succeeded in proving that one of Obama's statements, that the threat from Iraq is tiny compared to that of the Soviet Union, is less than true. Don't expect it to warrant its own entry, even though it helps make McCain's point (according to PolitiFact) that Obama is a foreign policy neophyte.

This is amazing stuff. A publication that is supposedly set up to separate fact from fiction completely flubs the judgment on McCain and overlooks its opportunity to shine the light of truth on Barack Obama. Granted, the information is buried in the item for those with the inclination and wherewithall to dig it out--but the cheesy Truth-O-Meter proclaims McCain false and renders no judgment on Obama in this case. People will believe the graphic.

Writer/researcher Robert Farley gets the credit (blame) for this one, if I interpret the credits properly.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm sorry I did not see this sooner ...

One of the blogs I visit on occasion, Belligerati, commented on a new trend in medicine: apologizing for error as a preventative for potential lawsuits.

What fine news!

The key to the success of the apology is the legal barring of the apology as the basis for a lawsuit. This permits a doctor to make the human expression of compassion, together with the confession that the outcome was less than what was hoped or even an outright error--something other than an implicit invitation to sue.

There may be some drawbacks in the fine print, but this is exactly the sort of legislation that may help reign in some of the absurdities forced on society by the legal profession.

The Blackwater-Raytheon JLTV

The JLTV version of Blackwater's "Grizzly" has a more roadworthy (and offroadworthy) appearance than its MRAP predecessor. Though this partnership has to be a longshot to make the next round of the competition, the vehicle looks like a quite credible entrant based simply on its appearance. And that observation, of course, is somewhat obvious given the expense of developing a competitive prototype.

I'd like to see a Consumer Reports style rundown of the competition, but I suppose there are too many secrets at stake for anything like that to get to print out in public.

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I note that my first experiment in satisfactorily updating the Clipworks presentation is an aesthetic failure.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A friendly review of "Expelled"

Why I don't regularly read Orson Scott Card's regular column is a mystery. I recommend the column to others. Scratch that. If I place a link in my "Favorites" folder I'll get around to checking his column as I should.

Card's most recent column, from earlier this month, praises "Expelled" even as Card makes clear that he thinks that Intelligent Design ideas are inappropriate for the science classroom. And Card makes several points that are unusual coming from a (center left) liberal and (from what I can tell) religious skeptic.

I think Ben Stein's movie deals fairly yet powerfully with a vitally important issue and should be seen by everyone with enough education to make sense of it (which means not your average middle school student).

But let me make it clear from the start that I believe Intelligent Design is wrong and potentially dangerous -- and shouldn't be taught in science classes as if it were a scientific theory, because it is not.


Read the whole thing for the juicy bits, including Card's skepticism of human-caused global warming.

Michael J. Totten in praise of Michael Yon

Is it just because their first names are the same?
Iraq is where ideologies go to die. Arab nationalism, Baathism, anti-Americanism, al-Qaidism, Donald Rumsfeldism, and Moqtada al-Sadrism have either died there or are dying. Conventional liberal opinion, more or less correct about the foundering American war effort from 2004 to 2006, has been severely bloodied—along with Iraq’s worst insurgent groups and militias—by General David Petraeus’s leadership of the American troop surge. Even post-9/11 fear of Islam has proven unsustainable for those who regularly interact with ordinary Iraqis. Independent journalist Michael Yon, who has spent more time embedded with combat soldiers in Iraq than any other reporter, is a refreshingly unideological analyst of the war. His self-published dispatches have earned him a loyal following around the world, and he has set out to reach even more people with the publication of a terrific new book, Moment of Truth in Iraq.
More likely Totten respects Yon because both are independent journalists providing reports from areas that most journalists do not wish to visit.

Once Mr. Totten gets his direct link logo fixed so that I can figure out how to use it, I'll put his right under Michael Yon's under "Essential Links."

More on MRAPs vs. EFPs

Via Strategypage:

You set EFPs off with the detonator, either via wire, or wireless, connection. When the C4 explodes, it forms the copper cap into a blob of molten copper, moving faster than a speeding bullet (about 1,500 meters a second). The blob stays intact, and lethal, for a few hundred meters, traveling pretty much in a straight line. However, the EFP is still difficult to aim. The user has to place it so that, when it goes off, it will hit a vehicle sitting in a position the user has already figured out. For this reason, EFPs are usually set up at places where vehicles have to stop.

When the EFP hits an armored vehicle, it burns and punches its way through the armor. Once inside the vehicle, it injures or kills whoever it hits, as well as igniting combustible material and generally scaring the hell out of everyone. The increased use of MRAP vehicles however, has meant that, while EFP attacks are up over a third this year, casualties from those weapons is down 17 percent.

Good story. Well worth the visit to read the entirety.

As is usual in war, both sides are trying to win some advantage. The (shrinking number of) insurgents are trying to use EFPs in innovative ways to maximize their impact. The coalition forces take note of what the insurgents attempt, underline what works, and attempt modifications in armor or tactics to neutralize the enemy strategy.

MRAPs have proved an important technological advance that has significantly assisted military operations in Iraq--not a "Tool of war trumped."

A's bats come to life, avert Rays sweep

The Tampa Bay Devil* Rays completed a break-even road trip (3-3) through St. Louis and Oakland.

The Oakland A's put an exclamation point on their lone victory by pounding Rays pitching for nine runs in the finale.

After a day off, the Rays face the Orioles in St. Petersburg for a three-game weekend series.

When presidential hopefuls attack (Updated)

I wondered the other day whether the mainstream press would be willing to say that Barack Obama attacks the likely Republican presidential nominee. Both have more-or-less pledged a civil campaign, and both have made relatively frequent negative mention of the policy ideas of the other.

Obama attacks: Two Google News hits, including one by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (what were they thinking?).

McCain attacks: One hundred sixty Google News hits, including The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Washington Post and Reuters.

Is it possible that McCain is simply doing more attacking than Obama? Yes, it's possible--but to the degree indicated by the news reports?


With the New Politics one does not attack. One focuses on.

Obama focuses on McCain during Florida stop


The Illinois senator also took several shots at McCain, criticizing the influence of lobbyists in his campaign and calling him a new version of President George W. Bush.

It wouldn't really be right to call that an attack, would it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Un. Be. Lievable: Casting the Allies as warmongers

Book reviewer Richard Bernstein (New York Times Company) cobbles together some things he has read into a presentation of a "respectable" view that the Allies were warmongers.

The first two "respectable" proponents of this view, as mentioned by Bernstein, are novelists. Now, nothing against novelists, for certainly it's possible for a novelist to have secure knowledge of his topic, but by the same token the novelist might not know what he's talking about, either. Is this the best he can do? Apparently not. There's also Pat Buchanan.

More is coming along the anti-Churchillian lines. Patrick Buchanan, the conservative commentator and two-time presidential candidate, launches a sustained attack on Churchill in a new, lengthy book, "Churchill, Hitler, and 'The Unnecessary War': How Britain Lost the Empire and the West Lost the World," which will be out later this month.


Buchanan goes further, arguing (as numerous others have on this point) that had imperialist France and Britain not forced an unjust peace settlement on Germany after World War I, there would have been no rise of Hitler in the first place, no World War II, and no resulting Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

(International Herald Tribune)

Buchanan is essentially accurate regarding the point that the Treaty of Versailles did much to motivate the Germans to wage war to regain what they had lost. But that does not remotely provide sufficient rationale to fuel the notion that Churchill and the Allies were therefore warmongers who instigated the war intentionally.

It is not controversial that far earlier appeasement might have prevented Hitler from ever coming to power. The weight of the restitution demanded under the Treaty of Versailles ensured a weak and pathetic German economy. But the truth is that the Allies were utterly tired of that first world war, which had jarred the contemporary expectation that wars would be short and civilized. War, it turned out, could still be long and ruinous if neither side possessed the types of clear technological advantages that enabled Otto von Bismarck to achieve his notable successes.

Once a person of Hitler's mind-set had taken power, however, any negotiation not made on the basis of power simply fed his sense of being able to achieve any ends to which he set his mind.

Iraq War fiasco paying off

It still may not be too late for Democrats in the United States government to wrest failure from the jaws of victory, but huge strides are taking place in Iraq:
BAGHDAD — Iraqi troops pushed deep into Sadr City on Tuesday as the Iraqi government sought to establish control over the district, a densely populated Shiite enclave in the Iraqi capital.

The long-awaited military operation, which took place without the involvement of American ground forces, was the first determined effort by the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to assert control over the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood, which has been a bastion of support for Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel cleric.
(The New York Times)
Key military operations (Mosul, Sadr City) continue in Iraq while the death toll appears on its way to finishing near the December '07 dip for this month, extrapolating the early May numbers from Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.

Despite tactical mistakes, the United States should be proud of deposing Saddam Hussein, ensuring that Hussein could not continue to play the United Nations while remaining prepared to produce WMD, and (though it's still early) transitioning Iraq from brutal dictatorship to a representative democracy minus a big Iranian thumb-print.

Hat tip to Power Line.
Minor update notice--fixed a careless error by substituting "victory" for "defeat" in the first line of the post.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ad nonsense

I was listening to a radio ad in between segments of the Rush Limbaugh radio program (guest host today, on a roll speaking about economic policy).

The ad was for one of those debt reduction services. The spokesperson said that the service could reduce the amount you owe "by up to half. Or more."

"Up to half" appears to cover everything from no reduction at all to a full 50 percent. With the "Or more" the ad appears to take the lid off (contradicting the "up to"), and for all we know the sky is the limit. Your creditors may end up owing you money!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cardinals take two of three from Rays

The St. Louis Cardinals used late-inning hitting to best the Tampa Bay Devil* Rays in a three game weekend series in St. Louis.

The Cards served up a reminder that the Rays' bullpen isn't all that different from last year's despite its early success. In today's game, reliever Gary Glover walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the ninth to set the table for the other Cardinals batters.

The series also saw the Rays betraying some of their inexperience, with some lackadaisical defense and some questionable base-running--the latter may have cost the team a win in the second game.

If the starting pitching can consistently turn in quality starts then the bullpen should at least post average numbers. Hopefully the team will learn from the mistakes that go with inexperience and improve as the season progresses. The Rays visit Oakland for a series with the A's. Rays ace James Shields will pitch the series opener on Monday.

Some background on the "water cure" from the Spanish Inquisition

I haven't had much to report on water torture lately. The administration says it stopped water torture in 2005 after it had been used on three important terrorist figures. And Congress passed that ingenious (-cough-) law that restricts the CIA to the same field manual practices as the armed forces.

I have a paper that I've written in response to an essay on water torture that appeared in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law--but I haven't pursued publication of that work as yet.

However ('bout time I got to the point!), I did find a historical reference to the "water cure" that at least has some bearing on suffocation/drowning as a form of torture. Henry Smith Williams wrote in 1907 about the tortures used by the Spanish inquisitors in a booklet called "On Spanish Inquisition and Torture."

Williams wrote first about the "tormento di toca" taking place on the "wooden horse." Williams' explanation of the "wooden horse" was less than clear so I'll reproduce a slightly better one from Blackwood's Magazine (1926):
... is analogous to the French Chevalet and the English Wooden Horse. The instrument by which it is inflicted consists of wood, made hollow like a trough, so as to contain a man lying on his back at full length, and is without any other bottom than a round bar laid across, which, moreover, is so situated that the back of the person to be tortured must rest upon the bar, instead of the bottom of the trough, while, by its peculiar construction, his feet are raised much higher than his head. When the patient is placed in this apparatus, his arms, thighs, and ankles, are made fast to the sides by means of small cords, which, being tightened by means of garrots, or rackpins, (called by some the Spanish windlass,) in the same manner, precisely as carriers tighten the ropes that fasten down the loads on their carts, cut into the very bones, so as to be no longer discernible. Que sera-ce lorsqu'un bras nerveux viendra mouvoir et tourner le fatal billot? The sufferer being in this situation, the most unfavourable that can be imagined for performing the function of respiration, there is inserted deep into his throat a piece of fine moistened linen, upon which an attenuated stream, or thread of water, descends from an earthen vessel, through an aperture so small that little more than an English pint is instilled in the course of an hour.
(Blackwood's Magazine, vol. XX, (July 1826), pp. 70-89.)
The risk of using this reference consists of the relatively strong chance that Williams' booklet was used as one of the primary sources. Williams' account, however, does less to suggest that the thin cloth is inserted into the throat ("the torturer throws over his mouth and nostrils a thin cloth. so that he is scarce able to breathe through them")--but somehow the cloth ends up there anyway ("When this cloth is drawn out of his throat, as it often is, that he may answer to the questions, it is all wet with water and blood, and is like pulling his bowels through his mouth").

Now Williams on the "water cure":
... when night came on his fetters were taken off, then he was stripped naked, put upon his knees, and his head lifted up by force; after which, opening his mouth with iron instruments, they filled his belly with water till it came out of his jaws. Then they tied a rope hard about his neck, and in this condition rolled him seven times the whole length of the room, till he almost quite strangled. After this they tied a small cord about both his great toes, and hung him up thereby with his head down, letting him remain in this condition till all the water discharged itself out of his mouth, so that he was laid on the ground as just dead, and had his irons put on him again.
The "tormento di toca" bears the greater resemblance to modern waterboarding, though I have no indication that the latter allows cloth or anything else besides water to enter the throat. In accordance with that, the feeling of the victim having his bowels pulled out through his mouth would be absent.

The description of the "water cure" as used by the Catholic inquisitors bears considerable resemblance to the "water cure" used in Philippines (and adopted by the U.S. to aid counterinsurgency there in the early 20th century) and later by the Japanese during World War II. Both end up with the victim swallowing large amounts of water, with the water being later forced out by another torture technique (the Japanese often simply applied pressure to the stomach instead of hanging the victim upside-down).

Excellent Hillary Clinton impression/spoof

Massive hat-tip to Hot Air ... I'm just posting it here because I know I'll want to see it again, and this will make it easier to find.

"I am walking the dog."

Too much.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Northrop Grumman JLTV pic

Reader "Tim" alerted me to a new image that Northrop Grumman (teamed with Oshkosh Truck) is using to publicize its JLTV offering.

Looks like a snazzy design at first viewing, though the angle is so narrow that one is left curious about the overall appearance of the vehicle.

I'm less impressed by the ad copy that accompanies the pic. "Ruggedly advanced"? "Brutally effective"?

"Highly sophisticated" covers the technological advancement of the vehicle well enough. Maybe "Advanced and Rugged" along with "Versatile and Effective" would have been better. Though perhaps there's something to be said for going slightly over the top.
That reminds me to alter the default presentation of "Clipmarks" clips. That shade of green doesn't fit so well any longer.

Perhaps going over the top was part of the intent. The presentation recalls the recent crop of violent video games. The crumpled building to the right almost begs to be thought of as the victim of the brutally effective Northrop Grumman JLTV.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rays take 3 of 4 from Yanks, win series

The Tampa Bay Devil* Rays beat the (hated) New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on Thursday, dropping the Bronx Bombers into the AL East cellar and taking a one game lead on the second-place Boston Red Sox.

Yes, it's still early in the season.

The Rays' offense continued to produce somewhat below last year's team, which drew the benefit of rookie Delmon Young's consistent contributions at the plate. Akinori Iwamura's leadoff home run and Shawn Riggans' two-run shot in the fourth inning paced Tampa Bay.

Southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir pitched six shutout innings to celebrate signing a long-term deal with the team.

I attended this game. Though Bostonfan has developed a reputation for out-irritating Yankeefan, we had a real winner in our section. Some guy with a girl voice provided biased play-by-play action through about the fifth inning, when a Rays fan in front of him told him off.

Here's some typical commentary.

On the Iwamura home run: "That was almost a foul ball."
For about half of the at-bats: "Ball two."
After the first inning, with the Yanks down by one: "It's still early."
After the third inning, with the Yanks down by two: "It's still early."
After the fourth inning, with the Yanks down by four: "It's still early."

At some point between the fourth inning and the eighth inning the guy left. Apparently it wasn't still early by that time.


On a fun note, a promotion a few years ago started the practice of cheering the Rays using cowbells.

Occasionally the scoreboard calls for "More Cowbell!"

The connection is obvious to some:

I need more cowbell!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Barack Obama and incoherent foreign policy

Barack Obama's campaign has provided yet another instance of foreign policy incomprehensibility, this time by backing off from Obama's particularly public statements about meeting with our enemies without precondition.

Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air has the details.

This guy Obama is unbelievable. Take that for what it's worth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blogroll shakeup 2008

I finally updated the Jedi Blogroll, deleting Captain's Quarters in favor of Ed Morrissey's new home base at Hot Air.

Other changes:
  • dropped S.P.Q.A. because of chronic dormancy
  • dropped EU Referendum because I'm reading less of it.
  • added longtime favorite The Belmont Club
  • added Common Sense Political Thought
  • added American Power
  • added Alan Colmes' Liberal Land to the Sith Blog Roll
Liberal Land appears to carry over some of the Fox News fascination with titillation, pun intended, as indicated by the Miley Cyrus sexy photo watch.

The competition for worthy inclusion on the Sith Blog Roll remains wide open. Nominate your own blog if you think you make a good case for liberal politics.

Monday, May 12, 2008

MRAPs vs. EFPs: A tool of war trumped?

A news item concerning MRAPs caught my eye today.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military is reinforcing the sides of its topline mine-resistant vehicles to shore up what could be weak points as troops see a spike in armor-piercing roadside bombings across Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

The surge in attacks is putting the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) to the test, and so far they are largely passing. Statistics reviewed by the AP show that while bombings involving the deadly penetrating explosives have jumped by about 40 percent in the past three months, deaths in such bombings have dropped by as much as 17 percent.

(Associated Press)

The story relates the increased use in Iraq of explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, and the manner in which troop casualties have decreased largely because of the use of protected vehicles. The story reminded me of a news story that I subjected to criticism last year, "A tool of war trumped" by St. Petersburg Times writer David DeCamp.

DeCamp's story portrayed the EFP as an ad hoc modification of the roadside bomb, and further implied that the explosive devices would serve to nullify the strategic use of the MRAP in the Iraq War.

Over time, my criticism of DeCamp has been borne out.

The MRAP has been used effectively. EFP production has been hampered by destroying factories and interrupting the supply of the parts requiring substantial engineering. And, as I predicted, technology designed to thwart EPPs in turn is reaching the front lines in time to aid our troops against the threat of EFPs (armor and detection technologies, that is).

Out with the old, in with the new

I visited a Blogger blog with a much better template. I've been dissatisfied with Mr. Moto (green) ever since Blogger updated a couple of years ago. YouTube videos were cut off at the left margin, and the links and tags were a bit of a mess at the bottom of each post.

The current design sorts out those problems, and I'll get around to personalizing some details at a later time.

I don't think I'll need a row of asterisks at the bottom any longer ...

I fell out of my chair: NYT acknowledges success of Iraqi surge in Basra

BASRA, Iraq — Three hundred miles south of Baghdad, the oil-saturated city of Basra has been transformed by its own surge, now seven weeks old.

In a rare success, forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have largely quieted the city, to the initial surprise and growing delight of many inhabitants who only a month ago shuddered under deadly clashes between Iraqi troops and Shiite militias.

(The New York Times)

Well, at least the success is "rare." It's not like most of the country is doing better as with Basra. Well actually it is but let's stick with the positive in our assessment of the Times.

Okay, let's not. The story misses the bigger picture entirely. Though it mentions that Sadrists accuse Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of engineering the crackdown on the Mahdi Army as a "cynical" political move, the Times overlooks the manner in which the nation is uniting under Maliki. The crackdown on Shiite militias was a prerequisite to a unified Iraq, and this operation represents a huge step in that direction.

Favorites in the JLTV competition?

Patrick Smith at Seeking Alpha offers an interesting rundown on the odds in the JLTV competition.

Even knowing virtually nothing about Smith I'll concede that his knowledge of the competition probably exceeds mine handily--but regardless of that I see his odds for General Tactical somewhat inflated, as well as the odds he pictures for the Force Protection/DRS Systems partnership.

Navistar and BAE Systems have come to dominate the MRAP ordering as the competition evolved over time, and some of the lessons learned translate directly to JLTV development. I'm not bold enough to go through assigning odds to the competition, but I don't think any company (make that "partnership") has a better shot at this point of the game than this one.

Smith's piece ends with a forecast of a good chance for stronger Force Protection stock as the JLTV competition unfolds. If the field weren't narrowing down to just two I might agree.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

More al Qaeda leaders squelched in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) - A prominent member of al Qaeda was killed in fighting with U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, the group said in a statement posted on an Islamist website on Sunday.

Abu Suleiman al-Otaibi, formerly one of the group's leaders in Iraq, was killed in a "fierce battle with the worshipers of the cross" in Paktia, it said without giving the date of the battle.


Good news regarding the war on terror if it's true.
The leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan Mustafa Abu al-Yazid said Qahtani left Iraq about six months ago without giving further details.
But that would imply that al Qaeda was in Iraq, wouldn't it? At least until Qahtani left.


Devil Rays sweep Angels

The Tampa Bay Devil* Rays completed a three game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, following up two shutouts with a 7-5 Mother's Day home victory.

The sweep of the Angels followed a road trip that saw the Rays swept by the Red Sox and a 2-1 series win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

While the team's batting remains spotty, the Rays have succeeded with good defense, solid pitching and timely hitting such as Evan Longoria's walk-off home run to secure a 2-0 win over the Angels on Friday.


Dana Pico nails Obama criticism

In contrast to the job done by PolitiFact, noted in my previous post, blogger Dana Pico distills out the essence of Barack Obama's faux pas regarding the number of united states:
... you wouldn’t expect such a boneheaded goof from a man who built his campaign on his public speaking ability. But I am certainly not impressed by, and cut him no slack for his admission that he could not visit Alaska or Hawaii because his staff wouldn’t let him go!
(Common Sense Political Thought)

It occurs to me that I was a little off in estimating the number of states in Obamaworld. The 58 states apparently represent the contiguous states not including Alaska and Hawaii. Therefore the total number of states ends up at 60.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

PolitiFact whiffs on an Obama criticism (Updated)

Apparently the ineptitude at the PolitiFact political fact-check organization is non-partisan. I've noted a couple of ridiculous criticisms of John McCain. Just now I checked out some of the criticisms of Barack Obama. Hooboy.

"Right now, an employer has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than be prosecuted for hiring an undocumented worker. That has to change."

Barack Obama on Thursday, November 15th, 2007 in Las Vegas

Lightning strikes, but not like the feds

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois tried to make the point that enforcement against people who hire undocumented workers has to improve.

But statistics show the feds at least outpace lightning strikes.


Good night! What a nonsense issue! I guess hyperbole is out of bounds if you're running for office. One wonders how they drew the line between "False" and "Pants on Fire" with this one.

PolitiFact takes these nothing issues, puts a true/false grade on them and then compiles the total true/false as though it's supposed to help voters make decisions as to how to vote. The inclusion of nonsense such as this makes PolitiFact next to useless. And I can't wait for them to grade my truthfulness on that statement.

I was slow to notice that this PolitiFact entry was written by David DeCamp, the same writer who bungled the reporting on MRAPs that I criticized here and elsewhere.


Iraq Casualty update

Iraq Casualty Count has finally updated and posted its statistics for deaths among Iraqi civilians and security forces. Not to suggest that they were lazy or incompetent--their site was victimized by a malicious hacker.

Without further ado, the updated graph based on their data:

I usually do the count of coalition deaths in blue and the civilian/security forces count in red. My recent update of the coalition death count reversed that practice accidentally. With this graph the former tradition is re-established.

By way of analysis, the numbers from March (nearly 1,000 deaths counted) offered war opponents and anti-American propagandists some encouragement, to the extent that the numbers trended upward. In terms of the situation on the ground, however, the numbers should not have been discouraging. The Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia nominally under the command of anti-American radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, resisted a surprise crackdown initiated by Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. That conflict resulted in a spike in violence while at the same time U.S. forces continued to try to root al Qaeda in Iraq out of its latest (lastest?) safe haven. In other words, the increased casualty numbers reflected the fallout from specific strategic moves that should have been expected to cause a rise in death statistics without indicating a worsening of the situation in Iraq.

Mainstream media sources such as The New York Times generally reported the confrontation between Iraqi security forces and the al-Sadr militia as a setback. That assessment was unreasonable at the time and even more so in retrospect, as al-Maliki has cemented his support across sectarian lines now, largely based on his willingness to confront the Shiite militia.

The rise to nearly 1,000 deaths in March of 2008 probably represents an isolated spike rather than an enduring upward trend.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

CS Monitor on the JLTV program

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, will have all the latest gadgets that one might expect in a new military vehicle, including a "collision avoidance system." But military officials and outside analysts know that it's not just a new truck replacing an old one. Seven years of unconventional or counterinsurgency warfare is forcing the American military to recognize that the threat it's up against isn't an aberration and that the "jeep of the future" must navigate this dangerous new world.

"Buying a new light truck might not seem like a big deal, but the message of Iraq and Afghanistan is that trucks might be more important than tanks in future war fighting," says Loren Thompson, a senior analyst with the Lexington Institute, a policy research group in Arlington, Va.

Next month, the Army and Marine Corps are expected to pick three preliminary designs for the new vehicle, and the winning one could be picked by 2011.

(The Christian Science Monitor)

I normally stick with two paragraphs but since that last line is the newsiest part of the story I tacked it on the end.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Michelle Obama (Updated)

Barack Obama has taken some heat for his long and close association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the "just my pastor" who is "like family." Wright, as is now well known, holds some astonishing views such as the notion that the United States government invented and spread AIDs, but more importantly weaves such outrageous commentary into sermons and public statements that divisively emphasize race.

Obama has worked to keep Wright from dragging him down politically by publicly dissociating himself from Wright's views.

Michelle Obama seems to be having a rougher time of it. Her stump speeches appear to indicate that the Wright-wing rhetoric has sunk in over the years. She does not maintain Wright's more extreme conspiratorial views, but the overall dim view of the United States comes through.
Apparently she paid attention while in church where her husband perhaps did not.

And when you're struggling all the time the future is a distant dream. And how do I know we're struggling? Because I can look over my life and see how the trajectory for families like the ones I've grown up in has changed. Life has gotten harder, not easier, for working people.
To paraphrase Barbie (and Michelle Obama): "Life is hard."

And now a word from Hugh Hewitt:
I think Michelle Obama's stump-speech message of the unfairness of "moving bars," opportunity-killing debt burdens on college graduates, families having to move away from great aunts, and the fear engulfing the "vast majority of Americans" is not going to resonate with most voters.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Iraq Casualties, April 2008

I was a tad too busy to post the usual graph of Iraq Casualty Count's casualty statistics for March. And in early May ICC did not have their casualties posted because of a malicious cyber attack. They have restored the lists for coalition deaths, however, so I'll update the graph forthwith covering the two missed months at once.

This is the graph I normally color in blue, so I'm sure to cause unlimited confusion if anyone goes back comparing this graph with the older ones. Blame the malicious attacker.

In assessing the numbers from February I projected lower numbers for March based on an extrapolation of the early number from March. That's obviously a tenuous piece of data on which to build a projection--March deaths ended up higher, helped in part by violence from the Mahdi Army. The conflict with the Mahdi Army has persisted through the present day, though the coalition effort against the sectarian militia has been very effective. Though the early numbers for May project to higher totals than for April (54 deaths), I'll predict a lower number based on the fading resistance from the Mahdi Army and the increasing capability of the Iraqi security forces. Despite the somewhat higher death toll on U.S. troops, the overall news from Iraq has been good.


The Force Protection story

The State published a good overview and history of Force Protection, Inc.

Considering that Force Protection is the hometown hero of sorts, the account by Noelle Phillips displays good balance and objectivity.
As Force Protection charts its future, it’s reviewing all of its facilities, including the plants in Roxboro and Ladson, Pruitt said. The company also has locations in Summerville and Edgefield.

“We’re still evaluating all of the facilities,” he said. “What does the business require and which building is best for the plan?”

Options include closing the Ladson plant and moving production to Roxboro.


The most memorable part of the story for me was the line at the end of a section about the JLTV competition. After relating FPI's opening of its Roxboro plant, outfitted for making the Cheetah vehicle for which no orders have yet been placed, Phillips quotes company spokesman Tony Pruitt: "We took a little bit of risk." The irony is probably Phillips' construction. I'd guess Pruitt was rhetorically downplaying the risk when he originally made the comment.