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The President Takes Responsibility – Or Not

A lot of people thought invading Iraq was a bad idea.  A lot of people thought the invasion and occupation plans were unrealistic and wrong-headed.  With the results of the war so far, you might think those people were right. When President Bush addressed the nation this evening, no one thought he would outright admit to the gigantic series of mistakes this war has been.  No one who has watched this administration seriously expects the President to take responsibility for a problem, take the blame, or apologize. But he did!  At least, according to some news reports.  Bush Takes Blame in Iraq, Adds Troops, says the San Francisco Chronicle.  Bush's new strategy includes rare public contrition, says the Seattle Times. Quite frankly, I did see the speech so when I saw the headlines, I was shocked.  I had to check the transcripts to be sure.  In his address to the nation, the President said:
The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.
Since when does "where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me" count as taking the blame or public contrition?  It doesn't pass the mom test - if you broke a neighbor's window, and your mom found out and marched you over to their doorstep to apologize, do you think you could get away with "where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me?" To be fair, it is nice to see Bush talking about some specific problems with the occupation and moves to address them.  This is a far cry from the "Mission Accomplished," "turning a corner," "greet us as liberators" style that has been pursued so far. There was one more part of the speech I had to mention:
Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.
Oh really? Mission Accomplished

Lewis Black on 2006 and the Problem with Christmas

Lewis Black is an angry, shouting comedian. You might recognize him from his appearances on The Daily Show. He took some time to review the major issues of 2006 and grapple with Christmas. I'm not sure if this counts as yet another salvo in the ongoing War on Christmas (he hates it) or a brave flanking maneuver from an unlikely ally (he hates the rampant commercialization of it). Perhaps if he had read our guide to fighting the War on Christmas, he would be able to make less ambiguous pronouncements. [youtube]PL8SCSz42us[/youtube] Also, the paddle is getting shorter. [youtube]nB_vKh9oye4[/youtube]

George Bush is in Listening Mode

Many, many Americans have been wondering - how can we win the War in Iraq? Up until recently, the President was not one of them. He knew exactly what needed to be done. But times have changed. The President is officially in listening mode. [youtube]7qKkCS58j0Q[/youtube] The Daily Show, on Comedy Central, continues to have better journalism than the rest of the cable news channels. Jon Stewart funny and insightful. Vibrate mode! But there's one thing they didn't point out that I think is important to note. Bush expects to be praised for listening to other people. Like it's a difficult thing to do. Like doing actual research, talking to people who have studied the Middle East for their entire careers, or (god forbid) actually talking to military personnel are all accomplishments. Congratulations, Mr. President! You are doing very well on your listening skills. Next we will work on using your "inside voice," and then on to shapes and colors.

How to Win the War in Iraq

What do you do When you find out you are wrong? Not just wrong about one thing, or a little bit wrong. What do you do when you find out you are very wrong, and consistently wrong, and there are really big consequences? President Bush, after three years, seems to finally realize he has been wrong. Well, not really. But he has finally acknowledged the big consequences part. Part of the problem has been that he has only gotten advice from those willing to tell him what he wants to hear. So the formation of the Iraq Study Group was a good thing, right? Finally, some independent experts would weight in, and tell the President some things he wouldn't like to hear. Except they weren't really experts. And their advice has little to do with Iraq. And Bush isn't really listening anyway. So how do we win the war in Iraq? Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't hurt to ask the real experts - the military people actually in Iraq. In fact, one of our troops has given us a PowerPoint presentation. That's right, it's even in the preferred format of upper management everywhere. Seriously, go there right now and watch the presentation, it's only 18 slides. It's a revelation. Not because this one soldier, Capt. Travis Patriquin, is a military genius, or that his ideas are a silver bullet that will magically solve all problems. It's amazing because Patriquin's presentation actually talks about the reality on the ground. He presents actual ideas, grounded in reality, that could actually be tried. This is a amazing. Think about it - this administration has spent years propping up non-ideas (like staying the course) as if they were ideas. They have spent more time and effort denying reality than dealing with it. I had almost forgotten what ideas taste like. It has been so long. Unfortunately, this presentation is the last insight we will get from Capt. Patriquin. He was killed last week. His "How to Win the War in Al Anbar" may go down in history as the first PowerPoint presentation to make a positive change in the world. Or maybe it will be ignored. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but based on 6 years of the Bush administration, my guess is it will be the latter. You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of every large company or organization I've ever worked for or dealt with. The people at the top are so disconnected from the people at the bottom that they begin to congratulate themselves for the disconnect. "I don't need to know how widget X works, in fact I shouldn't know at all. I need to think about strategic business decisions." We don't want to waste the chief executive's time with tactics, he has strategy to strategize about. We can lay off engineers, they just have domain knowledge, they don't contribute to the bottom line like sales. We need programmers with 5 years of Java and J2EE, don't worry about anything else, it's just business logic. We can outsource our call centers to India or Kansas or where ever - all they need is a script to work from, hire a consultant to develop the script. We need professional project managers, certified experts in the art of scheduling and tracking--they don't have to understand the project they're managing, what are you daft? Tactics matter. Actual information that reflects reality matters. They say it's not what you know, but who you know. That might be true in job hunting and getting political appointments, but apparently it doesn't win wars.

Bush thinks you are stupid – 9-11 and the Iraq War

Monday marks 5 years since the 9/11 attacks.

This not a particularly political site. I'll let others hash out the differences between liberals and conservatives. But I will say that the current administration apparently thinks I, and the rest of America, are idiots. President Bush thinks we are stupid, and afraid, and they think they can sway us with ridiculous, illogical arguments.

At a press briefing on September 8th, Press Secretary Tony Snow said the following:

"But, more importantly -- if we have people who want to re-litigate that, that's fine, but the President's stated concern this week, as you've seen, is to think, okay, we'll let people quibble over three years ago; the important thing to do is to figure out what you're doing tomorrow, and the day after, and the month after, and the year after to make sure that this war on terror is won."

This is not the first time the administration has used this argument. In fact, I'm surprised Snow didn't accuse anyone of trying to "rewrite history," since that has been such a popular phrase. But with the coming anniversary, I felt particularly disgusted and patronized by Snow's statement on Friday. As far as I can figure, this is the argument:
  1. A lot of people, Republicans and Democrats, keep coming up with more evidence that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 or any terrorism. Also, we never did find any weapons of mass destruction, and now there is no evidence that Saddam was a threat to the United States in any way.

  2. America is threatened by terrorism in the present.

  3. The invasion occurred in the past. At that time, the President convinced a lot of Republicans and Democrats that Iraq was a threat.

  4. It is now the present – and the present is not the past

  5. Therefore, no evidence will ever be needed to justify the war in Iraq. Also, any discussion of it is quibbling by lawyerly nebbishes who distract from the real threat in the present.

Apparently, if I decide to do something, and I can get enough people to agree with me, I am untouchable from that point on. It doesn't matter if my reasons turn out to be wrong or right. It doesn't matter how horrible the consequences of my actions are. Since the decision was made in the past, it cannot be questioned in the present or future.

Often it's useful to make a few substitutions to point out the problem with a logical fallacy. Imagine if you were a judge, overseeing the trial of a person accused of murdering their neighbor three years ago.

Judge: what do you say to all of this new evidence-DNA tests, phone and credit card records, bloody clothing found in your closet- that indicates that you are the murder?

Accused: The murder occurred three years ago. At the time, something was chewing on the wires in my garage – everyone agrees it's very dangerous to have bare wires. Jesus spoke to me though my toaster and said that my neighbor was actually a rodent, like a rat or mouse. I told everyone I know that I had a pest problem, that I had proof it was a rat, and that I knew where the rat was hiding. Everyone on both sides agreed I should kill the rat.

But, more importantly -- if we have people who want to re-litigate that, that's fine, but my stated concern this week, as you've seen, is to think, okay, we'll let people quibble over three years ago; the important thing to do is to figure out what you're doing tomorrow, and the day after, and the month after, and the year after to make sure that I don't have a pest problem now.

Judge: [brain explodes]

I cannot believe people are allowed to make arguments like this on national TV and get away with it. I cannot believe that no one ever replies to this argument with something like this:

“...what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.�

Finally, I'll let more capable people than myself have a say. It gets especially interesting about 4 minutes in.