pageok
pageok
pageok
Credit Where Credit is Due:

On Friday, Michael Gerson had a column where he praises "The Decency of George W. Bush" and touts what he sees as Bush's accomplishments:

Initial failures in Iraq acted like a solar eclipse, blocking the light on every other achievement. But those achievements, with the eclipse finally passing, are considerable by the measure of any presidency. Because of the passage of Medicare Part D, nearly 10 million low-income seniors are receiving prescription drugs at little or no cost. No Child Left Behind education reform has helped raise the average reading scores of fourth-graders to their highest level in 15 years and narrowed the achievement gap between white and African American children. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has helped provide treatment for more than 1.7 million people and compassionate care for at least 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. And the decision to pursue the surge in Iraq will be studied as a model of presidential leadership.

Pretty thin gruel at best, it seems to me, and Gerson makes clear that in praising the surge he also recognizes that the initial conduct of the war was poor. And even these are somewhat dubious accomplishments in terms of their long-run consequences, such as the long-term budgetary impact of the prescription drug entitlement and further expansion of federal control over education with No Child Left Behind.

Having said that, and stacked against the manifest screw-ups of the the past 8 years, I would give the Bush Administration credit for two things. I leave aside things that are more partisan, such as changing the judiciary, to focus on things that I think that would gain general acclaim (as Gerson does).

First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy. Now I don't know how much credit the Bush Administration directly gets for this. And I share some of the criticisms that perhaps they went too far at times in terms of infringements on civil liberties to bring about this result. But in retrospect I really do think it has been a major accomplishment that we have not been hit by another terrorist attack in that time. Relatedly, it seems to me that the Bush Administration gets some substantial credit for Qaddafi's decision in 2003 to renounce terrorism and a general increase in deterrence against countries engaged in state-sponsored terrorism.

Second, I give him credit for using his political capital trying to raise the issue of social security reform. He did so in a ham-handed and bungling way, but right at the outset of the second term he tried to address the long-run solvency of social security. For which he had his headed handed to him and then gave up. The fear is that may mean that social security reform (and entitlement reform generally) is dead for at least another generation. I think he deserves credit for doing the right thing on trying to do this, even though he failed in the end.

Finally, Bush may be given some credit for pushing through an agenda on tax cuts. On the other hand, since he made no effort to reduce spending, these tax cuts are almost by definition somewhat temporary. Friedman used to observe that the real tax burden on the economy was the level of spending, because the spending has to be paid for eventually. So while Bush reduced taxes, this is not likely to be a long-term accomplishment.

Moreover, it is one thing to increase spending and government debt if it is for long-term investments that will recoup themselves, such as Reagan's defense buildup in the 1980s (which allowed subsequent reductions in the 1990s by winning the Cold War) or investments in infrastructure or similar things that increase economic growth. But little of Bush's spending was investment, as opposed to pure current consumption, and so a lot of it was nothing more than borrowing against future taxes to fund lower taxes today. So I give some credit, but modest, on this front.

sputnik (mail):
First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy.

why?
I do not get that predetermination expressed in many fearful Bush voters. I did not think that another attack had to happen for sure.
It actually showed as one possibility of explanation the limited power of the terrorist group, thorough preparations and planning which takes years for the act similar to the one on 9/11 etc, and also showed idiotic response of invading unrelated to that event country .
11.10.2008 7:20am
M (mail):
Just for clarification, do the anthrax attacks not count as "major", are you considering them "not terrorism" for some reason, or just forgetting about them? (The last is the most common case, but maybe you don't consider them "major".) At the time, of course, they had people freaking out to a high degree.
11.10.2008 7:34am
paul lukasiak (mail):
First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy.

Considering the fact that after the first WTC attack in 1993 , there were no more attacks on US soil until Bush was in office for nine month, you'd have to be crazy or naive to consider a lack of major attacks a significant accomplishment -- especially when Bush has been providing al Qaeda and its sympathizers with so many excellent targets of opportunity abroad.

Second, I give him credit for using his political capital trying to raise the issue of social security reform.

Social Security was, and remains, a non-issue -- it continues to run a surplus for at least two more decades, and the "predictions" of problems with Social Security are based on historically low patterns of economic growth.

The assault on Social Security is a right wing effort to avoid paying the debts this nation has accrued thanks to GOP borrow-and-spend policies. It had nothing to do with "entitlement reform", because the real crisis in entitlements that has to be taken on is in health care in genderal, and in Medicare specifically. But reforming Medicare means acknowledging that massive sums from general revenues will be needed to pay for medical care for retirees regardless of how Medicare is "reformed" -- and that the only realistic solution to the Medicare/health care crisis is a single payer system of some sort.

The Bush administration has been a disaster not because of Iraq, but because of its wholesale fiscal irresponsibility -- Iraq can be "fixed" relatively easily, but the long term consequences of Bush's borrow and spend (and the transfer wealth to the richest Americans) policies are going to turn this nation into a banana republic during the coming decades -- a nation of oligarchs and vassals.
11.10.2008 7:38am
J. Aldridge:
Bush has no concept of limited national powers. Neither will Obambi. And here lies the root of all national crisis.
11.10.2008 7:40am
mls (www):
If Gerson thinks that spending loads of other people's money on health care, education and foreign aid is an "accomplishment," he is going love how accomplished the Obama administration will be.
11.10.2008 7:48am
James of England:
Trade doesn't get a look in? Before Bush, the US had FTAs with Canada, Mexico, and Israel. Bush added Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Singapore, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, along with a host of smaller agreements. Troubles with the EU and India were swept aside, which is partly why Bush has been the most popular President in India in history.

For the first time since the NAFTA kicked in, US manufacturing exports to FTA partners exceeded the imports from FTA partners. Remember the person who lost his job after his factory went to Mexico? That campaign trope was entirely fictional for this election, not that it made any dent in its use. Sadly, the crowning glories, the Colombian and South Korean FTAs, the latter providing a lifeline for US auto manufacturers, weren't pushed through fast enough and appear likely to be punished as part of Obama's plan to show that he's even handed when dealing with our allies and our enemies.
11.10.2008 8:03am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
For screwed-up wars, see WW II, Korea, and the Civil War.
Using the standards applied to Bush, which would never do, those were some monumental clustercrunches, all under the control of presidents revered to this day.
11.10.2008 8:12am
loki13 (mail):
I'm not sure where to be begin with-

1. WRT your first point, it not only ignores the anthrax attacks, it treats terrorism on American soil as something normal as opposed to exceptional. Moreover (as pointed out supra), GWB gave our enemies so many high-value, more easily accessible target overseas that it's not really surprising. Finally, where's Osama? Just, you know, wondering. I'm kind of a fan of justice.

2. SoSec reform? Really? There's so much wrong with this I don't know where to beign; but I think the 'tell' in your writing is that you describe it a a first step to greater entitlement reform- while this is a wonderful libertarian wet dream, it is out of place with what the American people want.

3. It's wise you didn't list tax cuts as a separate point (you only had two, remember). Tax cuts without a corresponding decrease in spending are not tax cuts, but tax shifts. That's similar to saying that purchases made on a credit card don't really cost you anything. At least Reagan, while cutting taxes, managed to comprehensively reform the tax code.

Thin gruel? That's about right.
11.10.2008 8:19am
loki13 (mail):
Richard Aubrey-

Yeah, because Iraq (a war of choice) is just like the Civil War and WW2. As for our current success, while I do think that increased troop levels and a focus on counterinsurgency have marginally helped, here's the real difference recently (in order):

1. The Sunnis are cooperating with us against terrorists, because we are arming them.

2. Al-Sadr's brigades have declared a cease fire while he consolidates his power.

3. Iran is keeping things relatively calm to strengthen the various allied Shi'ite factions.

Once the time is right (whether we withdraw or not) there will be a reckoning. Hopefully this time, at least, the Kurds won't get screwed.
11.10.2008 8:23am
John McE (mail):
Ask any schoolteacher and they'll tell you that No Child Left Behind has been an utter disaster. I think it's obvious that if you create a test, then train everyone to pass the test, that test scores will improve (over the initial set).

Whether knowing that test can be called an "education" is a different matter.

But the insidious impact of No Child Left Behind is that the majority of school resources are now focused on the lowest achievers and everyone is being taught to the lowest common denominator.

An example: my girlfriend's daughter is 2 months into the First Grade and no one has tried to teach her to read yet. (She already reads at the 3rd/4th grade level, so it's not a problem, except for the fact that there isn't a hope of her learning anything in the 6 hours she spends at school)

I was not an early reader, but I do remember that we started reading on Day 1 in First Grade. I was also the beneficiary of the Talented And Gifted programs that were readily available in those days, but which have mostly ceased to exist even in the wealthiest towns because their resources are focused on No Child Left Behind. You can bet that the next casualties will be things High School Calculus and Physics as all resources are devoted to getting all students to pass Algebra 1 and Basic Science.

I predict the net result of No Child Left Behind will be lower achieving freshman classes at universities and even further devaluation of undergraduate education.

This leads me to my real complaint with public education, which is: how useful is it to have spent time learning geometric proofs when you graduate and can't figure out that the car dealer is screwing you with your loan/lease terms?
11.10.2008 8:31am
Richard Riley (mail):
I'm surprised Todd Zywicki would elide Bush's Social Security "reform" efforts with entitlement reform generally. Although I'd phrase it less tendentiously, paul lukasiak above is right - Social Security is a sideshow, and the real issue is the explosive anticipated growth in Medicare which Bush completely ignored.

I'm sure Todd has seen the charts: the Social Security deficit grows slowly if at all, while the Medicare funding gap yawns wider and wider over the next 20-30 years. Dishonestly eliding Medicare and Social Security into generalized "entitlements" is the only way to say that "entitlements" are the problem as opposed to Medicare, which is the REAL problem.

Todd's usually a straight shooter but I am disappointed with this part of his post.
11.10.2008 8:31am
JonC:
Don't forget what's arguably Bush's most significant and lasting domestic policy achievement: putting constitutionalist judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.
11.10.2008 8:32am
wm13:
loki13, are you making a falsifiable prediction? Is there a period of time within which, if there isn't a "reckoning," we will have achieved success in Iraq? Or is our failure metaphysical, such that no set of facts can vindicate the surge, in which case obviously it would be stupid waste of time for anyone to discuss the issue further with you?
11.10.2008 8:33am
Frank M Howland (mail):
Social Security is an important issue, but Medicare and Medicaid are more urgent and far bigger. Bush attempted to tackle the easier-to-solve problem, at the cost of delaying consideration of the really major issues.

On tax cuts, Bush worsened inequality, which is a major social problem. Combined with his lack of fiscal restraint, the net effect was to hurt the economy and weaken our social fabric.
11.10.2008 8:34am
pireader (mail):
Professor Zywicki --

In my view, what's most suprising is what didn't happen--the conservative transformation.

From 2000 to 2006, we had a conservative administration and the most conservative Congress--both House and Senate--since the 1940s. That was probably the best opportunity we'll see in decades to re-make American institutions in a conservative direction.

But not much happened along those lines. You cite the failure to transform Social Security, and it's a good example. But it's just one of many different areas that could have been re-made, if the administration and Congress had the appetite.

I suspect they didn't for a politican's most basic reason--they judged that they couldn't sell deeper changes to their constituents. And I suspect they were right ... that there is no significant demand in this country for substantially smaller government (beyond the posters and commenters on this blog, of course).
11.10.2008 8:34am
EricPWJohnson (mail):
The medicine for senior citizens - did prevent billions in hospitals stays growth in the hospital portion of that budget actually retreated

Katrina, the 5 Hurricaines that hit Florida, Rita, added 450 billion to the deficit

Democrats spent wildly, were most of the earmarks and out of control spending - they hijacked the war and homeland department funding until they got what they wanted - they never gave up legislative power in 2002 and constantly set the agenda

NCLB is the first improvement ever in American education - its a stunning achievement and has great promise.

Clinton scrapped 233 warships including several subs that were just launched, 800 war planes almost the entire logistal air command, and scapped 40% of the Army and the Marines. It cost 1 trillion dollars or about 120 billion a year to correct this type of baseline budgeting

The Dow hit 14000 5 years after it hit 8,000

The borders went from 4000 badly trained and supervised LEO's to a huge well drill organization reacing numbers of 25,000 backed by the national guard

Yes President Bush didn't bite his lip for the camera, lie about sex, lie under oath, lie about compromise bills, lie about fundraising, lie about decisions to bomb civilian targets, lie about the state of the economy.

No he acted like an adult, didn't remove pieces of the Whitehouse, didn't constantly go on vacation at taxpayers expense and donors expense. Didn't have his wife go on 6 month world tours didn't use the Whitehouse to raise funds, to convey political favors


Bush got more votes than any other president.

There were reasons we voted for Bush and in about 2 months everyone going to go.....

Oh yeah! This is why we always voted Republican
11.10.2008 8:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I guess Loki didn't spot the trap.
I said, using the same standards applied to Bush.
Which would never do and he didn't.
SURprise.
11.10.2008 8:47am
Angus:
I predict the net result of No Child Left Behind will be lower achieving freshman classes at universities and even further devaluation of undergraduate education.
Trust me, as someone who teaches approximately 150 freshmen per year, we've already seen it. My freshman classes are noticeably more unprepared for high level work than the freshmen I taught five or six years ago. This is of course anectodal, and there's always a tendency to look on the past as a golden age. But with those caveats, the grades in my intro classes have plummeted in the past few years.
11.10.2008 8:47am
EricPWJohnson (mail):
piereader

no - Reid and Daschule set the agenda through the hijacking of war and military funding

Also without 60 votes - is a real big stretch that social security and real medicare reform could have even made it out of committee

Right now its unfair to say the Democrats controlled congress - they had a razor thin margin in both houses and Bush still had the Presidency.

But its always been the Dems in charge still are and still will be until entitlements either finally lose in the courts or the Republicans get 60 real votes in the Senate.

Lets all remember in the 3 trillion dollar budget 650 billion is defense

68 billion is NCLB

34 Billion net for the TRILLION DOLLAR PERSCRIPTION drug plan (actually its a negative the hospital portion went down)

Now consider the Democrats spending programs

1.1 trillion social security
700 Billion medicare Medicaid
400 Billion Welfare

Lets get real
11.10.2008 8:50am
loki13 (mail):
wm13-

No, this is not a non-falsifiable prediction. There's a few things that are either underreported or not reported (depending on your media of choice) about Iraq. This is primarily because, despite the 'success' of the surge, it is still unsafe for Western reporters to freely travel throughout the country.

1. The reduction of terrorism in Anbar et al (the Western/Sunni) areas is because the US has allowed the Sunni shiekhs to arm their militias, and no longer police those areas so long as the sheikhs take care of terrorists. This helps us with the stats, and allows the Sunnis breathing space to create their paramilitary organization to take on the Shia central government. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that.

2. Al-Sadr controls the largest Shia faction; remember the underreported incident when Maliki 'went after him' and the Iraqi army was humiliated? Al-Sadr has a cease fire so that he can continue to consolidate power in peace.

3. Iran continues to be a major player behind the scenes; they don't want a strong national Iraq nor a Sunni Iraq and have been working with the various Shia factions to strengthen them (most of them, from the Badr Brigades to 'our man' Chalabi).

*shrug* I lived in the middle east. I can tell you from personal experience the following:

1. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. What he did to Kuwait and to his own people was barbaric. Lighting the oil wells at the end of the first gulf war was an act of spite and evil I will not forget, and I was happy to see him go.

2. The Shia and the Sunnia in Iraq will end up fighting a bloody war. This is predictable; had we done things differently right after the invasion, there may have been a chance (but I doubt it); there certainly isn't now. The only question is whether they wait for us to withdraw.

3. The Kurds will get screwed. They always do.

It's like the old saw about land wars in Asia. It's easy money betting the 'under' for a conflict in the Middle-East. I'll give it five years, and take the under. And hope that the problem doesn't spread to, say, the Shia in Saudi Arabia's eastern province.
11.10.2008 8:54am
EricPWJohnson (mail):
Angus

Never say "Trustme" and then admit you made it up - because ancedotal means just a story - and stories are fiction by definition.
11.10.2008 8:55am
loki13 (mail):
Richard,

Wow, so clever. I refuse to use the soft bigotry of low expectations. I have higher expectations for the conduct of a completely discretionary war than I do for a war of National Survival (the Civil War) or a war of Global Importance (World War 2).

Anyway, the returns aren't in. Is this the second unfurling of 'Mission Accomplished'?
11.10.2008 8:57am
wm13:
loki13: So five years is your prediction? If the "reckoning," by which I interpret you to mean a major Sunni/Shiite civil conflict within Iraq, doesn't come in five years, the surge will then qualify as a success?
11.10.2008 9:00am
Al Maviva:
Ask any schoolteacher and they'll tell you that No Child Left Behind has been an utter disaster.

Several school teachers live in my neighborhood in a reasonably good district that has poverty pockets. They don't like teaching to the test that much but have found that NCLB eliminated the hidden minority* failure problem. Roughly 20% of the kids in the district are black &hispanic. They are predominantly from two small urban centers in the county. They have a staggering failure rate at every grade level and an appalling high school dropout rate. Prior to NCLB, these kids were bused from their neighborhood schools and distributed among the better-off neighborhoods with more academically successfull student bodies. This created a picture of a county with great schools, with 5-10% rates of kids not reading or doing math up to grade (which means the schools are great because 90% of the kids were doing well, right?), and around a 10% high school dropout rate across the board. Not terrible, right?

After NCLB, the district / county is forced to publish test results by school, and to report the passage rates by demographic category. Turns out, around 80% of the kids who fail or drop out are minority students, and they are generally from the two urban poverty pockets. The district has been forced to address this problem, rather than hiding it, as they had done since time immemorial. One of the teachers in my neighborhood was reassigned into a class targeting these kids and she reports a lot of success at getting them with the program - the schools have to do a lot of things the parent (they are mostly 1 parent homes) should do, but they are getting it done, and the magnet programs for gifted kids are returning now that the district is addressing the problem honestly, rather than hiding it by evenly distributing minority student failures around the county.

None of the teachers I know - admittedly an anecdotal measure - are willing to wholeheartedly condemn NCLB, though they do have a lot of gripes, particularly with the elimination of the gifted programs. Bored misbehaving bright kids are as much of a PITA as bored misbehaving dumb kids, it seems.

*Minority students defined as black or hispanic + low income. Middle income and higher black or hispanic students in my county don't appear to have any significant problems.
11.10.2008 9:07am
Brian K (mail):
Second, I give him credit for using his political capital trying to raise the issue of social security reform.

i don't see how this is a point in bush's favor if you desire social security reform. as you say yourself, bush's "ham-handed and bungling" way of doing things "may mean that social security reform (and entitlement reform generally) is dead for at least another generation." this means that bush set reform back at least another generation. i can't see how this is a positive in his favor unless you don't want social security reform. had he done a better job of it he may very well of gotten the reforms he wanted.

as to your first point, it is very weak for reasons pointed out above. it's like claiming that the rock i have in front of my suburban house keeps tigers away.

as to the tax cut point, i'd have to count that against him. but then again i am a member of the younger generation that will be paying the brunt of the deficits he created.
11.10.2008 9:09am
lucklucky (mail):
In 1993 Al-Qaeda didn't had much resources. That Changed when they got Afeghanistan resources.

The gratest victory of Bush administrations was precisely make War in Arab/Muslim lands and with that kill the Bin Laden "aura" that have been a steady increase everytime it bombed something in those "Peacefull times of 90's".
Until Bush, Bin Laden killed infidels, with Bush, Bin Laden killed mainly Muslims.


Message to Loki...

In Iraq, Muqtada Sadr's followers struggle for relevance
11.10.2008 9:10am
q:
So far, all the criticisms of NCLB I see in the comments are anecdotal. Is there any evidence that high school graduation standards are lower? Any evidence undergraduates are doing poorer as a whole?

And, I would take anything the teacher's union says with a large grain of salt; they're a group that has been surprisingly resistant to any educational reform, often on the flimsiest grounds. I frankly don't understand all the moaning about standardized tests; if kids are being taught to the test, and this is not providing an adequate education, maybe the tests should be made more comprehensive? Education in Asian countries revolves around standardized tests, but perhaps the difference is how brutal they are.
11.10.2008 9:20am
David Warner:
Following MarkField's advice, I checked my Aristotle:

"The deficiency, whether it is a sort of 'unirascibility' or whatever it is, is blamed. For those who are not angry at the things they should be angry at are thought to be fools, and so are those who are not angry in the right way, at the right time, with the right persons; for such a man is thought not to feel things nor to be pained by them, and, since he does not get angry, he is thought unlikely to defend himself; and to endure being insulted and put up with insult to one's friends is slavish."

Nicomachean Ethics IV 5

"When a man is made up wholly of the dove, without the least grain of the serpent in his composition, he becomes ridiculous in many circumstances of life, and very often discredits his best actions"

- Addison
11.10.2008 9:35am
Anderson (mail):
"Decency."

Torture.
11.10.2008 9:41am
Angus:
Never say "Trustme" and then admit you made it up - because ancedotal means just a story - and stories are fiction by definition.
Perhaps you need to brush up on definitions, since "stories" by definition can be true or fictitious. NCLB strikes again?
11.10.2008 9:45am
Angus:
So far, all the criticisms of NCLB I see in the comments are anecdotal. Is there any evidence that high school graduation standards are lower? Any evidence undergraduates are doing poorer as a whole?
This seems to me to reverse the evidential burden. Shouldn't the burden of evidence be on the gigantic, expensive federal intrusion into education to show that it is working to make kids smarter?
11.10.2008 9:52am
Rock On:
I think the value of the AIDS-related Africa aid initiatives is really overlooked. I've heard a couple NPR pieces about them and everyone seems to agree that they really are doing a lot of good.
11.10.2008 9:53am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"Story" does not mean fiction by definition. Obvious, but seems to need pointing out.
11.10.2008 9:57am
loki13 (mail):
lucklucky,

Wow. That article is fascinating. Try reading it again, without the 'analysis' provided by the reporter from the LA Times. Maliki won the battle of Basra? O Rly? While that was the spin, any memory of the events (or a quick perusal of real publications, or, god forbid, Middle Eastern sources that can get reporters in the field) tell you that it was humiliating for the national government.

As for the quotes- yes, you should expect Al-Sadr's spokesmen to tell the American press that they are a peaceful organization, they have no power, they are focusing on charitable causes. They have no ties to the Iranians.

So is Hezboallah.

In other news, gullible isn't in the dictionary. When this is the drivel that our press feeds us, it is no surprise that our electorate is so woefully under-informed, and our members of Congress cannot tell the difference between a Shia and a Sunni.
11.10.2008 9:57am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I've been reading this site for about 4 years now, and I think that's the first "o rly" I've ever seen here. Nice.
11.10.2008 10:05am
loki13 (mail):
As an aside, I am hopeful that the "surge" works.

(I keep putting "surge" in quotes because it was a small part in the decrease in violence in Iraq. Greater factors were the increased participation of tribal Sunnis, aka the Anbar Awakening, the already-segregated nature of Iraq due to the violence, and the shift in tactics (as opposed to the increase in troop levels)).

Remember- if Iraq falls apart, Obama, who I support, will end up taking a great deal of blame for it, because that's the nature of the Presidency. Furthermore, I think it would be great for the world at large, and for the Iraqi people specifically, to have a functioning state.

I just wouldn't bet on it.
11.10.2008 10:09am
loki13 (mail):
Daniel,

Actually, that was the 22d time. Google is your friend. Clearly, you're more comfortable with O'Reilly.
11.10.2008 10:12am
loki13 (mail):
As an aside, I am guessing your discomfort with that young'un lingo makes you a McCain supporter.

Now get off my lawn.
11.10.2008 10:13am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You're a confusing kind of guy, loki... Perhaps you need to take a breath, unwind a bit, and think about whether a comment is an attack before you go into flame-mode.

Then again, this is the internet. Serious business.
11.10.2008 10:21am
Cornellian (mail):
Bush has exactly two accomplishments which conservatives can commend, Roberts and Alito. On virtually every other issue Bush has been a disaster for conservative principles.
11.10.2008 10:22am
byomtov (mail):
"Decency."

Torture.


I think that bears repeating.
11.10.2008 10:30am
loki13 (mail):
Daniel,

Was I being sarcastic, dude?

I don't even know anymore.

*smile*

(Besides, I will never pass up a chance to tell people to get off my lawn.)
11.10.2008 10:36am
BT:
For Bush what about immigration reform? Aside from the fense, which is a stupid idea, IIRC, Bush did try to get a package through congress but was thwarted by his own party. Others will no doubt have a better recollection of facts about this than I do.

Also to loki13 you won't have to worry about Our Savior getting any blame for Iraq. Both BO and the media will remind everyone that it was Bush who got us there and will effectively blame him for any fallout from negative events in Iraq for the next four years.

For those of us on the losing side this election, and who thought that the press ran interference for BO, just wait until they get a chance to cover for Our Saviour once in office. You ain't seen nothin yet.
11.10.2008 10:36am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
loki.
Lincoln didn't need to go to war. What was wrong with letting the South go? Using the standards applied to Bush, here.
Truman let Dean Acheson say that Korea was outside our area of interest. Then he got blindsided by the Norks and the Chicoms. One each. Despite having no excuse--artillery officer in WW I and in DC during WW II and knowing about going to war unprepared--he let the military run down. Google Task Force Smith. Using the standards applied to Bush, here.
FDR forced the Japanese into war by embargoing vital raw materials for the industry on account of what they were doing in Manchuria. Half way around the world. What business of ours was that? Then he got surprised at Pearl Harbor and some other places. Using the standards applied to Bush, here. Lost the Phillipines and Wake and Guam and other places.

Using the same standards may annoy you--using two is all you've got--but it's kind of interesting to see it.
11.10.2008 10:46am
Angus:
For those of us on the losing side this election, and who thought that the press ran interference for BO, just wait until they get a chance to cover for Our Saviour once in office. You ain't seen nothin yet.
Just like the free ride Bill Clinton got from the press, amirite?
11.10.2008 10:47am
q:

This seems to me to reverse the evidential burden. Shouldn't the burden of evidence be on the gigantic, expensive federal intrusion into education to show that it is working to make kids smarter?

The article states: "No Child Left Behind education reform has helped raise the average reading scores of fourth-graders to their highest level in 15 years and narrowed the achievement gap between white and African American children." I am inclined to presume this data was not simply made up; I am also inclined to presume the counter-anecdotes are true as well.

I've seen two arguments against this data. First, that teaching to the test will obviously raise test scores. This is criticism only if the test is relatively worthless; I'd like to see evidence that it is. As I have argued, teaching to the test is not per se bad for education. The second argument is related to the first, and it is that even if test scores are higher, high school graduation and entering college standards are lower. I feel it is definitely the burden of those asserting such to prove it.

For now, the only credible evidence I've seen is the increase in reading scores on the test, and a reduction in the test score gap. If there is evidence that this is only part of the picture and overall educational achievement is down, I'd very much like to see it.
11.10.2008 10:50am
Anderson (mail):
FDR forced the Japanese into war by embargoing vital raw materials for the industry on account of what they were doing in Manchuria.

Next we'll be hearing how America *forced* al-Qaeda into 9/11.

The U.S. was under no obligation to supply Japan's war against China. Japan was not "forced" to widen the war. It could have cut its losses and withdrawn.

Of all the ridiculous slanders against FDR, this is consistently the most puzzling to me.
11.10.2008 10:53am
loki13 (mail):
Lincoln didn't need to go to war. What was wrong with letting the South go? Using the standards applied to Bush, here.

This comment stands for itself. Equating the Civil War with invading another country, around the world, that was not a threat to our interests in any way is sophistry of such a high order that it is clear you are not interested in logical debate.
11.10.2008 10:55am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy. Now I don't know how much credit the Bush Administration directly gets for this.


Hmm... Given that there were 8 years between the two WTC attacks, and given that even in Yemen, attacks are spaced years apart, I don't think we have enough time really to say much about this at present.

Also depending on how you count, the anthrax scare might qualify.

I would give him credit for a few other points:

1) Shifting the dialog (here and in Israel) away from a mere question of peace and towards an understanding that a 2-state solution, where the PA would have full sovereignty over its soil and foreign affairs is needed for peace. (The plans from Camp David and Taba had the IDF responsible for policing most of the WB even if it was subject to PA law.) I now think we are within reach of a lasting peace regarding Israel and the Palestinians.

2) I think Roberts is an excellent chief justice by any measure (I am less thrilled about Alito).

3) I give him credit for changing his mind and insisting on the political reforms that accompanied the troop surge (the political reforms were why I supported the surge, and they are what I believe has lead to its success). Unfortunately I am not sure how much credit one can give for avoiding a train wreck that one creates.

4) I give him credit for spending political capital to push for a guest worker program. If our immigration policies create large black markets for illegal labor, they need to be changed so that we have a chance at enforcing them.
11.10.2008 10:55am
Anderson (mail):
Lincoln didn't need to go to war.

Yes, it was egregious of the warmonger Lincoln to order Fort Sumter to shell the city of Charleston, thus beginning the Civil War.
11.10.2008 10:57am
Anderson (mail):
the political reforms were why I supported the surge, and they are what I believe has lead to its success

Can't recall where I saw this, but it's being suggested that Maliki feels so secure due to the surge that he feels no obligation to seek the political compromise &reconciliation that the surge was supposed to facilitate.

As with so many claims about Iraq, we may not know the truth until later. It's a bit of a catch-22 -- we'll know if Iraq can stand up when we pull out, but if the answer is "no," it will be a bit late to catch the falling body.
11.10.2008 10:59am
Teh Anonymous:
Rock On - a few weeks ago I read The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani. She talks about her experience working in AIDS prevention and treatment programs. She suggests that in Africa the designers of the programs have tried as hard as they can to ignore that non-monogamy is socially acceptable in Africa. I guess nothing is perfect, but ... I don't know if I would count those as a success.
11.10.2008 11:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson. Loki.

I'm using one standard. Under the standard you use for Bush, everything I've said about FDR, Lincoln, and Truman would have been accepted wisdom.
IOW, taurine scatology.

Under the standards you use for FDR,etc. Bush looks pretty good.

The only way to contradict that is to use a different standard. An obviously different standard.

Go ahead. The more you do it, the better you look.
11.10.2008 11:03am
SeaDrive:

The Dow hit 14000 5 years after it hit 8,000



Given the current level of the Dow (with Bush still in the White House), this really doesn't mean much.
11.10.2008 11:07am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
On Iraq, my viewpoint in 2003 was:

1) We would probably have to be in Iraq at some point within the next few decades
2) Rushing to war was damaging our interests in the Middle East (remember the Lebanon/Israeli water dispute that suddenly arose when the debates on the AUMF started?)
3) Iraq posed no immediate risk to our interests
4) Invading Iraq would be at first, at least, a strategic victory to Al Qaeda.

Given the above, I felt that it was better to wait, watch, and see, and wait for a time when at least issues 2 and 4 were resolved, and ideally for a time when international consensus would be on our side (not that we should always wait, but given the choice...).
11.10.2008 11:08am
Anderson (mail):
Under the standard you use for Bush

What standard do I supposedly use for Bush?

You say that you know what it is, so please explain.
11.10.2008 11:10am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Acutally the water dispute did not start just at the debates, but during the run-up to war in Iraq (Sept. 2002). The name of the Lebanese project was Wazzani and the US was forced to mediate because we couldn't go to war in Iraq if Israel invaded Lebanon :-)
11.10.2008 11:14am
MatrixArchitect:

As an aside, I am hopeful that the "surge" works.
(I keep putting "surge" in quotes because it was a small part in the decrease in violence in Iraq. Greater factors were the increased participation of tribal Sunnis, aka the Anbar Awakening, the already-segregated nature of Iraq due to the violence, and the shift in tactics (as opposed to the increase in troop levels)).


Loki,

The surge has worked. Period.

In no way has the increase in US troops been a small part. It was a necessary building block, fundamental in its nature to the success. Now we need to maintain.
11.10.2008 11:19am
Anderson (mail):
The surge has worked. Period.

Would there be some more particular evidence than a link to the bloggery of Michael Totten, passim?
11.10.2008 11:22am
Dave N (mail):
Teh Anonymous,

Bono, who has been a longtime activist for AIDS relief in Africa, certainly credits President Bush for being engaged on that particlar issue.
11.10.2008 11:27am
loki13 (mail):
MatrixArchitect,

No. First, we cannot maintain current troop levels in Iraq. Second, the differential in troop levels is near-insignificant. Inasmuch as I credit the 'surge' with working, I credit the change in tactics started by Petraeus to focus on counterinsurgency. One of those tactical changes was cooperation and co-option of the Sunni. Another way of putting this? Give 'em guns, and get out of the way.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. For now. Blowback can be a um, female dog (see also, Afghanistan).

As for other decreases, while large-scale terrorist attacks in Iraq are thankfully down, selected killings (aka 'sticky' bombs) and targeted assassinations have remained steady and began rising in the last two months. Thats a shift from indiscriminate jihadi violence to focused political and ethnic violence.

Look, I want Iraq to work. I would love nothing better. Ideally, we would have gone in there, established security, forced a quick political solution (federal system with shared oil revenues and protection of ethnic/religious minorities) and stayed a while to protect the peace. Hopefully, something will still be done. But just because the the American media (or as you probably call it, the MSM) does't cover Iraq's problems anymore doesn't mean they have been solved.

I'm afraid this is Mission Accomplished, Part II. I hope I'm wrong.
11.10.2008 11:32am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson.
Your hopes and dreams do not amount to reality.

"Standards". Bush ran the war poorly? So did other presidents, in the sense that their various wars were run poorly. How many guys got killed before Lincoln got some generals who knew what they were doing? FDR didn't foresee the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, after what we'd been doing? We'd had years to build up the defenses in the Phillipines. Instead, the troops starved and fought with little equipment. They starved RETREATING. When you retreat, you at least are falling back on your supplies. Getting hungry going forward faster than your supplies can keep up is one thing. Falling back and finding nothing is quite another.
So if the war going badly is the president's fault, FDR and Lincoln and Truman were monumental effups.
On the other hand, if the war goes badly because you're never prepared, and because the enemy has a vote, so Truman and Lincoln and FDR did well ultimately, then Bush did well ultimately, too.
Can't have it both ways and fool anybody whose education goes beyond fourth grade. But it's really,really fun watching you try.

One poster referred to the dirty little secret NCLB was designed to address. The failures of impoverished minority kids was disguised. That was an atrocity.
11.10.2008 11:32am
Fedya (www):
Angus asked:

Shouldn't the burden of evidence be on the gigantic, expensive federal intrusion into education to show that it is working to make kids smarter?

We should ask the same question about Obama's service program. (After all, federal school funding will be used to get it into the schools the way federal funding brought us most of the other federalized school programs we've got. And by the same token, I'd like to see the Precautionary Principle used for any proposed new environmental legislation.)

I'm uncomfortable with NCLB because I don't trust Washington DC to run schools in the rest of the country, but can't help wonder if it's doing something right since the unions oppose it so vociferously.
11.10.2008 11:33am
davod (mail):
"Ask any schoolteacher and they'll tell you that No Child Left Behind has been an utter disaster. I think it's obvious that if you create a test, then train everyone to pass the test, that test scores will improve (over the initial set)."

Stop it. I am sick and tired of people bitching about this.

Why was OCLB enacted. Because of the attrocious rate of learning in our schools. Now, I do not know if NCLB has improved the situation but doing nothing was not an option.
11.10.2008 11:34am
davod (mail):
"On tax cuts, Bush worsened inequality, which is a major social problem."

How so. There are more lower income and no income people not paying taxes than ever before.
11.10.2008 11:37am
Conrad Bibby (mail):
The anthrax case was solved. It wasn't an international terrorist group, but a guy who worked at the lab and who evidently saw the attacks as a means of protecting the value of the research he was involved in.

As for Bush, a big accomplishment no one has mentioned is mobilizing the government and the nation to combat Islamic extremism and against terrorism generally. Previously, we dealt with these issues as a law enforcement issue. Bush changed that policy to confront the problem militarily and reorganized the government to deal with the threat. We're clearly much better situated now to detect threats and prevent them from ripening into actual attacks, which is probably a major factor in the lack of any successful attacks over the last 7 years.

I count Iraq as a strategic success. We're better off with Iraq in its current condition -- a fledgling democracy allied with the US -- vs. Iraq circa 2001. Getting to the present point could have gone much smoother, but that doesn't change the fact that we're better off now than where we were.

Like most presidents, Bush did a lot of stuff that was either good or bad depending on your ideological orientation. For example, he was (is) a very strong pro-life president. Things like CAFTA, bankruptcy reform, class action reform, NCLB, Medicare RX are all too controversial to register as "accomplishments" in everyone's books. If you're going to have a reasonable discussion of how successful Bush or any president was, you need to try to keep your disagreement with policy choices somewhat in check.

With that said, I think Bush deserves credit for not playing "small ball," being willing to buck public and Inside Washington opinion, and not engaging in petty partisan attacks. He accepted that, for many people, he was always going to be the bad guy, and it didn't seem to change how he went about his job one iota.
11.10.2008 11:42am
davod (mail):
"We'd had years to build up the defenses in the Phillipines. Instead, the troops starved and fought with little equipment. They starved RETREATING. When you retreat, you at least are falling back on your supplies."

It is my understanding that the plan for the phillipines was to fight then, if required, move to the Battaan Penninsular and await support from the USA. The first part of the plan was accomplished. Unfortunately, the US was in no position to provide a relief force.
11.10.2008 11:42am
John Neff:
I assume this a variation on the book of blank pages where you chance the title to fit the joke.

In this case the title would be "Bush's Accomplishments"
11.10.2008 11:46am
Angus:
Well, Totten's record of getting things wrong is so well-established, it would be a shame to ruin it.
11.10.2008 11:46am
Anderson (mail):
Bush ran the war poorly?

I believe you're overlooking the part about getting into the war in the first place.

Also, unlike other American wars, this was a war of choice, hence we had the opportunity to plan for the post-war. Which we miserably failed at. Despite overwhelming resources that Lincoln and FDR couldn't dream of.

Now, to your examples:

How many guys got killed before Lincoln got some generals who knew what they were doing?

Lincoln was happy to sack generals as needed. And the problem wasn't so much how many guys got killed, as his generals' reluctance to *get* guys killed (McClellan) or their incompetence in failing to do so for any gain. Lincoln was looking for a fighting general and finally found one in Grant. I am unaware of any serious historian who faults Lincoln on this score.

FDR didn't foresee the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, after what we'd been doing?

Him nor anybody else. It was such a colossally stupid move, combined with our racial prejudice, that we didn't see it coming.

We'd had years to build up the defenses in the Phillipines. Instead, the troops starved and fought with little equipment.

We knew for years that the Philippines were indefensible. This was scarcely FDR's doing -- and god knows, he didn't get us into the Philippines in the first place.

Do you remember who was the only person who insisted that the islands *could* be defended? MacArthur.

I will fault FDR somewhat for the political decision to garrison the Philippines with doomed troops, but it's difficult to imagine that he had much choice.
11.10.2008 11:48am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
davod.
Correct.
It didn't include falling back on empty depots. Starving. No medical supplies. Shortages of ammo. Or getting your aircraft caught on the ground on December EIGHT. EIGHT!!
Nor did it include a plan--for relief--without the resources to accomplish it.
Under standards Loki and Anderson use for Bush, these failings are directly and inextricably tied to FDR.
11.10.2008 11:50am
gasman (mail):
I spent a goodly portion of my youth playing Diplomacy, Axis and Allies and various other Avalon Hill games with Mr. Gerson. Mike's coinage of the term "Axis of Evil" was originally applied not to 3 rogue states, but to 3 rogue youths, Studt, McPartland, and Shrock.
11.10.2008 11:50am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

I count Iraq as a strategic success. We're better off with Iraq in its current condition -- a fledgling democracy allied with the US -- vs. Iraq circa 2001. Getting to the present point could have gone much smoother, but that doesn't change the fact that we're better off now than where we were.


Maybe, but it was very nearly a train wreck. When you have groups like the Badr Brigades fomenting civil war then hiding behind our troops by guarding buildings for the government in the Green Zone, it is a bad situation.

The only reason the Surge worked is it was tied to an end to this sort of thing. I supported the surge BTW.

On the other hand, I think a lot of other folks see the Iraq War as a success too. Lebanon, for example, was able to leverage the situation to extract water rights concessions from Israel (look up "Wazzani") in a deal mediated by the US (ok, Lebanon only got 80% of the water rights they were asking but Israel was ready to go to war instead of offering ANY concessions, so we know who won). Iran now can say that the ideas of Islamic Republicanism are spreading and they now too have a more friendly neighbor.

And Iran is in a position where they can effectively prevent any large-scale invasion of their country by undermining our obligations on either of two of their borders.

So whether Iraq was a strategic success depends on how one weighs various other areas of international political interests and capital. Me? I think maybe we broke even at best. I don't see it as a major catastrophe at this point (though it was looking like it was headed there for a while) nor do I see it as a major net benefit to us.
11.10.2008 11:53am
Anderson (mail):
Or getting your aircraft caught on the ground on December EIGHT.

Oh, GMAFB. That was MacArthur all the way. No one has held Bush responsible for any comparable failure by a ground commander.

The reproach would be better directed at not sacking MacArthur on the spot. Politics again. But getting it early into American heads that MacArthur was faulty, would've saved blood &treasure later.
11.10.2008 11:55am
rarango (mail):
I think I would prefer to rely on the judgment of future historians; that said, this thread is speculative which makes it very interesting reading but certainly not very conclusive for anyone's positions.
11.10.2008 11:56am
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Conrad Bibby: I count Iraq as a strategic success. We're better off with Iraq in its current condition -- a fledgling democracy allied with the US -- vs. Iraq circa 2001.


Iraq was the counterweight to Iran. Bush's war eliminated this counterweight, and moreover, will not the majority Shia population align itself with Iran?

All George W. has done is show how much wiser his father was.
11.10.2008 11:59am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anderson
You have your facts almost correct. Close enough.
But your standards are still split.
Nobody held the debacle in the Phillipines against FDR? Fine. Nobody held down and dirty tactical difficulties against Bush? Sure. He didn't armor Humvees. Sure. He didn't have the best body armor available. Not the generals. Bush. Not the congressional committees responsible. Bush.
Forget trying to get others to forget recent events.
Korea was a war of choice. Acheson said so. And, not content with getting suprised once by the Norks, Truman got surprised twice. With an army let degrade in training and equipment which he, of all, should have prevented, having been president for five years.
But people don't pin that on Truman.
Lincoln sacked generals, true, but if he had been Bush, according to your standards, not having Alexander the Great with Frederick the Great to handle the western armies from the beginning would have been held against him. You don't sack somebody if you don't appoint him in the first place. Therefore, Lincoln was a loser in the appointments. Using Bush standards here.

Dethroning MacArthur would have been a good idea, and the earlier the better. But Fehrenbach, in "This Kind of War" has a good take on the social and political difficulties. Still, if Bush had allowed something like that....
Different standards.
11.10.2008 12:05pm
Anderson (mail):
Nobody held down and dirty tactical difficulties against Bush? Sure. He didn't armor Humvees. Sure. He didn't have the best body armor available. Not the generals. Bush. Not the congressional committees responsible. Bush.

The issue isn't that problems arose -- they always do.

The issue was the lack of responsiveness to highly publicized problems.

Rumsfeld bore more blame than Bush, but Bush wouldn't fire Rumsfeld -- until the 2006 elections were over, anyway.

Korea was a war of choice. Acheson said so. And, not content with getting suprised once by the Norks, Truman got surprised twice.

I am not a huge Truman fan. The first surprise was just silly; the second was indeed Truman's fault in part, for not reining in MacArthur.

but if he had been Bush, according to your standards, not having Alexander the Great with Frederick the Great to handle the western armies from the beginning would have been held against him

You keep inventing a straw Anderson to knock down. There are errors in the execution of any war; what matters is how you respond to the errors.

And again, what the hell were we doing invading Iraq in the first place? That is Error # 1. This was Bush's war from the get-go. An utter waste of time, money, and blood, all in the service of who knows what (I presume the neocon cabal explanation, but who really knows yet).
11.10.2008 12:15pm
cbyler (mail):

First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy.

This is a cherrypick so huge, I think we need a new word for it. If you had told me on September 10, 2001 that over 3,000 Americans would die in terrorist attacks in the next seven years I would have thought you a crazed alarmist. To say that no terrorist attacks happened on Bush's watch except for the terrorist attacks that happened on Bush's watch would be silly if you intended it as humor; if you intend it seriously I don't know an adjective adequate to describe it.

If you average over the whole administration, Inauguration Day to Inauguration Day, to avoid this kind of dishonest choosing of boundaries to alter the apparent effect, then even with the assumption that nothing else will happen between now and the end of Bush's term, he doesn't look so good.
11.10.2008 12:15pm
Smokey:
As a middle school Principal of 17 years, Mrs. Smokey dislikes NCLB for the same reason that just about everyone else in education dislikes it: it is the only objective way of comparing the educational progress of one school with another in its local peer group, and with schools nationally.

There are plenty of problems with NCLB, due mainly to all the fingers in the pie when it was being written. The final result is nothing at all like GWB's initial proposal. It was watered down and emasculated by the unions and Congress.

Still, it is the only national standard that allows comparison of schools, and it allows everyone to see if their school is gaining or losing ground.

Nobody likes to be held accountable. But NCLB allows parents to judge how their school is doing, using the same standards for all schools. For that alone, NCLB is much better than what we had before -- which is to say, only the self-serving assurances of school boards, admins and teachers.

Without the competitive impetus of NCLB, schools would be in even worse shape than they already are.
11.10.2008 12:19pm
josh:
What would the social security reform have been that TZ gives Bush credit for? Privatization? Wouldn't that mean that anyone who was lucky enough to have been involved in this "reform" would now have their retirement nest egg reduced by 40%?
11.10.2008 12:19pm
Anderson (mail):
To say that no terrorist attacks happened on Bush's watch except for the terrorist attacks that happened on Bush's watch

Well, when you put it like that ...!
11.10.2008 12:20pm
loki13 (mail):
Richard,

Fine. If you would like to judge Bush by the standards of Lincoln and FDR, please feel free. Please. I insist that you keep writing that Lincoln and FDR are the proper metrics for judging Bush.

Lincoln. FDR. Bush. You report, others will decide.
11.10.2008 12:22pm
ctwiii (mail):
"Bush may be given some credit for pushing through an agenda on tax cuts. ... Friedman used to observe that the real tax burden on the economy was the level of spending ..."

When an intelligent, informed member of the intellectual elite credits nominal tax cuts as an achievement despite self-refuting one sentence later by quoting Friedman pointing out that in the absence of corresponding decreases in spending nominal tax cuts aren't real, no wonder the over-arching fear of some of the financially naive is that a Democratic admin will "raise taxes" - apparently blind to some basic realities, eg, that part of the recent hit to their nominal wealth can be interpreted as an implicit tax directly attributable to supposedly "conservative" policies.

- Charles
11.10.2008 12:26pm
Anderson (mail):
Smokey, that was a thoughtful comment.

You need to get Mrs. Smokey interested in this blog thing.
11.10.2008 12:27pm
David Warner:
TZ,

Don't think we'll be able to have this conversation in earnest until the chilluns get to experience a few more presidents.
11.10.2008 12:30pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Leftist might recognize a fellow traveler, one who used the power of the US to rescue the oppressed, preach universal values and rights, and battle against fascism. That the oppressed should be delivered from fascism, that consensual government under the rule of law guaranteeing inalienable rights should be offered to all races and creeds, that the darkness of forceful religious fundamentalism should be kept at bay was, I thought, the core of Leftism.

But its hard to adhere to principles in a feverish anti-America, anti-Israel, anti-Bush delirium so I guess they won't give him credit.
11.10.2008 12:36pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):
Canuck and Ein: Removing the "counterweight" created the possibility of a prosperous and peaceful Iraq in the years to come. Certainly, it's difficult to see what positive good would have come from letting SH and his sons grind the country further into the ground for another 50 years or so.

As for Iran, what do either of you see as long-term effect of our having removed its "counterweight" (SH) from the picture?
11.10.2008 12:38pm
Sort of:
Richard Aubrey --

While we're on the topic of using double standards for different presidents, let's not the Bush critics's vitriolic condemnations of supposed incursions of civil liberties and "human rights."

The critics routinely say that Bush has [insert overwrought verb: shredded, trampled, etc.] the Constitution because, for example, the USG has apparently been listening on people living abroad with suspected terrorist links. Yet this pales in comparison to the wholesale violations of civil liberties by FDR (e.g., domestic eavesdropping, internment camps).

Or how about the over-the-top fulminations against the military commissions...which were modeled after the one that FDR set up. And let's not forget FDR told his AG that he would execute (and indeed did so) the suspected German saboteurs, even if the Supreme Court were to tell him that he couldn't.

Or how about the foaming-at-the-mouth attacks on Bush for the waterboarding of KSM and two other Al Qaeda operatives. Can you imagine if at the beginning of the Cold War -- when we were fighting for the hearts and minds of the world -- Congress and the punditry viciously attacked Truman as a "war criminal" for deliberately targeting and killing tens of thousands of civilians? Truman had to make a morally horrendous decision: Drop atomic bombs on innocent civilians, or risk even further bloodshed in a continuing war that many thought would lead to over a million additional deaths. Truman chose the former, which most historians and Americans agree was the right choice. Similarly, the Bush Administration apparently the tough choice that it was preferable to get potential useful information from KSM to thwart future terrorist plots. But the way you hear it from the critics, the Bush administration just loves torture. And, yeah, Truman just loved dropping atomic bombs on civilains.

Obviously, people can and should reasonably disagree on the merits of these policies. But what's startling are the vitriol and smugness of the Bush critics who question every motive of the President without taking into account any historical perspective or recognizing the moral difficulties of making decisions where American lives are at stake.

(For the record, with a few exceptions, Volokh commenters haven't been beyond the pale in their criticisms. But alas that can't be said for the rest of the commentariat or even members of Congress).
11.10.2008 12:46pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Sort of:the moral difficulties of making decisions where American lives are at stake.

Abu Graib?

Torture is not thought to be effective at getting real information, just getting people to say what you want them to say.

Truman had a difficult decision, it was thought likely to cost as many or more lives to invade Japan. Certainly many more American lives. I do not see how this can be said for Bush.
11.10.2008 1:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

This is a cherrypick so huge, I think we need a new word for it. If you had told me on September 10, 2001 that over 3,000 Americans would die in terrorist attacks in the next seven years I would have thought you a crazed alarmist.


Or for that matter:

If you had told me on September 12th, 2001 that more Americans would die this month in auto accidents than in terrorist attacks......
11.10.2008 1:11pm
Bedrock Principles:
For example, he was (is) a very strong pro-life president . . .

BFD--No credit for this. Babies continue to die and their murderers (the abortionists and their collaborators, the mothers) continue to walk the earth scott free. He hasn't fought to criminalize this heinous act. (Transferring responsibility to the states is just passing the buck.)

Actions speak louder than words, and words are all that he has offered. Given the Republican majorities he had for the first six years of his Administration, you think he would have done something.
11.10.2008 1:16pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Conrad Bibby:
Why do you assume the US has the right to decide the future of other countries, particularly at the cost of many thousands of lives? Iraq did not attack US, was no threat to US and was as much despised by Osama as the US.

Iraq was an artificial creation of British colonialism. Doubt it will hold together as a democracy.

Removing the counterweight, and how it was done, just gives Iran good reason to want the deterrent of nuclear weapons.

Just as US bullying has preserved Castro in power, so too US policy is likely to give extended life to the current Iranian regime. US seems to forget lessons of history. Overthrowing the Iranian regime and installing the Shah, only led to a revolution tinged with significant anti- American sentiment.
11.10.2008 1:18pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):
cbyler: You can't blame Bush for 9/11. The plan had been in the works for years and he had only been president for 8 mos. If you can make the argument that there were specific steps Bush should have taken in the first few months of his administration that would have prevented 9/11, go ahead. Blaming him solely because it happened during his term in office is a bit simplistic.
11.10.2008 1:20pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"Lincoln didn't need to go to war. What was wrong with letting the South go? Using the standards applied to Bush, here.

"This comment stands for itself. Equating the Civil War with invading another country, around the world, that was not a threat to our interests in any way is sophistry of such a high order that it is clear you are not interested in logical debate."

Logical debate? Ahem. When Lincoln invaded the South, it was *not* part of the United States -- he was "invading another country." The Democrats reacted to Lincoln's War in the same way they reacted to the Iraq Invasion. They were copperheads then, and copperheads now.

Bush's invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do, and, like Lincoln, he had initial failure and eventual success. If having everything peachy in five years is the measure of success, then Lincoln lost the War Between the States, as well.

If Obama is not so stupid that the fails to build on the success in Iraq, history will treat Bush much more generously than his political enemies do today. But then, were you to sit around and listen to Democrats talk about Lincoln in 1864, you'd hear pretty much what is being said about Bush today.
11.10.2008 1:21pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Loki13:

Slightly different perspective.....

Saddam and prior governments have provided some semblance of a national identity. Iraq is about 60% Shiite, but the Sunnis are divided among ethnic/linguistic lines (Iranian speakers in the North, Arabic speakers in the South, with a few Turkic speakers spread about). Having said this, the International Crisis Group (the only group that seemed to have good Iraq intel prior to the war) described how Saddam basically divided his opposition up so that nobody could threaten him. These groups have now largely unified into a few major Shiite groups and a few major Sunni groups, so there is a danger of civil war.

I think Iraq could go one of 2 ways:

1) Civil war between the Sunni and Shia....

2) An Islamic Republic recognizing Shiite and Sunni views as legitimate, but with extremely close ties to Iran.

It will largely depend on what role the Iranian government plays. They do however stand to be the real winners from this conflict. (Not saying we are winners or losers yet.)

There is one major reason to think that the more intelligent Iranians may seek to push for the latter. The big issue is that Al Qaeda doesn't like Iran any more than they like us. I don't think it is in Iran's interest to have a virulent anti-Shiite training ground just over their border when instead they could have a solid political and economic alliance with a stable Iraq. Maybe they could even help the Iraqis rebuild Osiraq.....
11.10.2008 1:25pm
Anderson (mail):
When Lincoln invaded the South, it was *not* part of the United States -- he was "invading another country."

Which had attacked Fort Sumter.

Bush's invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do

Oh, well, if YOU say so, then ....
11.10.2008 1:37pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Actually, torture works to extract information. That's how the Germans rolled up the network which supported the assassination of Heydrich. It's how networks in France and other occupied countries got rolled up. It's why resistance and SOE guys carried cyanide pills.
If you want to force a confession, you can. But that is not in any way the extent.
11.10.2008 1:38pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Bush's invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do, and, like Lincoln, he had initial failure and eventual success. If having everything peachy in five years is the measure of success, then Lincoln lost the War Between the States, as well.

If Obama is not so stupid that the fails to build on the success in Iraq, history will treat Bush much more generously than his political enemies do today. But then, were you to sit around and listen to Democrats talk about Lincoln in 1864, you'd hear pretty much what is being said about Bush today.


To be fair, the major turning point in Iraq for the positive was when Bush stood up and said before Congress that Iraq had to understand that our commitment was not open-ended, and called for equal attacks on Shiite militias as well as a reduction in the debaathification laws.

The troops in the surge were largely cosmetic. Here was the letter I sent to my congressmen urging them to support the surge at that time.
11.10.2008 1:44pm
MarkField (mail):

When Lincoln invaded the South, it was *not* part of the United States -- he was "invading another country."


Well of course, Virginia is just like Iraq. Why didn't I see it before?
11.10.2008 1:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I will note I was wrong in retrospect regarding the prospects of the surge working because the Iraqi government did defy my expectations and *did* sever ties to the Badr Brigades, etc....
11.10.2008 1:46pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

cbyler: You can't blame Bush for 9/11. The plan had been in the works for years and he had only been president for 8 mos. If you can make the argument that there were specific steps Bush should have taken in the first few months of his administration that would have prevented 9/11, go ahead. Blaming him solely because it happened during his term in office is a bit simplistic.


This argument can be generalized a bit more.

If the 1993 attack had succeeded (if the bomb was closer to the main support as was planned, if it was bigger, etc), that would all have been Clinton's fault. Or maybe it was Clinton's fault that they came as close as they did in 1993....
11.10.2008 1:52pm
Anthrax? Remember me? (mail):
Your point about no further terrorist attacks forgets the anthrax attacks, which remain unsolved. The suicide earlier this year left plenty of questions un-answered, and the FBI's supposed story for how this one individual did seems incredibly flimsy.
11.10.2008 2:04pm
PLR:
Having carefully considered Mr. Gerson's extended comedy piece, I must still grade Bush as the worst President ever. The only things I can think of that were remotely positive were (a) appointing Paulson to Treasury after the clueless Friends of W left, (b) crafting a reasonable immigration proposal (which failed), and (c) raising the issue of individual accounts in lieu of the underfunded Social Security (though his specific proposal was stupid).
11.10.2008 2:14pm
Tatil:

Is there a period of time within which, if there isn't a "reckoning," we will have achieved success in Iraq?

How do we define success? First, it was weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist, so considering the amount of money and lives we spent we would get an "F" on that front no matter what happens now.

Of course, we then change the definition of success: We will bring democracy to Iraq and hold it as a model to the rest of Middle East. Well, second part of this definition is easy to fail, as the rest of Middle East is Sunni, who do not look kindly on Shias gaining power in the region, no matter how just it would look for an impartial judge. The democracy experiment did not work that well due to violence anyways. Sunnis did not accept their loss of power and both sides started ethnic cleansing.

Another "F" looming on the horizon, we change the definition of success, again. First, we let tribal leaders and their armed militias to start controlling large sections of Iraq, so they keep a lid on violence. This is not democracy, but now we define success as reduction in body count, so things start looking up. Unfortunately, American media do not report on non-American deaths as much, aside from random large bomb blasts, so it is difficult to get a clear sense whether the violence and terror is really down that much. Another problem is the "success" of ethnic cleansing. It seems there are not many minorities left in a lot of neighborhoods, so the need to kill is not there anymore. If you add the amount of power Iran, our original enemy, gained in Iraq, can this really be called success?

At this point, anything short of disaster (after our troops leave) is acceptable. Many people cannot wait to put this episode behind us and they would not care too much if some ethnic groups start slaughtering each other, as long as they leave us out of it.
11.10.2008 2:15pm
hattio1:
Sort Of,
It's interesting that you mention waterboarding in the sense of not having a sense of history. The real sense of history is that waterboarding has always been considered torture. After WWII, America returned most Japanese POW's. However, some were executed as war criminals, and rightly so. Some of those who were executed...were executed for waterboarding.
11.10.2008 2:32pm
eyesay:
EricPWJohnson, I'm not sure if you are serious or sarcastic, but: "NCLB is the first improvement ever in American education - its a stunning achievement and has great promise." First improvement since 1776? What about the introduction of audio equipment to teach foreign languages? What about the introduction of audio-video equipment for all kinds of purposes? What about New Math? Was there really no improvement in education between President Washington and President Clinton?
11.10.2008 2:32pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Eyesay:

I agree. New Math was a giant leap forward in education :-)
11.10.2008 2:42pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
To the left Bush is evil incarnate, he could never do a single right thing. Party over country.
11.10.2008 3:07pm
Conrad Bibby (mail):
Canuck wrote: "Why do you assume the US has the right to decide the future of other countries, particularly at the cost of many thousands of lives? Iraq did not attack US, was no threat to US and was as much despised by Osama as the US."

You seem to be ignoring some fairly important history: Iraq invaded Kuwait, entered into a cease-fire agreement, and then systematically violated the terms of the cease-fire.

Also, if Iraq was as much despised by Obama as the US, why didn't 9/11 take place in Baghdad instead of in the US?

"Iraq was an artificial creation of British colonialism. Doubt it will hold together as a democracy."

I'm curious to know what country, not currently a democracy, you think WOULD hold together as a democracy. Or is it the Johhny Canuck Doctrine that countries never become democratic?

"Removing the counterweight, and how it was done, just gives Iran good reason to want the deterrent of nuclear weapons."

So Iran had no incentive to develop wmd while SH was in power? Seriously?

"Just as US bullying has preserved Castro in power, so too US policy is likely to give extended life to the current Iranian regime."

Are you saying the Iranian regime was on its way out before the Iraq war started?

US seems to forget lessons of history. Overthrowing the Iranian regime and installing the Shah, only led to a revolution tinged with significant anti- American sentiment.

That's right, everything is America's fault.
11.10.2008 3:13pm
paulV (mail):
7 am December 7 at Pearl Harbor was December 8 in the Phillipines due to International date line
11.10.2008 3:21pm
loki13 (mail):
I think the last two posters fail to realize an important distinction-

Criticizing policies simply because they are GOP (or 'American') is wrong.

Criticizing policies because they are wrong is fundamental to the nature of our country, and to not do so would be downright unpatriotic.

The President had my support after 9/11. He had the country's support as well. 'Tis a pity he squandered it on partisan gain and on wrong (in my opinion, but history will be the true judge) policies.
11.10.2008 3:25pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):


US seems to forget lessons of history. Overthrowing the Iranian regime and installing the Shah, only led to a revolution tinged with significant anti- American sentiment.


I think that this will play out differently in Iraq. The Shah's government was not a democracy (but they were our allies, so we helped them build some of the nuclear plants that are now controversial, despite that the policy on nuclear weapons by the Iranian government has been almost unchanged since the times of the Shah...)

Instead we have two possibilities: civil war (possibly avoided now, but no guarantees) and an Iraqi government which, in order to survive and prosper, will see their future yoked to Iran. I remain optimistic and suggest that the latter will occur (an Iraqi state, allied with Iran retaining some degree of stability).
11.10.2008 3:41pm
Morat20 (mail):

I agree. New Math was a giant leap forward in education :-)


Ugh. New Math is what you get when you let one group of theorists ignore another.

Frankly, any curriculm designed WITHOUT the input of developmental specialists needs to be burned. Why some people (and this ranges from teachers to politicians) cannot grasp that "a kid's brain is not the same as an adult's brain and you have to plan with that in mind" is beyond me.

Or local school district is pretty good at finangling Texas' retarded educational curriculm into something workable given how children's brains actually develop, but there's still a lot of requirements for kids to "learn" shit that 95% of them physically CANNOT yet understand because their little noggins aren't wired up that far yet.

Of course, our school board is led by a dentist (also an ardent Creationist) and decided to remove critical thinking from the language and writing curriculm this year.....
11.10.2008 3:44pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Conrad Bibby:
"You seem to be ignoring some fairly important history: Iraq invaded Kuwait, entered into a cease-fire agreement, and then systematically violated the terms of the cease-fire."

None of which negates my original assertion: "Iraq did not attack US, was no threat to US and was as much despised by Osama as the US."

"if Iraq was as much despised by Obama as the US, why didn't 9/11 take place in Baghdad instead of in the US?"

Iraq was already a mess, able to do much more damage to US- plus so much extra self-inflicted by Bush on US power and prestige throughout the world.

"what country, not currently a democracy, you think WOULD hold together as a democracy" - Cuba,

"no incentive to develop wmd", no just increased desire- I don't think a nuclear weapon is useful against your next door neighbour.

"Are you saying the Iranian regime was on its way out before the Iraq war started?" not imminently, but I think "thought control" regimes degrade especially when recognize value of information flow, and lack imminent foreign threats to distract the populous (I read and believed Orwell's 1984) I think China will make it, don't know when, but it will probably happen unexpectedly.

You do know role of CIA interfering in pre-Shan Iran?

"That's right, everything is America's fault." No but if govt in Washington didn't think it was omniscient, and would rely on consensus of its allies it might be much better off in terms of casualties and treasure.
11.10.2008 3:54pm
LM (mail):
loki13:

Once the time is right (whether we withdraw or not) there will be a reckoning. Hopefully this time, at least, the Kurds won't get screwed.

I think it's a good bet that once we're gone the only thing uniting friends (Turkey), foes (Iran) and everyone else (Iraq) will be screwing the Kurds.
11.10.2008 4:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Morat20 didn't get my joke :-P

Hint-- click on the link....
11.10.2008 4:06pm
loki13 (mail):
LM-

I'm afraid you're right. I hope you're not, because the Kurds have done an amazing job ever since the imposition of the Northern no-fly zone, and have continued that since the 2002... but yeah, the Kurds always get screwed. And there's no way Iran or Turkey (or even Iraq or Syria) will permit an independent Kurdistan.
11.10.2008 4:09pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Shah. Iran CIA.
Best I could find is that Mossadegh "assumed power". Nothing authoritative about him being elected.
I think Lenin assumed power due to the efforts of "a battalion of Lettish sharpshooters."
I don't know if Mossadegh had similar help, but, whatever it was, it wasn't votes.
So, while interfering in Iran may or may not have been a good idea, it wasn't interfering with the democratic process.
Except in the leftish sense that any left-wing tyrant is an expression of grass-roots democracy.
11.10.2008 4:10pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Richard Aubrey: I confess to complete ignorance of 1950's Iran. Wikipedia refers to his govt as "formally elected", (whatever that means), Another article seems to be clear about the date "On May 2nd, 1951, Mossadegh became the most popularly elected prime minister in Iran's history." His crime, in American eyes was an oil nationalization campaign.
Ahead of his time, (guess he should have waited for the bank nationalization precedents of 2008).
One might extrapolate backward from the regime of Allende in Chile to assume that democratically elected or not, opposing American business interests would be the governing criteria for supporting a coup
11.10.2008 4:26pm
loki13 (mail):
Richard,

You didn't look very hard- hint- most english sources transliterate it as Mohammed Mossaddeq.

He was elected by the Majlis (parliament) of Iraq. I guess you could say that he isn't 'democratically' elected in the same way that the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are left-wing tyrants, and staging a coup in the UK and toppling Brown would not, under your theories (heh), be 'interfering with the democratic process'.
11.10.2008 4:31pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Loki13: thanks for your eruditiion.

and it is only recently that the Conservative Party in UK has had a process for electing a leader. Previously, the monarch consulted with leading members of the party, and then invited someone to form the government.
11.10.2008 4:53pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

None of which negates my original assertion: "Iraq did not attack US, was no threat to US and was as much despised by Osama as the US."


Point of fact- Nazi Germany did not attach the US either.
11.10.2008 4:57pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Loki13:

What do you think of the shifts in the Iraqi government severing ties with the Badr Brigades after the Surge was begun? What do you think of Bush's insistence that we have to move away from being seen as having an open-ended commitment to Iraq?

Do you think these things have helped as much as/more than the shift to anti-insurgency tactics?
11.10.2008 5:01pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Point of fact- Nazi Germany did not attach the US either.


Not quite true.

If you read "Ten Years and Twenty Days" by Karl Doenitz you will note that the Nazis began targetting American Shipping the day we declared war on Japan, which was after we were attacked.
11.10.2008 5:03pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Although I suppose it is true that Nazi Germany did not "attach" the US. They certainly considered us open for "attack" after Pearl Harbour.
11.10.2008 5:05pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Sorry, didn't Germany declare war on US? back in those days it was usual to declare war before the fighting started
11.10.2008 5:15pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
He was elected by the Majlis (parliament) of Iraq. I guess you could say that he isn't 'democratically' elected in the same way that the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are left-wing tyrants, and staging a coup in the UK and toppling Brown would not, under your theories (heh), be 'interfering with the democratic process'.
Well, if Gordon Brown attempted to send tanks over to Buckingham Palace to arrest QEII, and she dissolved the government and he ran her out of the country, and only then was Brown replaced, putting the Queen back in her constitutional position, would that actually be a coup at all?
11.10.2008 5:16pm
Anderson (mail):
Sorry, didn't Germany declare war on US?

Yes. Much to FDR and Churchill's relief, one suspects.

God knows what would've happened if Hitler had condemned his Japanese allies and ostentatiously wished the U.S. well in its Pacific endeavors. One of my favorite historical "what ifs."
11.10.2008 5:54pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
North Korea never attacked the US either. Nor did Iraq in Gulf War 1. Nor did Serbia.

Point being, unless you are an honest to god isolationist the issue isnt really whether the US homeland is in danger. The issue is whether or not you like the reasons we DO go to war, and more to the point whether or not you like the people executing it. I didn't hear a lot of Clinton supporters wringing their hands during Operation Desert Fox.
11.10.2008 7:48pm
tsotha:
Sorry, didn't Germany declare war on US?

Yes. Much to FDR and Churchill's relief, one suspects.


I've never really understood why. Clearly he didn't have much respect for treaties, and it wasn't like Japan was in a position to strike German targets. Was it just because it gave the Germans an excuse to attack American shipping? If so that must rate up with the all-time blunders in history.

Not quite up there with getting involved in a land war in Asia and having a battle of wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line. But still.
11.10.2008 7:53pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

The issue is whether or not you like the reasons we DO go to war, and more to the point whether or not you like the people executing it. I didn't hear a lot of Clinton supporters wringing their hands during Operation Desert Fox.


I think a better analogy would be Operation Gothic Serpent, and Clinton was roundly criticized for that.
11.10.2008 8:20pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Decades ago, to return to the conduct of the various wars, my father told me that the Germans referred to the Sherman tank as the "Ronson" after a cigarette lighter advertised to light first time every time. And when the Brits had them, the Germans called them "Tommycookers."
I see Wiki has the same info, probably from a WW II vet of the ETO.
I don't recall anybody blaming FDR for these abominations as Bush is blamed for unarmored Humvees.
Point is, two standards.
11.10.2008 8:30pm
Ricardo (mail):
"Thin gruel," indeed. Your point #2 is the biggest domestic policy failure of the administration. As for point #3, remember back to 2000 when the idea of tax cuts was first being floated? The argument was that there is so much surplus tax revenue laying around that it didn't make sense to have taxes at their current levels! Then spending increased while the economy fell into a mild recession and the justification shifted to tax cuts as fiscal stimulus for the ailing economy. It's always the right time for a tax cut!

Regardless, our total debt burden is now over $10 trillion and politicians now have substantially less room to maneuver to lower the debt than they did 8 years ago. If you want to give Bush credit for something, give him credit for undermining his own party's credibility on fiscal responsibility.
11.10.2008 8:39pm
Anderson (mail):
I've never really understood why.

Ian Kershaw's review of the evidence in his book Fateful Choices is worth a look, if you're curious. Though I think Kershaw is too prone to assuming that things would've happened pretty much the way they happened even had his "fateful choices" not been made. Bit of false advertising, that.

Anyway, Kershaw suggests that Hitler saw himself in a de facto war with America already in the north Atlantic, and that Hitler thought unrestricted sub warfare would help prevent supplies getting to the UK and Russia. Hitler also thought that alliance w/ Japan would prevent a separate peace in the Pacific and thus guarantee a drain on America's resources.
11.10.2008 8:40pm
loki13 (mail):
einhverfr-

I was out for a while; in reference to your two questions, my opinions (which is worth what you are paying for it) is as follows:

1. I think the distancing from the Badr Brigades was a choice by the Maliki government to appear to be uirthering themselves from Iran; I also don't believe that the Maliki government has a popular following among the people. While there are a (very) few brigades of Iraqi troops who might support the current administration over other entanglements, I wouldn't count on them without American backing. So, in short, I think it has little relevance.

2. The moving towards a timetable (as opposed to an open-ended commitment) is . . . I hope . . . a net positive. On the downside, it allows those opposed to the status quo to bide their time until day x. On the plus side, it forces the various factions to work out some political compromise knowing that they will not be under the blanket protection of US troops indefinitely.
11.10.2008 8:52pm
loki13 (mail):
DMN-

Yes, just like that, except different. I think it would be closer to say that Gordon Brown asked the Queen to step down, since it was an anachronism, the Queen leaves the country, and then the United States decides to overthrow Gordon Brown.

And twenty years later, an angry mob of Anglicans ovethrow the Queen and storm the US embassy in London because of the perfidy of the Americans.

Eh, some analogies can only be carried so far.
11.10.2008 8:59pm
Cornellian (mail):
and various other Avalon Hill games

Ah, Avalon Hill - boy that brings back memories of my geeky teenage years.
11.10.2008 9:01pm
josil (mail):
As to failures of the Bush administration, I'd place the reluctance to use the veto as his greatest. In regard to Iraq, the answer is not yet available. Only journalists and history professors are so short sighted that they predict the future based on a single data point. In postwar Japan and Germany there were many that were doubtful of the ability of the losers to become democracies.
11.10.2008 9:07pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Josil-- I don't doubt Iraq's ability to become a democracy. The question though is what that means.

By any reasonable definition, Iran is a democratic republic (even the Council of Guardians is appointed by a body elected by the people). Iran has also arguably become much more democratic after Khomeni's death and the appointment of the unqualified Khamenei to replace him (Khamenei largely governs by forging coalitions with elected officials and with appointed elements in the Council of Guardians). Could we live with an Iraqi democracy built on the Iranian model? For that matter could we live with a democracy that decided they needed nuclear energy and hired Iranians to help them rebuild Osiraq?

Similarly Lebanon is a democracy, yet one of their biggest political parties is on the State Department's list of international terrorist organizations.

Is democracy like Lebanon's or Iran's preferable to a monarchy like the Shah's? Or the what we see in Jordan? Certainly our government thinks so. So the question is far more complex....

Interestingly Lebanon is one of the data points I think does give reason for hope in Iraq. They did go through a bloody civil war and are now a representative democracy which did hold together and did continue to respect religious minorities.
11.10.2008 9:20pm
Splunge:
Ask any schoolteacher and they'll tell you that No Child Left Behind has been an utter disaster.

No doubt. Ask any snake-oil salesman and they'll tell you the Pure Food &Drug Act was an utter disaster. Christ, they want proof that this stuff works? How is that possible? Think of all the good and honorable hard-working salesmen who really believe in their product and care about their customers that this evil legislation puts out of business!

Oh yeah cry me a river.

Next, time go ask a parent, or, better yet, a student when he finds that, surprise, he gets into medical school without an affirmative action decision, because by golly his first grade teacher taught him how to write and spell correctly, instead of list the four most inspirational thoughts in the speeches of Martin Luther King.

I think it's obvious that if you create a test, then train everyone to pass the test, that test scores will improve (over the initial set).

Well done! Now, if you could only pass that insight onto the teachers, we'd be getting somewhere. Hmmm. Set a measurable goal, measure your progress, tune your efforts as the progress reports suggest. What a concept!

Whether knowing that test can be called an "education" is a different matter.

Oh, right. Because Plato himself couldn't design a test measuring whether you know how to spell 'plagiarism' or whether you can subtract $60.61 from $1,200.06 correctly or whether you know that Abraham Lincoln, not Martin Luther King, free the slaves in 1862, not 1962.

Or is it that, gosh, an education must be some ethereal, ineffable beautification of the thoughts you think -- a work of art! And who could design a grubby multiple-choice test to measure the quality of a work of art? Nobody!

It's this kind of dishonest or elitist (take your pick) crap that has brutally disserved the reg'lar folks -- particularly minority and disadvantaged students -- for decades. In service of some airy intellectual's ideal of an education, something that will let the aristocrats quote Seneca and Cicero to each other (in the original Latin) whilst they debate the nature of free will in their clubs and the US Senate, the folks who just need to be taught how to read contracts so they don't get screwed, estimate compound interest correctly when they go to buy a car (so they don't get screwed), and understand the basic nature of the Republic they live in when they go to the pools (so they don't get screwed), have been, well, screwed.

We wouldn't put dogs in the care of vets who didn't have to meet basic results-verified standards of competence. Why we put poor and disadvantaged children in such oversight-free hands is beyond me. Except that, of course, the aristocracy loves sounding all caring and stuff while actually shoveling out the money and privileges to their constituencies -- in this case the NEA and its legions. Feh.

As a parent, I'm damn glad my kids are being "taught to the test" -- in other words, taught how to read, write, add, subtract, spell, factor quadratic equations, and know that there's an Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees free speech -- instead of taught to regurgitate PC slogans of no conceivable actual real-life use, or write turgid sophomoric essays on philosophical issues (Was Jefferson really a racist? Why do blacks distrust whites? What caused the Cold War? Is capitalism evil? What is truth?) on which no ordinary person age 16 can possibly have an opinion worth stating.

I'm well aware the teachers don't like it, and I sympathize: heck, I wouldn't like it if someone came in and proposed to measure whether I was worth my salary, instead of...oh, just taking my word for it.
11.10.2008 9:33pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Oh, right. Because Plato himself couldn't design a test measuring whether you know how to spell 'plagiarism' or whether you can subtract $60.61 from $1,200.06 correctly or whether you know that Abraham Lincoln, not Martin Luther King, free the slaves in 1862, not 1962.


Nor would Seneca have called that a good education.....
11.10.2008 9:39pm
Anderson (mail):
Seneca's track record as an educator is surely open to question?

Anyway, the notion that education is EITHER the 3 R's, OR liberal education, is a false dichotomy. You have to learn how to add and subtract before you can study calculus; you have to learn how to read and write before you can study Plato.
11.10.2008 10:05pm
David Warner:
einhverfr,

"Nor would Seneca have called that a good education....."

Seneca had a rather smaller subset of the public in mind for education than do we now.

BTW, its Warner with an "a." My great-grandparents changed it to sound less Hunnish, as suggested by their loving neighbors.
11.10.2008 10:11pm
MarkField (mail):

you have to learn how to read and write before you can study Plato.


I'm inclined to agree with Jefferson and John Adams that nobody should study Plato.
11.10.2008 10:20pm
loki13 (mail):
I'm inclined to agree with Jefferson and John Adams that nobody should study Plato.

I wouldn't agree with Jefferson on anything. Even when he's right.

Especially when he's right.
11.10.2008 10:40pm
Anderson (mail):
I'm inclined to agree with Jefferson and John Adams that nobody should study Plato.

Well, we philosopher-kings can haggle over the curriculum after our reign begins.

-- Adams's grasp of Plato seems to've been overly literal:

Some Parts of [his writings] . . . are entertaining . . . but his Laws and his Republick from which I expected the most, disappointed me most. I could scarcely exclude the suspicion that he intended the latter as a bitter Satyr upon all Republican Government . . . . Nothing can be conceived more destructive of human happiness; more infallibly contrived to transform Men and Women into Brutes, Yahoos, or Daemons than a Community of Wives and Property . . .

I think he was getting warmer there in the bolded part.
11.10.2008 10:45pm
zforce (mail):
Tax cuts are real in the time they are enacted. Remember people, tax cuts have a dynamic effect on the economy. It's highly likely that the tax cuts resulted in more tax revenue. I think its fairly obvious to say increasing the income tax across all brackets by %2 would not bring %2 more income tax revenue because it would obviously slow the economy. My guess is where the current levels of taxation are, increasing the taxes actually reduces revenue.

I would love to see if anyone has any concrete data relating to where the curve for taxation actually lies..
11.10.2008 11:24pm
loki13 (mail):
It's highly likely that the tax cuts resulted in more tax revenue.

False. Nothing else really to say. I did, however, have a real laugh (or laffer) at that.
11.10.2008 11:26pm
zforce (mail):
@loki13

Total 2007 taxes were %35 of GDP. At what percentage to do you think government revenue would fall?
11.11.2008 12:49am
David Warner:
Loki13,

"False. Nothing else really to say. I did, however, have a real laugh (or laffer) at that."

Depends where we are on the curve. McArdle has some good stuff on this (she doesn't think rates are high enough presently for zforce to be correct). Much more persuasive than high-handed dismissal.
11.11.2008 12:58am
MarkField (mail):

Depends where we are on the curve. McArdle has some good stuff on this (she doesn't think rates are high enough presently for zforce to be correct). Much more persuasive than high-handed dismissal.


zforce was making a factual claim, not a theoretical one. Whatever the merits of the theoretical claim -- and I don't find it very persuasive except under extreme conditions -- the factual one is false. After the Bush tax cuts (indeed, after the Reagan ones too), tax revenue as a percentage of GDP did NOT increase, it went down. Unless zforce has evidence to present -- a link, perhaps -- the only response possible is a flat denial.
11.11.2008 11:16am
loki13 (mail):
David Warner,

No, that does take a high handed dismissal. There are two separate issues.

1. Whether tax cuts can spur economic growth, therefore allowing increased revenues over a longer period of time than you believe you would lose from the tax cuts. This matters greatly in forecasting.

Ex. Tax rate (overall economy) is 40%. GDP growth is 3%. GDP at present day is (for example) 100 Limbaughs. If you cut taxes to 30%, would that spur GDP growth to 3.5%? If so, you have the following:
Expected revenue next ten years with no tax cuts:
512.31 Limbaughs
Expected revenue next ten years with tax cuts, not taking into account GDP growth:
384.23 Limbaughs
Expected revenue next ten years with tax cuts, taking into account GDP growth (dynamic modelling):
394.26 Limbaughs

So, without using dynamic modelling, you will underestimate revenue by 10 Limbaughs. The devil, of course, is in the details. What if GDP increases at a slightly higher rate? What if it increases at a slightly lower rate? Regardless, it is clear that a small portion of tax cuts will not be lost as government revenue.

What is laughable is the notion that tax cuts 'pay for themselves'. I will repeat this simply. This is a lie. Again- this is a lie. The Laffer Curve is an interesting construct that is true at the margins, for example:
If the government taxes 99% of revenue, and drops taxes to 80%, it is likely that revenue will go us, as people will actually engage in activities that benefit themselves instead of the government, and activities that previously went unreported (or underreported) will now be taxed.

However, empirical evidence has shown that at no point has the United States been at a marginal tax rate where this has been true. So again, this is a lie. In fact, there has been empirical evidence that during the Clinton years, people worked harder (increasing tax revenue) when the marginal rates went up slightly, but that info is relatively hard to tease out.

If anyone ever writes that a tax cut wwill pay for themselves, you can do a detailed analysis, or you can do the following: say that they are lying. Because that is the truth. It would be similar to hearing someone tell a state trooper the reason they were speeding on the highway would be to stay younger relative to the rest of us, because of relativity- interesting in theory, a gigantic lie in reality.
11.11.2008 11:19am
David Warner:
MarkField,

"After the Bush tax cuts (indeed, after the Reagan ones too), tax revenue as a percentage of GDP did NOT increase"

As a math guy, I'd caution you about putting good stuff in denominators, if you'd like for your points to be persuasive.

Loki13, McArdle is far ahead of me on the economics. As JBG will tell you, I'm a lazy linker, but she has loads of good stuff there if you're curious. Again, accusations of deliberate falsehood are like shame attacks: too frequently (mis)employed and they lose their power, and not really very tricky or even Godly for that matter.

Somehow I think the curve is more elastic at any point than .5% GDP growth/33% difference in tax rate, but I'm very much an amateur economist.
11.11.2008 12:01pm
loki13 (mail):
David Warner,

I'm sorry, but there's no adequate response other than dismissal. At any conceivable tax rate that we are contemplating, the following statement:

"The tax cut will pay for itself."

Is a 100% flat-out lie. Always has been, always will be. When people put that statement out there, it's a form of dishonest discourse. Allow me to make this statement:

"Put it on you credit card, and you never really pay for it."

Doesn't make sense, does it? Now, there can be good arguments in economics as to why a purchase now on credit is a good idea (marginal utility of money, discounted present value, the expected utility you will get from the purchased item if you purchase it now instead of the future etc.), but that doesn't make the above statement true.

So, one more time: anytime someone tells you that a tax cut will pay for itself (in the aggregate, I will exempt specialized cases, licensing fees etc.) they are lying to you.
11.11.2008 12:13pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Anderson,

My impression of The Republic is that it is a thought experiment into the nature of justice. I.e. remove all the things that lead to injustice, and maybe one can see what the nature of justice really is. Most of Plato's works really involve inquiry into the nature of things. I also suspect that we are missing key portions of Critias and other dialogs that might help put more context around the ideas in Republic.

I think that, in terms of ideal republican government, Cicero is more interesting to read than Plato. However, since Plato really was the philosopher who stood at the crossroads between myth and philosophy, and because his ideas were rapidly absorbed into Christianity, some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, and even some forms of Islam, it seems worth studying his works.
11.11.2008 12:24pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
On Seneca and education.... My point was that the kind of education Seneca was suggesting cannot be reduced to a multiple-choice exam. Are we teaching people to memorize history facts? Or teaching people how to think? If the latter, standardized testing for high school students (and maybe even middle school students) seems counterproductive.

I personally think that standardized testing should end at the 5th grade.
11.11.2008 12:28pm
ahendo10 (mail) (www):
I suppose Malvo also doesn't count?
11.11.2008 12:50pm
MarkField (mail):

As a math guy, I'd caution you about putting good stuff in denominators, if you'd like for your points to be persuasive.


There are times when that's the only way to work the problem, and this is one of them. loki13 is right and AFAIK every reputable economist admits it these days. Greg Mankiw had a whole post on it a few months ago. Except in extreme theoretical cases, tax cuts do NOT increase government revenue.

People who claim they do have the burden of proving it. zforce simply asserted it as a plus for Bush.
11.11.2008 1:41pm
David Warner:
MarkField,

"There are times when that's the only way to work the problem, and this is one of them. loki13 is right and AFAIK every reputable economist admits it these days. Greg Mankiw had a whole post on it a few months ago. Except in extreme theoretical cases, tax cuts do NOT increase government revenue."

Perhaps my mathyness is blinding me to the overwhelming obviousness of your, and Loki13's, case, but certainly with compounding the question all depends on the time horizon and the putative rates of growth and taxation involved.

Again, McArdle's already done the math eight ways to Sunday, but I can run a simple spreadsheet if you like. Your % of GDP measure is silly however, for the more the dynamic scorers are right (the more tax cuts spur GDP growth), the more your measure looks worse. Heads, you win, tails, you win.

I consider income taxes to be by nature regressive anyway (if you want to hit the rich, hit richness = property/consumption, not change in wealth = social mobility), so I don't have much of a dog in this fight.
11.11.2008 2:51pm
David Warner:
einhverfr,

"Are we teaching people to memorize history facts? Or teaching people how to think? If the latter, standardized testing for high school students (and maybe even middle school students) seems counterproductive."

So your theory is that ability to think is negatively correlated with performance on (any conceivable) standardized tests? Somehow I don't think that Seneca would concur.

Poor schools are acting like poor students: cramming instead of mastering concepts. Do we let poor students therefore avoid accountability?
11.11.2008 2:54pm
loki13 (mail):
David Warner,

I do not want to belabor this point anymore. All serious economists know the following:

At our present tax rates (and any that have been discussed, or used, in America), a tax cut does not pay for itself. Period.

A tax cut without a corresponding reduction in spending is not a tax cut, but a tax shift. You also have to take into account the interest payments on the increased deficit (assuming you are in a period of budget deficits, as we are). I could continue to go on, but all the arugments to the contrary are just that- sophistry.

All economists- left-wing, right-wing, middle-of-the-road, agree on the following: tax cuts do not pay for themselves.

Everything else is sophistry.
11.11.2008 3:03pm
loki13 (mail):
If you really want to educate yourself, please see:

Here

or

Here

or

Here

or

Here

or anywhere that uses economics, and not wishful thinking.
11.11.2008 3:12pm
MarkField (mail):

Your % of GDP measure is silly however, for the more the dynamic scorers are right (the more tax cuts spur GDP growth), the more your measure looks worse. Heads, you win, tails, you win.


Fair enough to that extent. The proper comparison is, of course, with the change in expected growth. That said, it remains true that tax cuts do NOT increase tax revenue, and no serious economist thinks they do in real life situations.
11.11.2008 3:25pm
loki13 (mail):
BTW,

Notice I included dynamic scoring in my first example. While I think dynamic scoring is helpful and shouldn't be ignored, most optimistic (crazy) dynamic scorers elide a few important things:

1. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves.

2. They fail to take into account the increased deficit created by the tax cuts, which has negative effect, both the simple &easy to understand (interest payments on debt) to the more complicated (crowding out of private investment) to the possibly catastrophic (elemental risk-analysis).

I am not sure why the old adage "there is no such thing as a free lunch" doesn't occur to most people. You want tax cuts? Then reduce spending. If you want the spending, tax for it. Run deficits during economic downturns and surpluses during the goodtimes. Not rocket science.
11.11.2008 3:31pm
David Warner:
Loki13,

Your appeals to authority are tiresome. Using the initial model you you yourself suggested, if one uses, say, 2% vs 5% growth at 30% and 40% tax rates, the curves intersect 18 years out (after that, of course, thanks to compounding, the 30% rate rapidly outpaces the 40% in revenue generation). Obviously, this is a vastly oversimplified model, and those aren't realistic numbers where we are in the curve, which was my original point, and McArdle's.

If you want to make adversaries, continue with the accusations and shaming behavior. For converts, see McArdle.
11.11.2008 3:33pm
David Warner:
Loki13,

"2. They fail to take into account the increased deficit created by the tax cuts, which has negative effect, both the simple &easy to understand (interest payments on debt) to the more complicated (crowding out of private investment) to the possibly catastrophic (elemental risk-analysis)."

Good stuff. Be the authority.
11.11.2008 3:36pm
loki13 (mail):
David Warner,

I'm sorry. I just got really aggravated when I hear that particular claim because it *so wrong*. If you want to talk about the relative lag effects of fiscal and monetary policy, I don't mind the reasoned discussion (and I did a great deal of econometric analysis on this issue in UG). If you want to talk about normative goals like a faster growing economy vs. a larger middle class, II'm all ears. But I get super aggravated when I hear the statement that tax cuts will pay for themselves because it is so obviously wrong when it is employed (again, absent special considerations, such as when a country might lower a corporate tax rate to draw more multi-national businesses, or for licensing fees, or in other areas, but that's never the point being made).

Here's the analogy:
It's One o'clock in the afternoon. Someone tells you, "It's night." Common sense tells you this is wrong. Empirical evidence (the sun being out) tells you this is wrong. When you ask for an explanation, this someone explains that there exists a concept of night, and somewhere on earth it is night, you are on earth, therefore it is night. The logical hole is that not only is 'somewhere' undefined given the original formulation, but you, in fact, know where you are, and it s day.

It's the same in economics. There is a Laffer curve. Somewhere on that Laffer curve, lowering taxes will increase revenues. We just have never been anywhere near that point. And common sense and empirical evidence can tell us this.
11.11.2008 4:10pm
loki13 (mail):
In short, to paraphrase Voltaire, those who believe absurdities commit, well, really bad economic policies.

I think it's unfortunate that people (often in good faith) keep parroting something that a little knowledge tells you in untrue. It's the same as if someone told you that "Play it again Sam" is from Casablanca (look it up- it isn't), except that's an interesting bit of trivia, while "Tax cuts pay for themselves" does serious harm to our political discourse, decision making, and country. Just cut spending if you want to lower taxes. It's not that hard a concept.
11.11.2008 4:15pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Warner:

So your theory is that ability to think is negatively correlated with performance on (any conceivable) standardized tests? Somehow I don't think that Seneca would concur.


Yes, that is my belief, provided that teachers are allowed to teach the information on the test. Basically the test is the measure of success, so people will do what they can to maximize that measure of success. If you have ever worked in corporate America, you can see this effect.

There is one possible solution..... The standardized test could test topics that the schools could be forbidden from teaching, so as to test how well students can reason their way through problems. However, that doesn't seem very wise either.
11.11.2008 6:16pm
David Warner:
einhverfr,

"Yes, that is my belief, provided that teachers are allowed to teach the information on the test. Basically the test is the measure of success, so people will do what they can to maximize that measure of success. If you have ever worked in corporate America, you can see this effect."

I've both worked in corporate America (where I got my fill of perverse measures like the GDP in the denominator one above, as well as figure fudging) and am now teaching mathematics to students who will be tested. We teach to this and the various state standards based upon it, mastery of which the tests are designed (largely by teachers themselves) to measure.

If teachers/districts opt for cram and drill, the students will both forget the material before the test and be unable to apply what they know in unfamiliar settings. If they consider test problems unfamiliar, imagine the difficulty they'll have applying what they know in real life.

If a teacher/district goes to the other extreme with total free-form and no practice or connection to the standards, they will of course struggle as well. But there are plenty of good teachers/districts whose instruction is standards-based, and thus focused on concept construction/mastery, and we see good test performance as expected flowing from that approach.
11.11.2008 6:46pm
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
Todd says: "Moreover, it is one thing to increase spending and government debt if it is for long-term investments that will recoup themselves, such as Reagan's defense buildup in the 1980s (which allowed subsequent reductions in the 1990s by winning the Cold War) or investments in infrastructure or similar things that increase economic growth. But little of Bush's spending was investment, as opposed to pure current consumption, and so a lot of it was nothing more than borrowing against future taxes to fund lower taxes today. So I give some credit, but modest, on this front."

But I am not sure that he is right about his claim that "little of Bush's spending was investment". Obviously the increase in federal spending on education was an investment. Some of the increase in military spending surely qualifies as investment -- by Todd's own argument.

The very great increase in federal spending on research is also investment. After stagnating under Clinton, it went from about 100 billion a year to 140 billion under Bush.

(That post is part of my series on the unknown Bush, which I have started because I thought that the conventional wisdom on Bush was so often contradicted by the data.)
11.11.2008 8:12pm
David Warner:
loki13,

"Here's the analogy:"

Here's another:

My union rep tells me that my union dues will pay for themselves. Of course they won't right away - that depends on when the next contract is negotiated - and considering all the externalities, I'd say they never will*, but I don't think the rep is lying. He's just operating under different assumptions and experiences than I am.

* - questions of zero- vs positive-sum/who gets paid, et. al. are also pertinent.


As for every serious economist, that particular group has a history not notable for its uncheckeredness. Still as much art as science.
11.12.2008 9:45am
MarkField (mail):

As for every serious economist, that particular group has a history not notable for its uncheckeredness. Still as much art as science.


Sure, but we govern with the economists we have, not those we'd like to have. When there's a consensus among economists -- and there is on this issue -- it makes no sense to ignore their advice on the off chance that sometime in the future we might think differently.

I think loki and I both labor under a sense of real frustration on subjects like this. For 28 years, Republican apologists have been making public arguments which the facts simply won't support: tax cuts increase revenue; there is no global warming; teach the controversy. This is infuriating because it is, in the end, dishonest; people actually do know better. We can't have real debates about policy issues unless and until there's a commitment to basic truths. I'm more than willing to have those debates; I look forward to the day when Republicans are too.
11.12.2008 11:35am
byomtov (mail):
I think loki and I both labor under a sense of real frustration on subjects like this. For 28 years, Republican apologists have been making public arguments which the facts simply won't support: tax cuts increase revenue; there is no global warming; teach the controversy. This is infuriating because it is, in the end, dishonest; people actually do know better. We can't have real debates about policy issues unless and until there's a commitment to basic truths. I'm more than willing to have those debates; I look forward to the day when Republicans are too.

Sign me up too.

I have no doubt that McArdle can design spreadsheets that show a self-financing tax cut under some assumptions.



GLENDOWER
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?



But those who have looked more deeply at actual data, and are every bit as good at spreadsheets as McArdle, and a lot better at economics and statistics in general, almost uniformly say no, it doesn't happen in the world we inhabit.
11.12.2008 12:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
David Warner--

The requirements for 9-12 are pretty clear but how would you reduce them to a multiple choice test? "Use number theory arguments..." seems to require something other than a multiple-choice format.
11.12.2008 1:20pm
David Warner:
MarkField,

"For 28 years, Republican apologists have been making public arguments which the facts simply won't support: tax cuts increase revenue; there is no global warming; teach the controversy. This is infuriating because it is, in the end, dishonest; people actually do know better. We can't have real debates about policy issues unless and until there's a commitment to basic truths."

What happened to the death of grand narratives? Here you're wanting to excommunicate those, Republicans and otherwise, who don't show proper fealty of those of your choice. You're already dominating on these issues (how much has the controversy actually been taught?), and yet evidently dominance is insufficient. In a pluralistic culture, better to run with the (huge) consensus you have than to shoot down the straggling heretics. Its not sporting.

Again, McArdle's on your side. I'm suggesting her because her approach is likely to be more effective than acting like a Grand Inquisitor. Creationism is a red herring and AGW/Tax Policy are both highly non-linear problems fraught with all kinds of uncertainty, neither of which are particularly amenable to two-valued logic, let alone appeals to Truth.
11.12.2008 2:11pm
David Warner:
einhverfr,

"The requirements for 9-12 are pretty clear but how would you reduce them to a multiple choice test? "Use number theory arguments..." seems to require something other than a multiple-choice format."

The alternative you previously offered was no test at all. So, yes, I'm claiming that multiple choices are better than none at all. The true enemy of the good is the non-existent, with the perfect coming a close second.

As for your question, a student could be presented with several alternative arguments, of which the student is asked to choose the best, etc... An ideal test would of course not be multiple-choice, but those are also, of course, quite difficult to standardize.
11.12.2008 2:41pm
MarkField (mail):

What happened to the death of grand narratives?


Like Francisco Franco, they're still dead. I'm talking about simple facts, not the explanations for them. Global warming is a fact. Evolution is a fact. That tax cuts do not increase revenue except in odd cases unlikely to occur in reality is a fact. Once we agree on these facts, we can then approach the policy disputes. But as long as people insist on denying reality, we can't have much of a discussion.

If these were straggling heretics, that would be fine. The problem is not that an isolated internet poster raises these claims, it's that significant portions of the Republican leadership encourages it as a method of electoral gain. What I want is a society in which people make a good faith effort to agree on the basic facts and then debate the proper policy. I can't imagine how we'd ever get to good policy decisions without doing so.
11.12.2008 4:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

The alternative you previously offered was no test at all. So, yes, I'm claiming that multiple choices are better than none at all. The true enemy of the good is the non-existent, with the perfect coming a close second.


No. I said no standardized test. I suppose I could limit this to "no standardized multiple choice tests."

The alternative would be costly, but would require a board of people who knew the subject matter to review test answers that were more free-form. Consider it as a move from multiple-choice to something where the format fits the objectives a bit better. Perhaps one could have a board made up of teachers who have some additional credentials who grade tests other than their own students'?

Multiple choice tests have the big drawback that one can develop a skill of being able to feel your way through them without actually having the knowledge that they are insisting on testing, especially when the answers are not those which require actually working through the problem to determine.
11.12.2008 5:26pm
JadeGold (mail):

First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy.


It would be helpful to remember what bin Laden's objectives were on 9/11. He wanted the US to engage in a war in the Middle East.

He gotr exactly what he wanted. As one wag put it, bin Laden got everythingthing he wanted for Christmas.

As a result, we've screwed up things royally in the ME--which will of course further the aims of AQ and other extremists.
11.12.2008 5:41pm
Doctorb (mail):
I guess I'm glad for Bush's bungled attempt to "reform" Social Security. If he had succeeded in betting that money on financial companies our parents would all be moving in with us right now.
11.12.2008 7:10pm
David Warner:
Doctorb,

"I guess I'm glad for Bush's bungled attempt to "reform" Social Security. If he had succeeded in betting that money on financial companies our parents would all be moving in with us right now."

Wow. So how does one live inside an attack ad?
11.12.2008 7:41pm
David Warner:
Mark,

I can beat a dead horse with the best of them, but I think you know where that conversation goes. Suffice it to say, choosing those particular "facts" upon which to ground your consensus-building is roughly as promising as such "facts" as "this Jewish woman gave birth while still a vigin 2000-years-ago and get this: the kid's Savior of the world." or "Marxist-Leninist thought is the only way forward for economics."

I agree that AGW is highly likely, that evolution is, by far, the best theory we have currently to fit together the facts we have, and that we need to match tax and spending cuts.
11.12.2008 7:48pm
MarkField (mail):
David, just to be clear, I wasn't even referring to global warming as anthropocentric. There are some who deny its existence at all. Nor did I mean the theory of evolution -- I meant the actual fact that evolution has occurred (the theory simply explains the mechanism for the observed fact).

I'm not trying to build consensus on the policies. There will always be disagreements there. I'm simply saying that we need to start from a set of agreed-upon facts or we can't even begin to discuss the policies.
11.12.2008 8:01pm
apikores (mail):
Your mangling of the English language is almost as depressing as that of your idol, our lame duck Decider-In-Chief. I would suggest you run your posts by someone who has a basic grasp of English grammar before submitting them so you can avoid embarrassing yourself and the university at which you teach.
11.12.2008 9:01pm
Doctorb (mail):
"Wow. So how does one live inside an attack ad?"

Fair enough -- that was sort of hyperbole, plus it wasn't just Bush pushing to privatize Social Security.

Seriously though, with 401(k)s tanking, do you think it would be a good thing for that money to have been invested in mutual funds?

George W Bush: wrong on social security, wrong for America.

paidforbythecommittetoliveinsideanattackad
11.12.2008 10:18pm
David Warner:
Doctorb,

"Privatize" is a dumb word. Public means "of the people". I think it's a bad idea to allow the gummint to confiscate the capital of the people for 40 years, keeping the float for themselves. Good idea for an ancien regime looking to cut out the (potential) competition, bad for the people.

Social Security: the opposite of Social Mobility

paidforbythecommitteetoliveinsidemyowndamnattackad
11.13.2008 12:03am
David Warner:
einhverfr,

"The alternative would be costly"

Maybe. The SAT's do it now with the essay section. Somehow I don't think most testing opponents are as concerned as you are with the technicalities of making it happen.

"Multiple choice tests have the big drawback that one can develop a skill of being able to feel your way through them without actually having the knowledge that they are insisting on testing, especially when the answers are not those which require actually working through the problem to determine."

Yes, I have this skill. I'm not nearly as intelligent as standardized tests would tell you I am, as one can easily see by my prior posts in this thread. Still, multiple choice or otherwise, if our institutions won't deign to be subjected to the accountability of the market, we certainly can't allow them to be unaccountable altogether.
11.13.2008 12:33am
MarkField (mail):

Yes, I have this skill. I'm not nearly as intelligent as standardized tests would tell you I am, as one can easily see by my prior posts in this thread. Still, multiple choice or otherwise, if our institutions won't deign to be subjected to the accountability of the market, we certainly can't allow them to be unaccountable altogether.


My sentiments exactly. I'm dubious about NCLB because the testing strikes me as deficient in precisely this way. My daughter (who taught and knows this stuff better than I do) insists that there are well-designed tests which can be used. Assuming that's right we need to fund and use them.
11.13.2008 11:31am
David Warner:
MarkField,

"My daughter (who taught and knows this stuff better than I do) insists that there are well-designed tests which can be used. Assuming that's right we need to fund and use them."

We, kimosabe? Do you live in Ohio? AFAIK, All NCLB mandates is that each state come up with standards and tests to measure progress on those standards. If the state educational authorities (usually dominated either root and branch or just via an inordinate number of branches with Dems, if not progressives) decide to use multiple-choice, I can't see how that has much to with the evil Bush.*

The flaw I see in NCLB and more pressingly in such unequal-positive-right-enshrining legislation as IDEA is the institutionalization of the preferential option for the poor, a theological concept that evidently animates both Kennedy and Bush - as fellow scions of privilege this is unsurprising - but one at odds with equal protection and equality before the law, not to mention my own theology which would contend that God doesn't play favorites.

* - desperately trying to claw my way back on topic.
11.13.2008 11:56am
MarkField (mail):

We, kimosabe? Do you live in Ohio? AFAIK, All NCLB mandates is that each state come up with standards and tests to measure progress on those standards. If the state educational authorities (usually dominated either root and branch or just via an inordinate number of branches with Dems, if not progressives) decide to use multiple-choice, I can't see how that has much to with the evil Bush.


In the absence of funding NCLB, states have a real incentive to use cheap multiple choice tests. What we really need IMO are national standards and tests. Bush is evil because he failed to provide funding for the law.*

I live in CA, though I have cousins in OH.

*If you start with the recognition that Bush is evil, you'll find that it doesn't take very long to come up with a reason why. Simplifies your life.

My kids are experts in this. Whatever happens, it was my fault. The exact reasoning by which it became my fault varies to meet the particular case.
11.13.2008 1:00pm
J Casey (mail) (www):
You write

First, if you had told me on September 12, 2001 that seven years later we'd be able to say that there would be no major terrorist attacks on American soil in the next seven years I would've thought you were naive or crazy. Now I don't know how much credit the Bush Administration directly gets for this. And I share some of the criticisms that perhaps they went too far at times in terms of infringements on civil liberties to bring about this result. But in retrospect I really do think it has been a major accomplishment that we have not been hit by another terrorist attack in that time. Relatedly, it seems to me that the Bush Administration gets some substantial credit for Qaddafi's decision in 2003 to renounce terrorism and a general increase in deterrence against countries engaged in state-sponsored terrorism.


Thanks. I will use this on the logical fallacies test tomorrow in Critical Thinking 101. Correct answer: post hoc ergo propter hoc.
11.13.2008 3:49pm
David Warner:
Markfield,

"My kids are experts in this. Whatever happens, it was my fault. The exact reasoning by which it became my fault varies to meet the particular case."

Yeah, that's kinda the moral of The Dark Knight. Also see the Aristotle upthread.

J Casey,

"Thanks. I will use this on the logical fallacies test tomorrow in Critical Thinking 101. Correct answer: post hoc ergo propter hoc."

So... blame for the bad, no credit for the good. I think this fallacy goes beyond the merely logical. I'm glad I'll be spared that particular test, and its writer.
11.13.2008 9:57pm
athEIst (mail):
Fighting General?! Grant was a butcher.
11.13.2008 11:47pm