« Rick Renzi Indicted | Main | Signifying Nothing »

February 23, 2008

Comments

Von & OCSteve -- just saw this thread, so I'll chime in late at the risk of flogging an extremely dead horse. After much squinting sideways, I can understand how you got what you did or Obama's remark. It is not the way the words struck me personally (nor, apparently, most commenters here). Apparently it is the way they struck a lot of rightwing bloggers.

This is not a grammatical dispute. Grammatically, "because" and "in consequence" do not force either interpretation. I cannot improve on JamieM's analysis there. The paired sentences could mean "they weren't supplied so they had to capture Taliban weapons whenever they found them," OR "they weren't supplied so they had to go out on raids for the primary purpose of capturing Taliban weapons." It seems to me that the reason for hearing a grammatically simple statement in such different ways comes from underlying assumptions about reality.

To wit: right-wingers expect Obama to lie and say dumb things, left-wingers don't. You hear what you expect to hear when there is any possible ambiguity.

There may also be another underlying factor: based on various comments upthread, many ex-military people's experience leads them to see the need to scavenge enemy weapons as so normal that it is not worth commenting on and does not impugn Army or DoD supply decisions. If that is right, I would expect such a person to not even notice that Obama is trying to make that criticism, at least not when they first hear that sentence. That criticism is a non-point, it wouldn't even occur to them, so their verbal processing network latches onto a different, grammatically possible interpretation. That interpretation is so natural to them that they are puzzled and annoyed when people insist it meant something else.

Us lefties have the opposite default. As Gromit said, http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/02/honor.html#comment-104094962 ,
your interpretation of Obama's remark is that he made an absurd and stupid exaggeration. From my point of view, that is so unlikely that it was difficult for me to see how the sentence could possibly mean what you said.

The question appears to be, then: is it more likely that Obama is an idiot, or that some people view it as bad planning and worth criticism that our troops have to scavenge for weaponry? I find the answer obvious.

I also do not think it is fair to blame Obama for not taking care to construct his sentence so that it would not mislead people who assume he's a mendacious nitwit, as most of us would fail that test of our spoken words on a regular basis.

YMMV.

"As for this particular fly: There are any number of threads in which you suggested that a particular comment belonged elsewhere."

Von, can you ever not move goal posts, and claim rewrites of what you just wrote are what you wrote, and instead either stand by what you wrote, or withdraw it?

You did not write that I have a history of "suggest[ing] that a particular comment belonged elsewhere," which is an entirely vague claim. Do I have a history of telling people they are "off-topic"? Do I?

You went on about the topic of McCain's comments about Musharraf being "off-topic" in a thread about McCain, and that somehow being "off-topic" in an ObWi thread is wrong, and actually wrote of me: "Given Gary's past policing of threats for OTness...."

(I take "threats" to be a typo for "threads"; let me know if my hypotheses is incorrect, please.)

I have no such history.

It's not true.

You made it up.

Please withdraw the claim, and please apologize for what I shall take to be an error of extremely bad memory, and stubbornness in refusing to admit it, for some reason, the first time. Not a big deal.

Thanks kindly.

"and 2:32 p.m."

Is this a typo, perhaps?

Gary, I can't find it at the moment, but I think within the past 24 hours you suggested that a (somewhat spammish) comment was off topic for a particular thread and should have been posted in either another thread where it was on topic or one that was labeled as an open thread. Perhaps that was what Von was thinking of.

I'd say that that's a very different case from simply continuing a conversation as it evolves, and I certainly don't remember your "policing" anything like that.

For the record: it has always been my understanding that "preconditions", as used in diplomacy, does not refer to things like "our undersecretaries have to meet before we can meet", but to things like: "you have to give up your nuclear program before we can talk." I understood Obama to mean that, and I think it's the right way to go, unless you have some specific reason to think that you can use the mere willingness to hold talks to get some significant concession out of someone.

Most of the time, insisting on preconditions is just a way of delaying things.

"I'd say that that's a very different case from simply continuing a conversation as it evolves, and I certainly don't remember your 'policing' anything like that."

Sure. I've certainly made plenty of comments about spam, and I've certainly made a number of comments over the years about someone dropping in out of the blue with something utterly off-topic, particularly if there's a current open thread, but, as you say, that has nothing to do with ever suggesting that thread-drift was wrong or "off-topic," and I have no history of "past policing" in that regard on this blog since it started.

I'm a fan of thread-drift, and I've said so innumerable times.

However, I have to apologize to Von for the above: "You went on about the topic of McCain's comments about Musharraf being "off-topic" in a thread about McCain,"

That was a brain fart: the post starting this thread is about Obama, not McCain. My mistake; sorry.

(See, that's not hard, is it?)

Pretending it never happened, or just letting it go unacknowledged seems to be within the rules of etiquette.

Von, can you ever not move goal posts, and claim rewrites of what you just wrote are what you wrote, and instead either stand by what you wrote, or withdraw it?

You did not write that I have a history of "suggest[ing] that a particular comment belonged elsewhere," which is an entirely vague claim. Do I have a history of telling people they are "off-topic"? Do I?

What KCinDC said. Also, I see no goalpost moving or even nudging on my part: You have a history of saying that a particular comment belonged elsewhere because the comment, in your view, was OT for the particular thread at hand. Again, next time it comes up, I'll flag it for you

For the record: it has always been my understanding that "preconditions", as used in diplomacy, does not refer to things like "our undersecretaries have to meet before we can meet", but to things like: "you have to give up your nuclear program before we can talk." I understood Obama to mean that, and I think it's the right way to go, unless you have some specific reason to think that you can use the mere willingness to hold talks to get some significant concession out of someone.

I understood that, Hilzoy. I think whether this is wise in every case is a worthy topic to address. (Obviously, everyone agrees that "without [certin] preconditions" is appropriate in some cases.)

Von: "What KCinDC said."

KCinDC: "I'd say that that's a very different case from simply continuing a conversation as it evolves, and I certainly don't remember your 'policing' anything like that."

Are you selectively agreeing, Von, or wholly agreeing?

trilobite: I also do not think it is fair to blame Obama for not taking care to construct his sentence so that it would not mislead people who assume he's a mendacious nitwit, as most of us would fail that test of our spoken words on a regular basis.

IMHO, it doesn't do much to advance the discussion to argue that the only way you can interpret Obama's statements the way OCSteve and Von (and I) do is to assume Obama is an idiot (some sort of Bush Derangement Syndrome in reverse? :))

If I assumed Obama was an idiot, I would be arguing that Obama said there was a causal connection between the 15 sent to Iraq and the shortage of ammo ("because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition . . ." What? Who let Larry take all the 5.56 rounds to Iraq? ARRRRGGHH!! ) No, I went right past that and on to the next statement assuming Obama was no mendacious nitwit.

Obama then says that BECAUSE they didn't have enough ammo, they "captured."

I don't see the need for the disagreement as to whether they went out for the purpose of capturing. I see the statement as saying their was a need to capture regardless of the purpose of the mission because of the need. The Captain himself has admitted they actually had enough ammo in Afghanistan, just not that much in training especially where the grenade launchers and fun stuff were concerned (and that is an ages-old issue).

Arguing that there is an ambiguity over "purpose" avoids the fact that Obama stated there was a need to go get ammo (and by simple implication weapons). There was not.

So when you say:

The paired sentences could mean "they weren't supplied so they had to capture Taliban weapons whenever they found them," OR "they weren't supplied so they had to go out on raids for the primary purpose of capturing Taliban weapons."

I respond: but they were supplied (at least with primary weapons and ammo; they were short a humvee and had a parts shortage on their 50 cal, apparently an ordinary experience in any theater)

So in short, I can still keep my conservative opinion that Obama is intelligent, charismatic, liberal and wrong on the facts (or at least exaggerating) on this one.


von: I honestly have no idea. I don't dispute that McCain said it, but I get the sense that some context is missing. Certainly, it's not 100% consistent with what McCain said prior or subsequently, including in the very same statement.

I'm more and more inclined to agree about the context given that I simply can't find a transcript of the proceedings. It's the fact that he's not just cited, but quoted, as saying this that confuses me. I can certainly imagine a reporter paraphrasing poorly -- no, really, I can! -- but outright misquoting something that simple seems improbable... but then again, so does McCain contradicting himself on something that simple inside of a minute. Bizarre.

[And Thomas the Tank Engine does indeed rock!]

Are you selectively agreeing, Von, or wholly agreeing?

Wholly agreeing: my use of the word "policing" was too strong, and wasn't necessary to my point.

[And Thomas the Tank Engine does indeed rock!]

Now that's a statement I never thought I'd find myself (1) reading or (2) agreeing with.

Here's the 64K question: Steve or Cousin Joe from Blue's Clues?

And the 32K question: Is it just me, or is Bob the Builder a communist stooge? (Probably just me, but there that the Mayor-dude from sunflower valley is Lenin's spitting image.) (Fortunately, the Very Useful Engines of Tidmouth Shed provide a more suitable example of a capitalist workforce, while Sir Toppin Hatt reminds us of the need to respect our betters.)

My tongue, of course, is planted firmly in cheek. Except for that Bob-the-Commie thing -- that's 100% true.

(Yes, I am now deliberately going OT.)

On the contrary, Bob the Builder is a union scab!

I'm real late to all of this, but I just want to note that I am among those, even older than Obama (and Gary), who never learned until this very day that it was "U.S. Code" to place the hand over the heart during the anthem! I learned instead - whether in school or whatever (not from parents, I'm sure) - to stand with my hands by my side, and so I have done all these many decades.

Which is not to say that Gary is wrong about the law - obviously he's right - but that he might wish to modify his assumption about what "is done" by Americans, especially since others before me in this thread have made the same point. There are clearly different traditions of respect for the anthem; the fact that one is official and the other not doesn't really alter the social actuality. (And the fact that Boy Scouts salute in a certain way is not proof, to a non-Scout, of anything except a Scout tradition, which may or may not be applicable to the rest of us.)

*********

Meanwhile, WRT the charge of Gary "policing" the threads for "OT" comments - if that whole issue has not been disposed of adequately already - my take is that Gary is very quick to point out where the primary (or at least earliest) discussion of a particular issue has taken place, and to suggest that further comments be directed there. It can be annoying, when one is told "We already mentioned that, over there," but I think that on balance it is helpful. Even as it is when our spouse reminds us that we already decided something that we had, for the moment, forgotten . . .

I can understand why Gary objects to this being characterized as "policing" (except, presumably, in the weak/broad sense of "directing traffic, on a voluntary basis"), but I can also see how the misunderstanding arose. FWIW.

von,
Steve, but part of it may be pity over male pattern baldness and the other might be cause he seems pretty down to earth

And the 32K question: Is it just me, or is Bob the Builder a communist stooge?

My three year old watches Thomas, Cars or Bob the Builder when he comes to "work" with me at my office. In fact, he's coming today and I promised him he could watch Bob for part of the time.

HOWEVER, be very, very careful about calling Bob a communist. You realize, don't you, that Obama has patterned his campaign on Bob (YES WE CAN!!) :)

Come to think of it, maybe I should turn Obama in to HRC for plagiarism . . . . not!

Army Chief of Staff George Casey:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey, testifying on troop strain before the Senate Armed Forces Committee Tuesday, said there is "no reason to doubt" Sen. Barack Obama's military shortage story during CNN's debate in Austin, Texas, last week.

[...]

War supporters have challenged the story, but Casey said he had "no reason to doubt what it is the captain says."

"We acknowledged and we all worked together to correct the deficiencies with equipment that we saw during that period, not only Afghanistan but in Iraq," he said in response to the question posed by Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, a longtime supporter of GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

Damn liberal terrorsymps are everywhere.

bc, in belated reponse to your comment that I missed, February 25, 2008 at 07:23 PM:

I'm insufficiently motivated to rehearse the whole thread, but the interpretation that I addressed is not the same interpretation you are now advancing. I agree that your interpretation does not assume Obama is stupid. Your interpretation, in fact, is the same as mine: because they were short of ammo, they salvaged enemy weaponry.

Turns out, this was not true. Does that mean Obama lied or made a mistake? Well, not necessarily. It is just as likely that the captain's original communication with Obama was wrong or confusing. People express themselves badly all the time, and the Captain may very well have meant what he said later in response to specific questions, but said exactly what Obama repeated at the debate. I can't tell. If Obama did honestly repeat what he had been told -- and considering that the difference between what now appears to be the truth and what Obama said is pretty small anyway -- I think a retraction would be overkill.

"Your interpretation, in fact, is the same as mine: because they were short of ammo, they salvaged enemy weaponry.

Turns out, this was not true. I missed something. When was this demonstrated to be untrue? You're saying it's a proven fact that this soldier's platoon, or no U.S. soldier, ever picked up an enemy weapon and/or ammo in the field to use? Or that at no time have U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan had a shortage of a particular type of ammo on hand? Or what?

Because I don't recall seeing any such proof, or statement attributed to the anonymous captain. Speaking of exaggerating.

Gary, here's what you missed. I'm quoting Tapper, linked in Hilzoy's original post (emphasis added):

"Also in Afghanistan they had issues getting parts for their MK-19s and their 50-cals. Getting parts or ammunition for their standard rifles was not a problem.

Obama said this particular platoon was short Humvees & ammo. Assuming Tapper is accurate, the ammo shortage was only in training, not in the field. In the field they were short Humvees and weapon parts, but not ammo.

This is a quibble, not worth the time people have spent on it, certainly not worth taking the time to retract. And of course the captain's story doesn't show one way or another whether anybody else was shorted on ammo, and he confirmed that his men did pick up enemy weapons for use, presumably because they needed them (to flog the obvious to death, I don't think it would be reasonable to infer that they picked them up and used them for the sheer fun of it, because soldiers generally prefer to use weapons they are trained on and have resupply for if possible).

So, as I said, a trivial inaccuracy in a basically correct recounting.

The comments to this entry are closed.