October Not-Really-A-Surprise

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October on track to be deadliest month for U.S. troops since Marines stormed Fallouja in November 2004, says Los Angeles Times. The citizenry is not pleased:

A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll published Oct. 5 showed that 58% of the public says the U.S. military effort in Iraq is not going well, up from 48% just a month ago and the highest disapproval rating since the war began in 2003.

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  1. Heh, silly me. When I read “The citizenry is not pleased”, I assumed the Iraqi citizenry.

  2. Brian what is your point?
    If the citizenry thought that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth, should we change our space policys and our maps to show that?
    Or if the citizenry thought the heart was the center of our thoughts, she would mandate brian surgeons do surgery on hearts or the stomach if a poll says its that?
    Make policy based on polls that reflect peoples ignorance, thats they way to go.
    What do you think a poll would say? Americans are happy that americans are being killed in a foreign land? If so, we all would probably have more immediate pressing poblems which would leave us no time to write magazine articles never mind comment on them.

  3. 2,783 Americans killed in Iraq since 3/30/03.

    That’s getting pretty close to the number of Americans killed on 9/11.

    It seems to me that Al Queda is about to slip a notch in the ‘worst danger to Americans’ rankings.

  4. Brian what is your point?

    You obviously think his point is that since public opinion shows a disapproval of the war, our policy should reflect that. I don’t think he actually said that, though.

  5. 58% of the public says the U.S. military effort in Iraq is not going well

    polls that reflect peoples ignorance

    I’d have to agree. I can only assume the other 42% are in an extended coma.

  6. Greg, what is his point if not that?
    What is the sense of putting up there with no comment?
    Sometimes if you have nothing to post, then don’t post.

  7. Greg, what is his point if not that?

    Maybe his point is that this will hurt war supporters on election day, regardless of whether the policy is good or bad. You can comment on politics without endorsing policies, you know.

  8. worm eater,
    Brian didn’t even do that. He just stated and copied a paragraph from the LA Times stating the fact that there will be the most combat deaths in Iraq in a very long time.
    That’s it.
    No good or bad or anything.
    What is the sense of it?
    If anything, its negative because it clearly implies that polls, should be a very important, if not the leading factor in deciding military policy.
    Which is ridiculous and stunning for a magazine called “Reason.”

  9. Terry, sometimes people just post and say interesting things about life just because. No ulterior motives; no commentary, no opinions:

    They’re called f*cking facts, Terry….untwist your panties and come back tomorrow.

  10. Terry,

    Value is subjective. The American people pay a price for everything we do in Iraq (in “blood and treasure,” as they say). If, in the estimation of the citizenry, the costs outweigh the benefits for this adventure, it’s ridiculous to act as though this is indicative of some mass failure of judgement.

  11. “If, in the estimation of the citizenry, the costs outweigh the benefits for this adventure, it’s ridiculous to act as though this is indicative of some mass failure of judgement.”

    But this is kind of begging the question isn’t it. When the public agrees with you it’s due to a dispassionate estimate of the costs and benefits. When they disagree (eg, gay marriage) it’s because they are a bunch of ignorant bigots who struggle to tie their own shoes.

  12. “If anything, its negative because it clearly implies that polls, should be a very important, if not the leading factor in deciding military policy.”

    Well, they should be an important factor (though Terry did nothing to give the impression that he believed so).

    The President is not some all powerful puppet-master who just decides policy and automatically has all of the resources of America at his disposal. He’s a leader (at least he’s supposed to be). Being a leader means that you have to convince others to carry out your plan. If no-one is willing to carry out your plan, then your plan is worthless.

    If Bush wants to push a war strategy, then he needs to convince the American people to carry it out. Bush has failed miserably in this respect. If the people do not understand the value of a policy, then they will not be able to implement it properly, and they will not provide the necessary follow-thru.

    Unfortunately, it was obvious from the beginning that the American people did not fully support this war, yet Bush went ahead with it anyway. A substantial number of Americans made their opposition clear, and much of his nominal support was based upon blatantly exaggerated claims about the threat posed by Iraq and ridiculously optimistic predictions about the success of the mission.

    Bush is a miserable failure as President…precisely because he doesn’t care about the opinion of the American people.

  13. And if you read that thing in the new Lancet, Bush has killed like, a million people by now. Or something along those lines

  14. I’m not certain what question I’m begging. I certainly wouldn’t say that public opinion is formed by dispassionate analysis. People make value judgements based on irrational factors all the time, but this is not to say that those judgements are any less valid for being irrational. As far as logical fallacies go, you’re the one who responded to my argument by bringing up a completely unrelated issue and ascribing to me beliefs which I may or may not hold.

  15. Brian what is your point?

    Perhaps the point was to spur discussion. Hey, it worked on YOU.

  16. Unfortunately, it was obvious from the beginning that the American people did not fully support this war,

    Absolutely…except for the fact that this homgenous American people you describe voted for Bush twice…maybe they (er, sorry, ‘we’ according to you) care more about what the stock market is doing than if their all-volunteer army is being pruned back to nothing. Either way, it’s hard to take seriously anyone who uses the word ‘obviously’ and ‘the American people’ as if they are monolithic facts we only need reminding of.

  17. Actually, they only voted for Bush once, when he was the incumbant during wartime.

    The first time, he lost by over 500,000 votes.

  18. joe,

    Okay, that statement has gone unchallenged long enough. There is no national popular election of the president. There never has been. The fact that there isn’t makes claims that anyone won the “popular vote” almost meaningless. Heck, just read the Wiki entry on this topic:

    Losing the popular vote

    In the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000, the candidate who received a plurality of the popular vote did not become president.

    Proponents of the system counter that the Electoral College requires candidates to garner more widespread support throughout the Union; a popular vote system could elect a person who wins by a large margin in a few states over another person who wins by small margins in most states. The latter candidate, the argument goes, has to appeal to a broader array of interests than the former and is less likely to be a demagogue or extremist. However, the Electoral College is not guaranteed to favor the latter candidate in that scenario. In fact, given the 2000 allocation of electors, a candidate could win with the support of just the 11 largest states.

    Further, there is currently no such thing as a national “popular vote,” because combining the different popular votes into a single vote has serious statistical problems, and claims of the electoral college denying the “popular will” are specious. For example, voters in Massachusetts or Texas in 2000, as their respective states were sure to vote Democrat or Republican for President, were more likely to vote for a third party candidate, or not vote at all, since their vote for their preferred Democrat or Republican candidate was extremely unlikely to change the result. Conversely, a voter in Florida was more likely to vote Democrat or Republican, even if they favored a third-party candidate, because their vote was much more likely to make a difference.

    Similarly, the effect might be more likely to affect one candidate than another; for example, as there was a large anti-Bush sentiment in 2004, voters in uncontested states might have been more willing to come out in favor of John Kerry, despite their vote being less likely to make a difference, as a sign of opposition to incumbent George W. Bush.

    The effects of this phenomenon are somewhat known, but impossible to quantify in any close election, such as in 2000, when Al Gore had 0.5% more of the cast votes than George W. Bush, far inside the margin of error of any study. Because of the extremely thin margin, the only way to know who would have won the popular vote in 2000 would be to have conducted an actual popular vote.

  19. Pro Libertate,

    They did conduct a national popular vote in 2000. It just wasn’t used to choose the president.

    And I’m not making any affirmative claims about the significant of Bush’s defeat in the voting, just countering that claim that “the American people voted for Bush twice.” They most certainly did not.

  20. They did conduct a national popular vote in 2000. It just wasn’t used to choose the president.

    Just give it up, joe. You’re starting to sound a lot like the folks who think the Federal Reserve is the fount of all evil.

  21. Actually, you could argue that the Supreme Court voted for him once and the Electoral College the other time.

    The Electoral College has really gone downhill – it’s turned into a total party school.

  22. joe,

    No, we didn’t. We never have.

    Look, I wish Bush had never been elected, too, and as contrarian as this may sound, it’s the first election that galls me the most. He was an obvious lightweight and the fact that his name got him enough votes to win is irksome.

    However, the process for electing the president is a settled one, and it revolves around the Electoral College and the states. As my posting above indicates, even talking about a popular vote has little meaning, especially in a statistical heat like we saw in 2000. Really, the hue and cry about Florida is related to the same problem–people just don’t understand that you can’t talk about certainty in statistics when the results fall within the margin of error. God knows the truth, but we don’t. And we can’t. If it were up to me, Gore and Bush would’ve had to fight a duel with swords to decide who won Florida.

    I rather oppose going to a national popular election for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here. I’d also like to repeal the 17th Amendment, but that’s not going to happen any time soon.

  23. Wow, RC, that certainly was a substantive point.

  24. Pro Lib,

    “Look, I wish Bush had never been elected, too, and as contrarian as this may sound, it’s the first election that galls me the most. He was an obvious lightweight and the fact that his name got him enough votes to win is irksome.”

    This is not about your feelings. This is about the factual accuracy of the claim that “The American people voted for George Bush twice.”

    I presented facts to demonstrate that the did not.

    “However, the process for electing the president is a settled one, and it revolves around the Electoral College and the states.”]

    Yes, it is. I didn’t question the legality or Constitutionality of Bush taking office. This is about the factual accuracy of the claim “The American people voted for George Bush twice.”

    “As my posting above indicates, even talking about a popular vote has little meaning, especially in a statistical heat like we saw in 2000.” So you agree that the election results of 2000 do not support the statement “The American people voted for George Bush twice?” Good.

    “Really, the hue and cry about Florida is related to the same problem–people just don’t understand that you can’t talk about certainty in statistics when the results fall within the margin of error.” The counting of ballots is not a statistical analysis. Were they to count a subset of the ballots cast in Florida and use that result to predect the outcome in the entire state, that would be a statistical analysis. But when they count the total number of ballots to arrive at an exact number, that is merely tabulation. None of which is relevant to the question of the factual accuracy of the claim “The American people voted for George Bush twice.”

    There are good arguments for maintaing some kind of aggregating mechanism like the EC. I just don’t like the way the current one systematically favors the votes of people from small states over those from large states. Perhaps basing each state’s EV number on Congressional seats only is the answer. But regardless of the role you feel that the national popular vote should play in electing the president, the fact remains, “The American people voted for George Bush twice” is not a factually accurate statement.

  25. Wow, this is what’s called beating a dead horse.

    How about the Kennedy assasination? People who say Oswald couldn’t make that headshot at 80 yards with a telescopic sight don’t know what their talking about. And why would Ruby shoot Oswald only ONCE in the belly if it was so important to eliminate him?

  26. Okay, so Bush is 1-0-1 in American voting. That’s the best you can say, because it’s as meaningless to say that Gore won the “popular vote” as to say Bush did. That’s my point.

    Frankly, I hate the whole idea that the “American people” vote for anything. There are 300 million of us, and even for those that vote for some particular joker, that doesn’t mean that they buy in 100% to everything he proposed to do or actually does in office. Also, considering that presidential races often involve results that are not far from 50-50, there’s also all those people who voted against so-and-so to consider. In that sense, I agree. In any event, I never voted for or against the war. I’m just along for the ride, like the rest of my fellow Americans.

  27. “That’s the best you can say, because it’s as meaningless to say that Gore won the “popular vote” as to say Bush did.”

    I’ve made no claims about Gore’s popular vote victory. I merely refuted a factually inaccurate statement that someone made in an attempt to claim a mandate for Bush’s policies.

  28. You’d be on firmer ground doing so by saying that many Americans didn’t vote for him, and even among those that did, many didn’t vote “for the war”. Remember, you said that Bush lost by over 500,000 votes. That was my problem, pedantically speaking 🙂

  29. This is sounding more and more like a merely verbal dispute over the meaning of “the American people voted for X.” If it means “the American people had the option to vote and many decided to do so and they went to the polls on the same day and cast votes, and when those actual votes were themselves totaled up (accuracy in the total assumed, for if you don’t assume accuracy in vote totals then no claims at all can be made about election results) the results showed that X received more votes,” then it is not true that the American people voted for Bush twice. (Or at least it is an indefensible statement.) It seems perfectly reasonable to say that of the people who went to the polls on election day, more of them voted for Gore than for Bush (or at least that it is not the case that more of them voted for Bush).

    If it means “the votes of the American people, when processed through the previously agreed upon electoral system, Supreme Court included, reveal a victory for X,” then it is true that we voted for Bush twice.

    Garbage in garbage can–makes sense.

  30. PL,

    “Further, there is currently no such thing as a national “popular vote,” because combining the different popular votes into a single vote has serious statistical problems, and claims of the electoral college denying the “popular will” are specious. For example, voters in Massachusetts or Texas in 2000, as their respective states were sure to vote Democrat or Republican for President, were more likely to vote for a third party candidate, or not vote at all, since their vote for their preferred Democrat or Republican candidate was extremely unlikely to change the result. Conversely, a voter in Florida was more likely to vote Democrat or Republican, even if they favored a third-party candidate, because their vote was much more likely to make a difference.”

    That is a great point. I lived in Minnesota for a number of years. As a Rebublican leaning libertarian or libertarian leaning Republican, I would always vote for or write in a libertarian candidate because there was no way a Republican or libertarian presidential candidate was going to win the state. If the election had been based on popular vote, I would have voted differently.

    In addition, compaigns are run to win electoral votes, not the popular vote. What joe wants to do is analogous to claiming that his baseball team should be considered the winner because they outscored the opponent in 5 of 9 innings even if the final score shows that his team lost. Both teams know the rules going in. You can’t change the rules after the game is over.

  31. I’ve made no claims about Gore’s popular vote victory. I merely refuted a factually inaccurate statement that someone made in an attempt to claim a mandate for Bush’s policies.

    Joe…way to go! My original statement was about showing that the “American people” referenced in Adam R’s post (and implied of necessity for you to be able to “correct an inaccuracy”) are not a monolithic group of one mind about much of anything…let alone the Iraq War way back in 2002…by pointing out the absurdity of the idea that there is a monolitihic group who voted for George Bush twice (the election was pretty evenly split both times as I recall ), I had hoped to show the absurdity of the original statement about what was obvious to the ‘Mercan people…

    Sorry for not making my sarcasm more evident, but always lovely to watch what happens when the phrasing becomes the subject of the debate.

  32. “I’ve made no claims about Gore’s popular vote victory.” -joe

    “Actually, they only voted for Bush once, when he was the incumbant during wartime. The first time, he lost by over 500,000 votes.” -joe

    joe, Then what do you mean by the second post?

  33. For the record, gaijin, I never referred to the American poeple as a monolith (but you did)

    I wrote: Unfortunately, it was obvious from the beginning that the American people did not fully support this war…

    Gaijin wrote: Absolutely…except for the fact that this homgenous American people you describe voted for Bush twice…. (I)t’s hard to take seriously anyone who uses the word ‘obviously’ and ‘the American people’ as if they are monolithic facts we only need reminding of.

    I referred to “the American people” as an aggregate of the many individuals who make up the population, and stated that there was not FULL support from this population (remember the protest marches? Remember how easy the hawks said the occupation would be?). Gaijin seemed to have referred to “the American people” as a rational actor that makes choices such as who to have as president. Gaijin also treated elections as though they were an embodiment of the “will of the people”, even though they simply reflect the VOTE of the MAJORITY of the FRACTION of the people who actually vote.

    The fact that the Presidential election was so close illustrated my point: Bush started a war when he did not have the support to see it thru to the end. Bush very easily could have lost in 2004…and then what would have become of his Iraq mess?

  34. Fair enough Adam. You (and Joe) seem to have inferred that I am a George Bush supporter. I must relent, then, that my original post was unclear if that’s what you took from it.

    For the record, I do remember the protest marches…I also remember the polls showing 58-60% support for removing Hussein via military action. This is the basis for my response to your original post…that what was obvious (that there was not full support for the war among the American people) was a subjective statement…that it is unreasonable and impracitcal to require 100% agreement on anything (which is why our democractic processes are what they are)…and certainly it is not something you can expect from a group of people, particularly one as diverse as the “American people”.

    I’ll hope that clarifies what I was trying to say if nothing else.

  35. Pro Lib,

    “You’d be on firmer ground doing so by saying that many Americans didn’t vote for him…”

    Many Americans didn’t vote for Richard Nixon in 1972. Millions of them. That’s not the point I was making.

    Flyover,

    “What joe wants to do is analogous to claiming that his baseball team should be considered the winner because they outscored the opponent in 5 of 9 innings even if the final score shows that his team lost. Both teams know the rules going in. You can’t change the rules after the game is over.” No, I am not claiming that Gore should have been sworn in, regardless of the Electoral College results.

    What I meant by the “second post” was that the American people did not vote for George Bush twice. They voted for George Bush once. If someone else gets more votes than you, then the people did not vote for you. They voted for the other guy.

  36. joe, Bush did win the election. That’s one point. The “popular vote” that you threw into the discussion is probably meaningless at any level and certainly meaningless in an election which was as close as that one was. That’s another point.

    To make this clearer, given the margin of error, it is entirely possible that more people in this country wanted Bush in office than wanted Gore. The whole issue is that we don’t know whether or not that’s true. Nor does it matter. Only a plurality of the population voted for either (don’t forget the people who didn’t vote, couldn’t vote, or voted for third parties), so talking about the “American people” is pointless. There is one incontrovertible fact: the United States invaded Iraq. Even if we didn’t vote for the war, that’s what we got. And have. To the rest of the world, it’s the American people that did this, so it doesn’t really matter who voted for whom, anyway.

  37. This is an awful lot of noise. Yes, no clear majority for Bush. Yes, Bush did win the election(s). Either way, he is President. Either way he ain’t none too popular ’round these here parts, nor too many other parts at home, or abroad for that matter. Crappy President, poorly planned war, poorly executed war, probably unecessary war. Can we move on?

  38. highnumber,

    Works for me. I’m just losing patience with all the smoke and mirrors. Really, I’m starting to hate election season so much that I may vote to restore the monarchy next time around.

  39. Incidentally, joe, I’m not attacking you with my last remark. At least, 90% of me isn’t. I’m just frustrated with all the B.S. we get. I wish there was a Truth Party.

  40. Pro Libertate,

    I didn’t introduce the popular vote into the discussion. gaijin wrote “the American people voted for Bush twice.” Which is not true.

    We managed to elect him twice, but only vote for him once. USA! USA!

    “To make this clearer, given the margin of error, it is entirely possible that more people in this country wanted Bush in office than wanted Gore.” “Margin of error” does not apply here. The margin of error is the level of inaccuracy that is expected when you take a sample of a population, and extrapolate the results to a larger population. The 535,000 vote margin Gore won over Bush is not an estimate based on looking at a smaller sample. It is the actual count of the entire population of votes.

    It is possible that there were errors in the tabulation, but there is no way they amounted to half a million. Look at it this way – if you ask ten out of a hundred people to pick a between blue and red, and four pick blue, you can conclude that 40 of the entire population would pick blue. Maybe it would be 30, and maybe it would be 50 – that’s your margin of error. If you ask each of the 100 people, write down their answers, and 43 answered blue, that’s the actual number in the population.

    More people in the United States chose Al Gore than George Bush. We know that for a fact. This fact does not change the legitimacy of Bush’s presidency, but it does refute the claim that his ascendency to the presidency demonstrates that he had a popular mandate.

  41. I think I’ve quibblized enough on the “popular vote” topic, but I will join you in the “mandate” discussion. I freakin’ HATE it when politicians talk about mandates. If I vote for someone, I’m usually voting against someone else. Even when I’ve voted for someone like, say, Jeb Bush, who I voted for his second term because I sorta liked him, he didn’t get my mandate. I didn’t give him a mandate to act extraconstitutionally in the Schiavo case, that’s for danged sure.

    It’s even worse when these mandate claims come during an off-year election like this one. If, per chance, the GOP retains control of Congress, why, that’ll be a mandate for the Iraq war, the USA Patriot Act, putting gays in concentration camps, shooting libertarians on sight, building a statue of Jesus on the Moon, and Lord knows what else. If the Democrats win, it’ll be a mandate for executing Bush, giving Iraq to Iran, nationalized healthcare, or whatever else someone wants to claim a mandate for.

    Frankly, I don’t trust anyone enough to give him a mandate. Individually, or, more in tune with the meaning of the word, collectively.

  42. To beat a dead horse…

    I hope that gaijin and I have worked out our misunderstanding. Still, I think the facts support my original assertion that Bush is a terrible leader because he entered into a war without sufficient public support to “complete the mission” (whatever it was). The new polls help to illustrate this failure on Bush’s part.

    First, on the eve of the war, polls showed that support/opposition to the war was something like 60%/20%. Sure, it’s a majority, but I don’t think that it was enough to support a medium-size war. It probably would have been enough for an invasion of Grenada, but not an invasion of Iraq. For something like Iraq, I’d want to see a 5/1 ratio of support/opposition…especially considering that many of the supporters had weak reasons to support the war, and couldn’t be counted on to sustain their support.

    I say that support was weak because I don’t think that many Americans would have said that they supported an invasion if the President hadn’t already made it clear that he was planning to invade. Many Americans were simply giving the president the benefit of the doubt. Many Americans were also swayed by pro-war assertions that were blatently false to any informed person; as time goes on, we can expect the people to learn the truth and support for the war will erode to the extent that support was based on false beliefs. Two assertions in particular were problematic: Iraq supported Al Qaeda, and the transformation of Iraqi society would be easy.

    Any reasonable person knew that Iraqi society would not be transformed overnight, and as time went on, the supporters of the war would realize that they’d been duped by the hawks, and support would evaporate. When support evaporates, it is impossible to complete the mission (whatever it was) and the whole thing falls apart.

    That is the mark of a terrible leader, and that is what these new polls are reflecting.

    P.S. In my original post, I mistakenly referred to Terry when I meant to refer to Brian Doherty.

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