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August 26, 2007


Here's Marshall.

Thanks -- some days it all runs together. I literally only read the last part of the post so I didn't know what it was about AND i was ctrl-F'ing using "incentives" rather than "interests."

I will keep you all apprised of these and other important developments in my life.

Good post. But I'm not sure (very late, very tired) you address the subject of my infuriation, namely that the security situation is even being discussed when the political situation is so much more problematic and our ability to keep 160k soldiers etc in the field so limited. It's the Social Security debate all over again, except this time with less discipline on the Democratic side.

Speaking as one of Baird's constituants, there is another factor to consider: this district (SW Washington state) covers literally the whole spectrum of political opinion, from actual non-joking communists and anarchists to a rural right that's so hard it's fossilized. (Reading the letters-to-the-editor page in the local rag is always a treat...) Baird's general record tends to reflect this, as he bounces around from position to position. I wouldn't be surprised if he's launched this broadside, not because of some deep personal belief, but to shore up his rightist credentials.

The first response is that, given the political ramifications (which are quite literally life-and-death for some people), you should only say such things if you are extremely confident about your position. If your words will shift the public debate (and reduce political pressure), you damn well better be sure that what you’re saying is correct.

Sorta like how we shouldn't say anything bad about the war, no matter how strongly we believe it, because it emboldens the enemy, right?

To be fair, your points about the importance of empiricism and being very sure you're correct are reasonable. But I think you've got to be very careful about lamenting how the Republicans shut off reasoned debate on one side and then bordering on doing the same.

The real problem isn't that some individual Democrat here, there, or yon happens to be pro-surge. The real problem is the media dynamic by which a couple of dissident views become the CW of "the Democrats." That's the dangerous part, because it does make people less likely to engage in good faith debate.

E.O.C.: There are lots of cases in which you shouldn't say X, for some value of X, without being very, very sure. E.g., "I saw your spouse coming out of a motel with another woman": seeing someone out of the corner of your eye and thinking it sorta kinda coulda been him is really not enough. I don't think recognizing this is shutting off debate.

That's a really good analogy -- and yes, that's the point i was going for. NOt that we should shut down speech

I would guess though that the calculation is being done the other way - think of the risk of not speaking if you're right.

This is more generally a problem from Bayesian statistics - you have to get your priors from _somewhere_.

It is a case of Type A and Type B errors. What are the risks and benefits of speaking up/remaining silent if you're right? If you're wrong? There is no perfect answer to the question. But I think it is unfair to suggest publius is attempting to shut down speech. He is merely suggesting that the risk in this case of speaking out and being wrong is high enough that Democrats are probably wiser to remain silent unless they are privy to better evidence than the rest of us.

Apologies to publius if I have misstated his point.

precisely -- well put g'kar. And frankly, given that you have a much better sense of this stuff than i do, i'd love to hear your thoughts. Even if -- especially if -- you disagree 100%

If there were an actual political contest going on, in which the majority of Republicans and the ruling clique are determined to stay in Iraq with as many troops as possible until the end of Bush's term and the Democrats determined to force a real shift in policy toward withdrawal, then it would be incumbent on the leadership to set the terms of debate. They'd do everything possible to avoid Democrats echoing administration/Republican talking points, etc.

But that political contest is not going on. The Democratic leadership has long since made a calculation that the best thing to do is drift along, letting Bush do what he wants but appearing to fight back, in order to make the argument in 2008 "elect us, we just need more Democrats to get out of Iraq."

Carl Levin, Hillary Clinton, random Democratic members of Congress are echoing the "yes, there's undeniable progress from the surge" garbage; the only basis on which they're willing to frame withdrawal is that those unworthy Iraqis don't deserve to be occupied and/or the military is breaking under the strain. Levin's even in the tank enough to be part of the slow-mo coup effort against Maliki.

So it's hardly surprising that random Dem members of Congress from unstable districts would feel free to mouth whatever they think covers their rear ends.

That was the pattern on FISA as well.

The problem is not with Brian Baird; it's with Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Carl Levin, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, their major funders, and the permanent shadow government of the Washington Consensus.

There's a problem with your premise, Publius. Geoduck (above) is right: Baird frequently engages in DINO behavior. He voted for the execrable bankruptcy bill, and for the invasion of Terri's Schiavo's medical care. My husband and I used to support him (we live in WA, though not in his district, and all 3 of us are psychologists), but we got disgusted years ago. My view is that this is just more DINO wankerism from him, tossing some red meat to the wingnuts in the district (Linda Smith, a certifiable Christian theocrat type, was Baird's predecessor).

Publius: "What people like O’Hanlon and Baird don’t (but should) realize is that they’re playing squarely into the administration’s hand by providing Congressional Republicans cover."

If they don't realize it, then (a) they're fools *and* (b) they aren't listening to anything that anybody not on the right says to them.

Therefore, it's reasonable to rule that out. They know what they're doing.

I second Nell on the failure of the Democratic leadership.

In addition, note the Brookings is supporting hacks like Pollack and O'Hanlon, *and* participating in events with wells of elemental liardom like AEI.

It's pretty clear the community of 'Serious People' contains almost no people who wouldn't perjure themselves against their own mothers (assuming they have any). So far, pro-war liars and frauds have suffered no penalties worth speaking of - Feith is at a nice faculty position, Wolfowitz got a golden parachute after sh*tting where he ate after his previous golden parachute.

If you want to hear what the standard mass media elites who promised us a sweet war back in 2002 are saying now, you go to the exact same channel, program or publication today; they're still there.

There are no penalties for being wrong, so long as you're pro-war wrong.

That fact is the dominating feature of our present political system.

I live in Brian Baird's district.
Last week, in the local paper, there was an article about how Congressman Baird had just come back from Iraq warning of the dangers of
a "precipitous withdrawal".
I wonder how many others in his district, other than me,
found it appalling that their congressman had
morphed into the likeness of Joe Lieberman.

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