War of Words on War Waste

James Taranto tries to split hairs on the McCain-Obama wasted remarks.

What’s odd about this is that waste and sacrifice are opposites. To sacrifice is to give up something of value to oneself for the sake of something more valuable that transcends the self. To waste is to give up something of value for the sake of something of lesser or no value. A sacrifice is an unselfish act; a waste is an act of misdirected selfishness.

If a young man goes out, gets drunk, gets behind the wheel of his car, crashes and dies, it is fair to say he has wasted his life. That’s quite different from a young man who loses his life in the course of doing dangerous work in the service of his country.

I think he’s missing the point. It is possible for a life to be both sacrificed and wasted. The Aztecs used to sacrifice men to their gods. In many cases, these men went willingly to their deaths, bravely sacrificing their lives so that the Aztec nation would get rain or abundant crops or victory against the Spaniards. But we know these lives were wasted because statues don’t win wars or bring rain.

The men who died in Pickett’s Charge, the men who died at Galipoli, the men who died in the Marianas Turkey Shoot – they made brave sacrifices. But their lives were wasted by their leaders. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that George Bush’s incompetence has wasted 3,000+ lives.

The Poll

I’m sure you’ve seen this poll of Right-Wing blogs. I’m sure the Right Wing has disowned me by now, but thought I’d review the questions anyway. Questions, poll results and my comments.

  • 1) Do you think the surge should go forward? Yes (61) — 97%; No (2) — 3%. I do think the surge is a good idea. My only problem is that it’s not big enough.
  • 2) Do you think that a majority of Democrats in Congress would like to see us lose in Iraq for political reasons?Yes (53)– 84%; No (10) — 16%. I would definitely say there are Democrats who want us to lose. But the tripwire for me is the word “majority”. I don’t think the majority of Democrats want us to lose and are dancing by their TVs every time they hear of American casualities. That 84% of Right-Wing bloggers this is the case is distressing.
  • 3) Do you believe that the wall on the border will ever actually be completed? Yes (6) — 10%; No (56) — 90%: Considering the incompetence of this administration, I doubt it.
  • 4) Do you think mankind is the primary cause of global warming?Yes (0) — 0%; No (59) — 100%: This is a badly phrased question. I’m convinced that man is contributing to global warming. I would not feel comfortable saying we are the “primary” cause at this point. However, that 100% of Right-Wing bloggers answer this question negative is a huge problem. They are losing credibility on this issue. Well, on every issue, really.
  • 5) Illegal Immigration.A) Would you prefer an illegal immigration bill that tackled border security and enforcement issues only? (46) — 77% B) Would you prefer a comprehensive bill that tackled border security and enforcement issues, created a legal status for the people who are here illegally, created a guest worker program, and increased the number of foreigners allowed to become American citizens? (14) — 23% I would say option B, but without a guest worker program or legal status for illegals. We need a serious comprehensive overhaul of our archaic byzantine immigration system. And I would even tolerate a guest worker program if it bought us that.
  • 6) Which of the following Democratic candidates do you think would be the toughest opponent for a Republican candidate in 2008?A) Hillary Clinton (38) — 63%; B) John Edwards (9) — 15%; C) Barack Obama (13) — 22%. C. Hillary is a lightning rod for the Right. She is their dream candidate, someone who would unite opposition and create such a foul taste in American mouths that she would almost guarantee a GOP win. Obama reminds me a lot of Jack Kennedy – not much experience, but charisma galore. He is far more likely to beat a good GOP candidate.
  • 7) If you were grading George Bush on his foreign policy for his presidency so far, would you give him an: A or B (35) — 56%; C (18) — 29%; D, E, or F (10) — 16% E? Since when is E a grade? I would give George Bush an F. A huge amount of America’s power comes from our moral authority and the respect other countries have for us. George Bush has destroyed this while bungling Iraq, hamstringing our military and, in general, making things worse. I don’t understand how anyone could give him an A or a B except for the idiots who love giving the finger to “furriners” or like seeing other countries blowed up real good. Telling the ROW to piss off is bad foreign policy, I don’t care how much it pleases the Right Wing.
  • 8: If you were grading George Bush on his domestic policy for his presidency so far, would you give him an:A or B (17) — 27%; C (26) — 41%; D, E, or F (20) — 32%. I’d give him a C. Bush’s record on spending and the deficit is horrifying. He massively expanded federal power and trampled states rights. But the economy is doing well and crime is stable or down. That’s something.
  • You’ll notice, I only agree with the Right-Wing on one question…..

    Sully on Coulter

    Sullivan posts a look at the rather depressing reception Ann Coulter received at CPAC. They cheered her to the rafters for calling John Edwards a “faggot”. I’ve bashed her quite a bit on this blog, so there’s no need to pile on.

    Wait a minute . . . yes there is.

    Ann Coulter and her ill ilk are crippling conservatism, giving it a face of nastiness and hatred that will take decades to scrub clean. For my generation, the paradigm of conservatism was Ronald Reagan inspiring a free people to a bright future. For the current generation, the image will be Anne Coulter calling people “faggots”, “godless” and “traitors”. I have spent my whole life arguing with liberals who reflexively think that Republicans are racists, bigots and homophobes. And now comes along the radical right to make a liar out of me. It’s shattering.

    They know better than this, or should. Whatever happened to conservative manners? Yeah, I know, the Left says nasty untrue things about us all the time. So two wrong make a right.

    The usual response I get to critizing Coulter is something along the lines of what Sullivan is probably getting. “Oh, Mike, she’s just being funny! She’s illustrating absurdity by being absurd! She’s a satirist in the tradition of Mencken and O’Rourke! If she were a man, you’d think she was great.”

    Um, no. I’ve read Mencken and O’Rourke and Coulter. I’ve met O’Rourke and Coulter in person (briefly). Anne Coulter isn’t fit to clean their typewriters. Because you see:

  • Mencken and O’Rourke are funny and Coulter isn’t.
  • Mencken and O’Rourke are smart and Coulter isn’t.
  • Mencken and O’Rourke rip their opponents apart with knowledge and reason. Coulter can’t be bothered with either.
  • The idea of worshipping any political party would be anathema to them. Coulter is mostly in the pocket of the GOP.
  • Sullivan makes a comparison to Michael Moore. I think that’s far more appropriate. Anne Coulter makes “conservatives” happy by bashing up straw men with half-facts and specious arguments. She says nasty things that make “conservatives” wish they were so clever and incisive.

    But in reality, she and Hannity and O’Reilly are the Right’s answer to Garafalo, Franken and Moore. They make their own side cheer with cheap shots and nasty remarks. They drive the opposition crazy. And the rest of us end up sitting on the sidelines shaking our heads and wondering where we belong.

    NYT Poll BS

    The NYT has a poll on health care which reminds me of Sally ordering from a restaurant. It’s all over the place with a thousand different points to make. Polls are BS to begin with. In this case, the NYT is pushing a socialized medicine agenda and arguing that since half of Americans are confused enough by the poll to say something vaguely postive, that means it’s time.


  • Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs for a better health care system, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts. This is utter crap. $500 per household (I’m assuming this is not per capita) means $50 billion for healthcare. That’s not even enough to cover one year’s Medicare shortfall. We would need at least twenty times more money to fund the current system. That, my friends, means a $10,000 tax hike. The NYT somehow forgets this point.
  • Beside of which, they won’t be paying. Our tax system s heavily canted toward the rich. Socialized medicine (I refuse to use the “universal healthcare” euphemism), contrary to the claims of its supporters, is not about you paying for your health care and getting some magical efficiency from the government. It’s about someone else paying for your health care.
  • And, for the politicians, health care reform is about command and control. When they blither about how much money is spent in the last year of life – gee, I hope most of the money is spent when I’m in real danger – what they really mean is they want to decide when someone is allowed to die.
  • Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage. This demonstrates how ignorant Americans are. Anyone who had dealt with Medicaid or Medicare knows they are a nightmare.
  • Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the Democratic presidential candidate, recently unveiled his own attempt at a consensus plan — requiring everyone to have insurance and requiring employers to provide it or pay into a fund that would do so. Nearly 4 in 10 said that was a good idea; nearly half said they were unsure. Apparently, there was no option on the poll to say it was a bad idea, which it is.
  • “I think everybody should have some kind of health care available to them,” said Diane Manning, 66, of Vancouver, Wash., who described herself as an independent. Once again, we see the ignorance of the voter and the inability of the media to correct it. I’ve said this a million times. No one listens. No one is denied health care in this country because they don’t have insurance. This is an utter lie. I worked in medicine for 13 years and never saw a patient turned away. In many states, including Texas, it is illegal to turn people away. Anyone who doesn’t know this, any media outlet that doesn’t note it, should keep it’s fucking mouth shut. They may not get to stay in the luxury hospitals. But, in the words of Bill Bryson, they get about the quality of care that the average Brit does – albeit without as much gentleness.
  • Most Americans in the poll said they were satisfied with the quality of their health care, but there was widespread concern about costs. These are contradictory statements. If you want to cut costs, you’re going to lose quality. You can’t rewrite the laws of economics. Our healthcare system is the most expensive in the world and some idiots come out with “we would spend $500 billion less if we spent the same amount as other countries” arguments. But other countries don’t have the rash of drug addicts, gunshot victims, fast food and lawsuits we do. Other countries don’t detect cancer and heart disease and stroke dangers as early as we do. Other countries have waiting lists and queues. Other countries are less prepared to deal with complications and unusual circumstances. Other countries spend less because they get less health care. We also spend more than other countries on cars, food, computers and silly pet toys. Do we need automotive reform?
  • The whole health care debate is another example of how spoiled rotten Americans have gotten and what little perspective they have. Americans spend more on their cars every year than they do on healthcare. A yearly physical costs less than the yearly maintenance on a car. Half-decent insurance is about equal to what you’d pay for a car loan. Surgery can cost as much as a car or three. How much is your life worth to you? Apparently, less than your wheels.
  • Perusing CNN

    The Inuits say they deserve money for global warming. Of course, there hasn’t been that much warming yet. Less than a degree. This is what drives me nuts in the global warming debate. Someone taking advantage of it to advance an irrelevant issue.

    Now McCain has to apologize for using “wasted” in reference to our troops. The blog was down when this happened with Obama so I couldn’t defend him. But I don’t see what the issue is here. Saying that our soldiers lives are being “wasted” does not insult the soldiers . . . it insults the people doing the wasting! (Of course, that’s why the Right immediately responds by cowering behind the troops). If you think a military action was stupid, shouldn’t you say that it wastes lives? Many historians think Robert E. Lee wasted lives in Pickett’s Charge, so I guess they hate the Confederate troops. Most people would tell you the Gallipoli Campaign was a waste of life; I guess they hate Australians. And since the Commies eventually conquered South Vietnam, one could argue that 60,000 American lives were wasted there. But then that would mean they hate American troops.

    Update: Having slept on this issue, I should back off slightly. There is a difference between soldiers dying in a losing effort and soldiers lives being wasted in a pointless effort. It’s a subtle distinction but a critical one. I still don’t think that saying our soldiers lives are being wasted in Iraq impugns their sacrifice. It’s impossible to impugn that, no matter what anyone says.

    Honestly, can we reserve the “hating the troops” meme for people who actually, you know, hate the troops?

    Finally, the head of Walter Reed has had his ass fired. If only we’d have this kind of accountability, um, before November 2006.

    New Link

    I’m beginning to enjoy the Freakonomics blog. Not only are the posts consistently interesting, the comments are usually quite thoughtful — unheard of!

    Today’s post isn’t the best, with it’s link to David Remnick’s fellating of AlGore that indulge every liberal fantasy you could imagine about a Gore administration. But the blog is always fun.


    You know something? I no longer give a shit about what any Presidential candidate did during Vietnam. Do we really care whether someone dodged the draft 30-40 years ago. Hell, I’m not even the same person I was 30-40 minutes ago. People change. They realize their old ideas were wrong. I care about what a Presidential candidate wants to do to me today, not what he might have wanted in 1971 (when I hadn’t even been born anyway). Bill Clinton was a draft-dodging, war-protesting peacenik who used the military more often than his two predecessors combined. Jimmy Carter was a navy golden boy who couldn’t even extract hostages from Iran.

    I realize it’s a hot-button issue for the Baby Boomer generation. I realize that for Vietnam Vets who went, the idea of appointing a dodger to the top office is offensive. But the war has been over for a very long time. There are more important issues to worry about.

    The whole military service thing is a gigantic red herring anyway. It’s only trotted out to support or condemn the candidate of the commentator’s choice. As far as the Right is concerned, George Bush’s military service was exemplary while McCain’s and Kerry’s are irrelevant. And as far as the Left is concerned, Clinton’s draft-dodging meant nothing while Kerry’s service made him a hero. You don’t have to be an astrophysicist to see what’s going on here.

    And here’s something that’s going to destroy what’s left of my conservative credentials: military experience does not necessarily a great President make. Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill and was a terrible President. U.S. Grant was a great general whose reconstruction divided the South for a hundred years. You give me George Washington or Ike or Lincoln. I’ll throw back Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. Many navy personnel thought Carter should have stayed in the navy and become a great admiral. They were right.

    Here’s some great Presidents who had no military experience whatsoever: Thomas Jefferson, who fled Monticello as the British closed in (and was therefore branded a coward in the election of 1800). Calvin Coolidge presided over the second-best economic expansion in American history. FDR worked for the Department of the Navy in WWI and was paralyzed by 1921. Reagan technically served in WWII – making training films.

    That Rudy Giuliani may have dodged the draft – and a one-year deferment isn’t exactly running away to Canada – is irrelevant. This is not 1972. This is 2008. Actually, it’s 2007. But it will be 2008 when this issue comes to fore.

    I’m very happy that the Baby Boomers are getting too old to run for President. Hopefully, by 2012, we’ll never have to hear about what someone did during ‘Nam again.

    Of course, by then, we’ll be hearing “I served in the Gulf War”!


    Jerry Taylor smokes the GOP on their BS. Specifically, they launched a barrage of criticisms of Hillary for energy policy. But, oops! Every policy they criticize her for is either (a) supported by Bush; or (b) the sort of things like subsidies, that conservatives once opposed.

    So tell me again what the difference is between the GOP and the Dems?


    One thing we ape-folk are really really bad at is risk assessment. We’re afraid of terrorism even though we’re more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning. We worry about our children fondling guns when more of them drown. John Stossel here debunks the latest bunch of crap being peddled by that hypocritical moron RFK, Jr — the notion that vaccinations are creating autism.

    The first time I heard RFKJ spout his nonsense on the Daily Show, I knew he was wrong. I practically yelled . . . actually did yell, “You moron! Maybe autism is up because we’re better at diagnosing it!” Well, my instinct was right. And his blithering was wrong. And God knows how many children are going to suffer because their parents panicked about the imaginary danger of vaccines instead of the extremely real dangers of what those vaccines protect us against.

    Two Warm Points

    Continuing on my global warming theme, there are two points I’d like to make.

    The first is sort of a side-step. One of the things I can’t stand is when an issue is “debated” on television and the debate is presented betwen (a) an articulate informed individual arguing for the side the host favors; (b) a raving idiot arguing for the side the host opposes. The idea is to make it look like one side are a bunch of morons. Both liberals and conservatives do this. Neal Boortz does it by associating all illegal immigrants with La Raza. And while the blog was down, Jon Stewart did it on global warming. He had on a guest presenting a view opposing the global warming consensus. But he didn’t have someone like Patrick Michaels, who is a climatologist, a Cato scholar and has been arguing that while warming is real, the situation is not as dire as protrayed (a position vindicated by the IPCC report). No, he had the moronic author of the “Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming” who ranted and raved about how the environmental movement is filled with ex-commies.

    His point about the commies was true, BTW. Fidel Casto was, after all, the keynote speaker at the first Earth Summit. But his point was also irrelevant. I despise “guilt by association” arguments. Most of the people I work and associate with are spectacularly wrong, IMHO, on issues like taxes, socialism and the power that government should have. But they are right, again in my opinion, on other issues like the culture war, civil liberties and creationism. I can’t dismiss their ideas on one issue just because I disagree on something else. A lot of enviros are ex-commies; actually a lot are still commies. But even the commies were right occasionally. Like, um . . . like going to the moon was as good idea. Arguments have to be beaten, not smeared.

    The second thing that’s my driving me crazy on this subject is the abuse of the word “consensus”. There is consensus among scientists that man-made global warming is taking place. (Not that consensus necessarily means they’re right, of course). What is not a consensus at all is how bad it is, how bad it will be, how emission levels will change over the next century, whether glaciers will melt and, if so, how much. The “c-word” pushes climate change debate into the realm of religion: That having accepted global warming as your personal savior, you are now required to accept every hysterical doomsday scenario that comes down the pipe.

    Nuts to that. Just because I accept cosmology doesn’t mean I have to believe that H-naught is 72. Just because I accept evolution doesn’t mean I have to take Time’s “what man will look like in a million years” spread seriously. And, contrary to what the Bushbots think, being conservative doesn’t mean I automatically support the GOP.

    Accepting man-made global warming as reality does not require one to accept the doomsday scenarios being peddled by the igorant likes of AlGore. They might be true. The IPCC seems to think not.

    I realize that many of the remaining warming skeptics tend to overlap with the creationist crowd and have the same mentality. Debate within evolution means that evolutions isn’t true. Likewise, debate about the scale, effects and future of global warming means that global warming is a scam.

    But the response to this is not an inverse orthodoxy. It’s educating people about how science works. That there is always room for debate and discussion; that we are never 100% sure. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that. I promise.

    What Happened

    I’m hoping to upload an image soon. But if you want to know why my site shut down for a week, here are the usage numbers: One February 1, I had 2920 hits. On February 5, I hade 18,694. By February 12, we we were up to 79000. And on February 14, my brother shut it down when traffic hit 112,000 hits. These were not people reading the blog. These were people putting in thousands of trackbacks and comments for spam.

    Since the blog was rebooted, the traffic has fallen to 54,000 hits. And I hope it will keep falling as the spammer figure out it is no longer open season.

    Fucking spammers. What the hell did they think they were accomplishing?

    Leave Well Enough Alone

    OK, what the hell is wrong with web designers these days? I realized they have to earn their keep, but in the last month or two CNNSI, IMDB and Yahoo! Sports have all undergone significant changes that have made their pages far less accessible and legible. Seriously, CNNSI has take a huge step backward. It looks like a web page you might have seen ten years ago.

    Astronomy, Sports, Mathematical Malpractice, Whatever Else Pops Into My Head