Thursday, January 29, 2009

The launch of the Obama presidency (Updated)

I wrote earlier that President Obama enters office facing some conditions similar to those faced by Jimmy Carter. Carter's presidency was largely a failed presidency, marked by a failure to significantly implement his legislative proposals stemming from his inability to secure solid support from either party or a combination thereof.

Accordingly, I have noted that Obama will have to choose his first set of issues very carefully. No doubt he has attempted to do that, and it is time to begin assessing his success.

1) The economy

Obama moved center with his proposal for economic stimulus. That was a good move. Unfortunately for the president, the Democrats in Congress have been less inclined to move center and the resulting bill (from the House, anyway) is much more partisan in character than the one Obama recommended. If the Senate increases the tax cut percentage reasonably close to his original proposal then a bipartisan bill may yet emerge. Obama gets a boost from that. Alternatively, the budget fight will help polarize conditions in the capital. The resulting bill will represent only the Democrats, and its relative lack of stimulative effect may come back to bite the party of the left.

I detect one plus for the Democrats in this scenario in that I think the basic problem with the economy is essentially fixed. I think the home market is poised to stabilize and grow. The current action of the government, in my view, will serve primarily to soften the bumps caused by the bad side of the business cycle, that is ,decreased consumer spending in the latter half of 2008 with the resulting loss of jobs as businesses cut labor and inventory. So the Democrats might look OK even with a relatively bad bill over the short term, though not likely worth the indebtedness that goes with it.

2) Gitmo

Obama decided to bite the bullet and commit to closing Gitmo. The move is a sop to his base but a difficult one to pull off to the satisfaction of the electorate generally. In recognition of the difficulty, Obama fashioned his strategy by putting the resolution of the issue on a year-long timetable without any initial details.

As noted above, making this a key early issue carries substantial risk in terms of exercising his political power over time.


Obama's choice of dealing with the economy was sound, albeit a bit obvious. His proposal was politically sound even if his rhetoric didn't always match up. Both issues carry substantial risk for Obama's presidency, though it's way too early to forecast the outcome in either case.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air highlighted a report that a military judge has blocked President Obama's attempt to postpone the military tribunals for Gitmo detainees.

This opens up a rather kinetic can o' worms.
The Obama administration can withdraw charges, but to do so while keeping Nashiri detained will be tantamount to holding him without charge — which is what Democrats disliked about Gitmo in the first place. They could release him outright, but since Nashiri is one of the masterminds of the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors, it would be political suicide to do so.
So it may have taken Obama almost two weeks to walk into a political vise. This is likely to hurt.

Jan 20, 2010:  Fixed a number of typos, especially that one where the root word "debt" ended up with a "p" in it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why the Bucs changed coaches

Angry Bucfan has been answering the question as to why Jon Gruden should not coach the Bucs for years. He's no good (with a variety of sub-rationalizations).

I don't happen to agree with that sentiment; neither did the team ownership. And I've already admitted that the coaching change surprised me. So why did the Bucs change coaches?

My reservation about coaching changes has to do with the value of the replacement. In general, one should not replace a good coach with a coach who isn't as good. Coach Dungy was better than most. Coach Gruden was better than most. You don't change without good reason, and the Glazers appear to understand that.

When Tony Dungy was fired, the team had attempted to force his hand in juicing up the offense. Dungy resisted, and when the results did not follow the Glazers replaced him. The move paid off with a Super Bowl championship the very next year--what the Glazers were hoping for, but probably not that quickly.

The situation with Gruden is different. Gruden has been able to lead the Bucs to the playoffs on occasion, but he has two legitimate weaknesses.

First, Gruden appears to have the type of personality where he tells players things he can't back up. Just to invent an example, maybe he tells Ben Troupe that he envisions him catching 40 passes and a half-dozen TDs. And Gruden probably isn't lying. He does have that vision in his head. But he might have a similar vision for the rest of the tight ends on the team. But there's no way that every tight end ends up with numbers like that.

I know people like that. They're generally nice people, and if you realize what sort of person you're dealing with the difference between the talk and the reality is usually no more than an annoyance.

With the Bucs, I think Gruden probably did enough of that sort of thing that he created a cancer of attitude among the players. Not a severe cancer, but one that made a difference.

Second, Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen did not deliver in terms of talent evaluation. That is not to say they were utter failures, but the Glazers have high standards for the team. The last superior defensive lineman drafted by the Bucs was Warren Sapp, and that is a problem for a defense that relies on the performance of the front four.

So, why change coaches? Reading between the lines, the Glazers thought that Gruden had lost touch with the team to some degree. Probably not to the point that the Gruden haters among the fanbase appear to think, but at least to the point where the team thought it had a clear upgrade in Raheem Morris.

Relating to the second reason I cite for Gruden's firing, I have already noted that we have some reason to think that Morris has good instincts with respect to talent evaluation.

That's the "why," in my view. Now we'll see what happens.


Since announcing Morris' promotion to head coach, the team dismissed offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir. Muir was originally hired after Tony Dungy was fired and the Bucs expected to sign Bill Parcells to coach the team.

The Bucs have a solid offensive line, so the team can go pretty much any direction it wishes in terms of offensive philosophy. But I don't see much sense in keeping Jeff Garcia if the team ditches the West Coast offense. Luke McCown and Josh Johnson both have arms suitable for a conventional offense. If the team drags its feet in announcing the new offensive coordinator the decision on Garcia might serve as a partial indicator as to the offensive philosophy the team intends to adopt.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mid-month Iraq casualty update

No graph this time--I'm saving my energy for a graph covering the whole of the Iraq War and its aftermath for the whole of the Bush presidency. I'll probably keep tabs on the casualties without working up a monthly graph from this point on.

In January only six coalition soldiers lost their lives through Jan 16 according to, with half of those listed as "non-hostile" deaths. Those numbers are slightly worse than the mid-month count from November (four total, two non-hostile) but still extrapolate to the best month for coalition troop safety since the start of the war.

General Petraeus, coalition troops and Iraqi security forces deserve immense praise. And President Bush deserves immense credit for showing the resolve to win in Iraq. I've run across liberals writing to the effect that success in Iraq is "impossible" despite the security gains we're seeing now, but I don't see any reasonable justification for such a gloomy outlook. But I'm sure a President Obama will appreciate having the bar set on the ground with respect to his Iraq policy. Anything that gets us out will be considered a success, I suppose.

Raheem Morris and the press

I'm watching the video of the introductory press conference for new Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris.

There are few clues from the press conference as to how Morris will coach. His answers to the few good questions were pretty much free of any detailed content. Props to Jim Flynn (The Pewter Report) and Whitney Johnson (AM 620) for asking good, specific questions.

Morris does not seem comfortable dealing with the press at this point. He has the knack for not answering questions except via cliche, but he needs better and more varied cliches where he won't be providing any real content.

There's no reason to think he won't improve his ability to manage the press after a bit more practice. He really should have been able to provide some sort of answer to questions such as Jim Flynn's about what style the team would adopt post-Gruden, even if it amounted to "I haven't decided yet."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's like having your very own special interest group

In this remarkable video appeal, President-elect Obama in effect declares his very own special interest group (hat tip to Hot Air):

This puts a entirely new perspective on the role of special interests in Washington. Who could blame Obama if he does the bidding of a special interest embodied by himself? He's soliciting "bribes" to enact his own policies!

This guy is smart.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bucs boot Coach Gruden, GM Allen

I had intended to write a wrap-up/postmortem on the 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season for some time, now, but I've been slowed by the fact that I haven't yet watched the final two games along with the realization that I don't really know what went wrong down the stretch.

I mean, sure, the run defense went way south. Yes, there were injuries to the defensive tackles and to linebacker Derrick Brooks. Yes, Monte Kiffin announced that he would coach alongside his son Lane up in Knoxville with the University of Tennessee. But I wouldn't ordinarily blame the abysmal performance on either one of those factors. The combination? Just maybe, but I hesitate to say.

Then today the team announced the firing of Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen. That surprised me. I thought the signing of Raheem Morris to replace Kiffin provided evidence that Gruden would remain, and I figured the defensive line coach Larry Coyer would figure in the new coaching staff.

But I misread the signs.

Morris was apparently few degrees hotter as a coaching prospect than I suspected. The team is apparently elevating Morris to the head coaching position. Joe Barry, the former Bucs linebackers coach who spent the past two years in Detroit as defensive coordinator under Rod Marinelli, re-signed with the Bucs and is the odds-on favorite to assume the role of defensive coordinator.

Mark Dominick apparently will rise from within the organization to replace Allen as general manager.

My two cents:

My problem when the Bucs dismissed Tony Dungy was the question about the quality of his replacement. I can't stand Bill Parcells, so I wouldn't have been happy with that. I didn't see Steve Mariucchi as a superior coach to Dungy. Gruden (and I said this soon after Dungy's firing) was the only available coach I saw as a possible upgrade, though I use "available" loosely.

Raheem Morris is less well known than was Gruden. The buzz surrounding the young coach is impressive. Jim Flynn of The Pewter Report tapped Morris early on as the type of coach who might follow the footsteps of former Buc assistants Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin. I suppose I could throw Rod Marinelli in there, but the list looks more impressive without, given his record with the Lions.

So, this coaching change is a gamble. Promoting Morris might be the best move the Bucs ever made. If Morris was instrumental in drafting Tanard Jackson, Sabby Piscitelli and Aqib Talib over the past two seasons then we at least have an indication that he is a good judge of talent. At least for defensive backs. And Morris' abilities as a motivator have been acclaimed early and often.

Ironically, the Gruden/Allen combination have assembled personnel on the offensive side of the ball to make the old Tony Dungy style of offense work well. It remains to be seen what type of offense Morris tries to make of it.

Best to both Gruden and Allen. I thought both men served the team well. Allen did a particularly nice job at getting Tampa Bay's salary cap situation in order in the wake of the Super Bowl run.

Go Bucs.

Force Protection submits its M-ATV bid

As expected, the design is based on the Cheetah vehicle.

Force Protection Inc. said Thursday that is has submitted a lightweight armored vehicle to the U.S. Army in response to a solicitation from the service.

The vehicle, a new version of the company's 3-year-old Cheetah model, has a very low center of gravity, making it less prone to rolling over, the company said.


The description of a "very low" center of gravity makes me flash back to criticisms FP fans made of the Navistar JLTV design. They ridiculed the failure to keep the hull up high. I'll be interested to see photos of the new Cheetah model for comparison.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oshkosh Truck submits M-ATV bid

Oshkosh Corp.'s defense division submitted a proposal to supply more maneuverable and durable mine-protected tactical vehicles for U.S. Army troops in Afghanistan, the company said Monday.

Oshkosh said it submitted the proposal to the U.S. Army's Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) program on Jan. 9.
(The Business Journal of Milwaukee)
The story states that the Oshkosh entry is based on its MTVR vehicle, pictured below.

Oshkosh also has a promotional video for the MTVR, available here (lower right).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Iraq violence update, January 2009

The final numbers from 2008's final month (as compiled by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, aka show a fairly smooth transition between coalition security provided primarily by the United States military and home-grown Iraqi security forces.

The graphs:

Despite a bloody start to December, the final number of deaths for civilian and Iraqi security forces showed only a slight uptick from the preceding month. Note that my graph is inaccurate, for I accidentally used the figure of 299 which was later updated to 320. I plan a set of graphs representing the entire course of casualties in Iraq during the Bush presidency, and I will use the proper figures for that graph.

As noted above, the slight increase in deaths reflects a fairly smooth transition taking place between the coalition and Iraqi security forces.

Coalition fatalities in December were almost exactly like those in November, with seven listed as resulting from hostile fire in each month. One less non-hostile fatality took place which resulted in the slight decline. The figure supports the conclusion of a very mild uptick in violence for the month.

We can probably look forward to continued progress if the next president restrains himself from acting hastily. Iraqi security forces continue to require air and logistic assistance. I'm not sure how Obama will classify air support as something other than "combat troops" but the help will be needed however he justifies it. There simply isn't an adequate Iraqi air force for the foreseeable future. Remote-controlled drones may be able to substantially fulfill the role, however.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Cougar EFP armor kits slimming down (Updated)

It appears that the earlier report that add-on armor for the Force Protection Cougar was nearly a foot thick was inaccurate (See update below). offers a parallel story where the armor thickness is reported as 18 millimeters (almost three quarters of an inch: .709).
The additional side armor for defeating EFPs consists of 18mm plates constructed of several layers of different materials. This material, which costs about $2,000 per square foot, breaks up the EFP molten copper "warhead" that an EFP produces to slice through conventional armor. For the six wheel Cougar, the EFP armor kit weighs 2.5 tons, and costs $152,000.
This account makes more sense. The weight of one square foot of composite armor a foot thick (that is to say, a cube of armor) would have been substantial, to say the least.


A couple of folks have made comments about this post, making the excellent point that armor 18mm thick would not stop an EFP nor would it match the weight reported for the Force Protection EFP kit. Simply put, my assessment that the 18mm thickness made more sense was not well founded. Despite its bulk, a kit about a foot in thickness makes more sense of the facts presuming the use of low-density materials for diffusal of the EFP projectile. The report of 18mm thickness may well refer only to a high-density layer (like steel).