Courtesy the Wizard of Whimsy
Friday, February 21, 2003
Competence and self-confidence
Here's a prophetic article from back in 2000 that I just discovered:
- Confident You Are Competent? Think Again New York Times Syndicate DIANE WHITE January 20, 2000 For me, this week's most fascinating story was deep inside Tuesday's New York Times, a piece by Erica Goode headlined, ``Among the Inept, Researchers Discover Ignorance Is Bliss.'' It seems that studies by psychologists have found that most incompetent people have no idea they're incompetent. On the contrary, the researchers found that the incompetent are ``usually supremely confident of their abilities, more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.'' ... The two psychologists think that inept people are often self-assured because they lack self-monitoring skills, which are the same skills required for competence. Subjects who scored in the lowest quartile in tests of logic, English grammar, and humor were also the mostly likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they performed. ``Not only do (incompetent people) reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices,'' wrote Dr. Kruger, ``but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.'' The inept, then, are in an impossible position. Is there any hope for them? Or don't they care? Dunning and Kruger found that a short course in logical reasoning helped some of the subjects assess their performance more realistically. But it appears a lot more work must be done. Stamping out incompetence, especially among people who won't admit they're incompetent, could be a Herculean task. One of the obstacles to encouraging realistic self-assessment is that, in most situations, honest feedback is nonexistent. As Goode puts it, ``Social norms prevent most people from blurting out, `You stink!''
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Princess Bride fans will appreciate this. Picture courtesy suckful.
Arianna Huffington nails it as far as I'm concerned:
- Boys, boys, you're all right. Sure, it's Daddy, oil, and imperialism, not to mention a messianic sense of righteous purpose, a deep-seated contempt for the peace movement, and, to be fair, the irrefutable fact that the world would be a better place without Saddam Hussein. But there's also an overarching mentality feeding the administration's collective delusions, and it can be found by looking to corporate America's bottom line. The dots leading from Wall Street to the West Wing situation room are the ones that need connecting. There's money to be made in post-war Iraq, and the sooner we get the pesky war over with, the sooner we (by which I mean George Bush's corporate cronies) can start making it. The nugget of truth that former Bush economic guru Lawrence Lindsey let slip last fall shortly before he was shoved out the oval office door says it all. Momentarily forgetting that he was talking to the press and not his buddies in the White House, he admitted: "The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy."
- Bush Wins Business Support for Growth Plan ... "The White House has a reputation of taking names and exacting punishment," said one housing lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I think this White House plays rougher [than predecessors], and I think they're proud of it."
Now here's a nice change of pace story. I have never been that upset at the practice of movie theaters running one or two ads before movies. It's annoying, but not something I really get all het up about. However, in recent months the trend has become ridiculous. When my wife and I went to go see Two Towers in December the movie itself didn't start until 25 minutes after the billed show time. It was preceded by at least 6 commercials and at least 6 trailers. The audience was getting noticeably grouchy by the time we had seen our fifth MPAA label. Well, it appears someone is trying to do something about it.
Howard Fineman toys with a little bit of non-whoredom in an insightful column on Bush's reaction to the anti-war protests. I generally find Fineman's "journalism" to be wretch inducing because he focuses so much on appearance rather then substance and thus is easily fooled by Bush's "sweaty" form of politics. But I think he hits on a vital aspect of Bush's character in this piece: Dubya doesn't hate the opinions of others, he just doesn't think he has to care about them, and when they confront him directly he views their anger as validation of his own moral rectitude. Fineman relates an interesting anecdote on this matter (aside: Howard, of course, does not explain where he heard this story, so it is quite likely that it is another Rovian constructed story meant to inspire, but still...)
- Bush wasn’t oblivious to social change. DKE was open to blacks and Jews, and the future president was aware of — and not afraid of — the thickening ethnic mix around him. Lanny Davis, a Yale friend (and Democratic political antagonist), tells a story that makes the point. A resident in their dorm was an immigrant from India. He wore weird outfits and was generally viewed as an exotic, even pathetic, character. One day in the dorm lounge, the outcast walked by a cluster that included Bush and some friends. “Why do they even let in somebody like that?” someone asked aloud. “It’s a waste of money trying to educate him.” Bush angrily turned on the questioner. “Don’t you ever say something like that in my presence again,” he snapped. “He’s got as much right to be here as you do.” It would be nice to say that Bush, his cross-cultural curiosity awakened, became fast friends with the fellow — that he plunged into the study of the history of India, its cultures and religions, that he traveled to the subcontinent to see it all for himself. Of course it didn’t happen; Bush entered the White House one of the least-traveled presidents in modern history. He wanted to be a gentleman, but that didn’t mean he really had to get to know the guy.
John Judis has written a useful summation of Bush administration failures in this morning's LA Times.
- This Road to Hell Is Paved With Bush's Bad Choices Misguided tax cuts hurt the economy, and diplomatic bungling resulted in our foreign policy crisis. By John B. Judis, John B. Judis is senior editor of the New Republic. With the Cold War's end, many Americans thought we could close our air raid shelters and take the trillions of dollars that had gone into the military and put them into making our lives better by turning toward the pursuit of happiness rather than the defense of our liberty. And some of that did happen in the last half of the 1990s, during the Clinton-era boom. But only three years into a new century, the United States finds itself plagued by rising unemployment, soaring budget deficits, constricted civil liberties, the threat of terrorist attack and the prospect of a war with, and occupation of, Iraq. We've gone from the best of times to the worst of times. The Bush administration tells us that it is entirely because of Al Qaeda and now Saddam Hussein that we face these difficulties, but the dark clouds that hang over our country are largely the result of Bush administration policies.
Mathew Yglesias makes an important point for all those who think that European opinion shouldn't matter:
- Incidentally, if you're wondering why European public opinion matters, consider the fact that if the leaders of EU contries were under intense popular pressure to successfully invade Iraq that the Turkey could have been promised concessions on the issue of their accession to the EU in exchange for their cooperation in launching the invasion. Instead, we're going to have to go in under much more difficult circumstances that will probably put the lives of American servicemen at even greater risk than they would have been otherwise.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
- The audacious courage of Mr Blair You cannot help but admire the Prime Minister's steadfast refusal to be intimidated by facts and figures Terry Jones Sunday September 22, 2002 The Observer I would like to pay a tribute to the courage of Tony Blair. During these dark days in the build-up to war against Iraq it is reassuring to find ourselves with a leader who demonstrates such fearlessness in the face of tremendous odds. Despite bitter opposition,Tony Blair has demonstrated that he will push ahead stalwartly with whatever the US intends to do. Even though the majority of his fellow countrymen are against the war (despite last week's propaganda campaign in the media), Mr Blair has shown not the slightest sign of wavering from his determination to do whatever Mr Bush wants. It is true that he has regrettably had to cave in over the question of debating the issue in Parliament, but he has fearlessly shown his contempt for the process by not allowing a vote. Mr Blair realises that he needs all the nerve he can command to resist demands for democratic discussion, if Mr Bush is to have any opportunity of dropping bombs on Iraq before the mid-term elections.
There's word out today that the White House is floating the idea of having Iraq pay for all the costs of Operation-Hide-Dubyas-Small-Dick. Hmmm... Getting the conquered foe to pay reparations. We all know how well that worked last time don't we?
The stupidity disease continues to spread.
- Powell: Anti-War Nations 'Afraid' of Duty PARIS - Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) on Wednesday said countries like France that oppose swift military action against Iraq are afraid of upholding their responsibility to disarm Baghdad by force.
Digby blasts Friedman but good. He points out that he has no one to blame but himself for his frustration with the blunders of the Bush foreign policy team. After all, at one time, he actually praised their ham-handed bluster:
- No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are." There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.
Tim Dunlop cites a Stratfor article that says that the United States has committed to many of its forces already to the middle-east for it to pull back now without major embarassment.
- So we will not be going to war to liberate Iraq, or to stop weapons of mass destruction or even to get our hands on oil. We're going because of the phases of the moon, the temperature of the sun, and because we'd look a bit silly if we bought the troops back now. IF these reasons are what it all truly comes down to, then what bigger indictment could there be of the boys and girls who have 'planned' all this? This isn't foreign policy; it's astrology.
Our "good friend" Turkey
A week ago the Bushies were outraged that Belgium, France, and Germany would endanger "our good friend" Turkey when they vetoed the initial request for support in case they were attacked during the invasion of Iraq. Now Turkey is asking for more money, the right to put their troops a hundred miles into Iraqi territory (with no oversight) and asking for all off this in writing since America can't be trusted to keep its word in backroom deals. The U.S. response to their "good friend"?
- U.S. loses patience as ships near Turkey can't unload troops SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM Wednesday, February 19, 2003 ANKARA — The United States has threatened to review its strategic relationship with Turkey unless Ankara immediately approves the deployment of tens of thousands of American troops now waiting on ships near Turkish ports.
Tim Dunlop makes a more reasoned case for what I talked about yesterday in my response to Friedman's "Tell The Truth" column. Proving once again that a calm voice works better in the long run then a rant. But then it is so hard to be calm in situations like this. I came early to the anti-war camp, despite my desire to see Saddam removed from power, because I was not as hopeful as others that Bush could actually produce a rational foreign policy for dealing with Iraq. I've known pretty much since before the election that Bush was a fraud and an amateur and I was not convinced, as others were, that his "dream team" of foreign policy advisors would compensate for his deficiencies. You can have the best players in the world, but if the coach is an idiot then they might as well be third-string, injury-list substitutes for all the good it will do you. So many like Friedman have been looking for the silver lining that is Bush's dark cloud. I gave up a long time ago. It's about time the rest of the world wake up to reality. It's the Bush stupid.
The "impending war" in Iraq may, at one time, have been about oil. It may, at one time, have even been about setting up some kind of beacon of Democracy. But now it is becoming more about defending Bush's manhood. If he doesn't attack Iraq everyone will laugh at him. He knows this. So he must attack, regardless of what everyone else thinks.
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Everyone Wants So Much To Believe In Santa Bush
- Tell the Truth By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN ... I don't have much applause in me for China, Russia — or the Bush team either. I feel lately as if there are no adults in this room (except Tony Blair). No, this is not a plague-on-all-your-houses column. I side with those who believe we need to confront Saddam — but we have to do it right, with allies and staying power, and the Bush team has bungled that. The Bush folks are big on attitude, weak on strategy and terrible at diplomacy. I covered the first gulf war, in 1990-91. What I remember most are the seven trips I took with Secretary of State James A. Baker III around the world to watch him build — face-to-face — the coalition and public support for that war, before a shot was fired. Going to someone else's country is a sign you respect his opinion. This Bush team has done no such hands-on spade work. Its members think diplomacy is a phone call. They don't like to travel. Seeing senior Bush officials abroad for any length of time has become like rare-bird sightings. It's probably because they spend so much time infighting in Washington over policy, they're each afraid that if they leave town their opponents will change the locks on their office doors.
- I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie.
- Tell people the truth. Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice — but it's a legitimate choice. It's because he is undermining the U.N., it's because if left alone he will seek weapons that will threaten all his neighbors, it's because you believe the people of Iraq deserve to be liberated from his tyranny, and it's because you intend to help Iraqis create a progressive state that could stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world, so that this region won't keep churning out angry young people who are attracted to radical Islam and are the real weapons of mass destruction.
- It is legitimate for Europeans to oppose such a war, but not simply by sticking a thumb in our eye and their heads in the sand. It's also legitimate for the Bush folks to focus the world on Saddam, but two years of their gratuitous bullying has made many people deaf to America's arguments. Too many people today no longer accept America's strength as a good thing. That is a bad thing.
- Some of this we can't control. But some we can, which is why it's time for the Bush team to shape up — dial down the attitude, start selling this war on the truth, give us a budget that prepares the nation for a war abroad, not a party at home, and start doing everything possible to create a global context where we can confront Saddam without the world applauding for him.
With Friends Like These...
- U.S. Warns Turkey Against Blocking Iraq Plans By Ayla Jean Yackley and Nadim Ladki ANKARA, Turkey/BAGDDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. preparations for war with Iraq suffered a new setback Tuesday when Turkey dug in its heels in negotiations over its role as a launch pad for an invasion. ... White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) said the standoff with Turkey, which is demanding twice the $26 billion in economic aid offered by Washington to cushion its economy from the effects of a war, would end "one way or another rather soon." "We continue to work with Turkey as a friend. But it is decision time," Fleischer said in Washington.
Jake Sexton has an excellent post up about the latest attempt to win the pro-war argument: The Shame Offensive.
- The Iraq war isn't about oil, it's not about weapons of mass destruction, it's not about UN resolutions. It might have been a few days ago, but it's not anymore. Now the war is about defeating a tyrant and saving a nation's people from oppression. The hawks on the side of peace and freedom, and the doves are on the side of fascism and suffering.
Julian Sanchez has an interesting post up on his blog where he comes to term with the terrible thought that his government might actually lie about matters that could lead to the death of thousands. Up until now he didn't consider that a viable line of thought. But recent events have begun to make him wonder. I have argued many times against conspiratorial thinking because it is just to easy to read nefarious meanings behind innocuous events (read "Foucault's Pendulum" for an excellent story about the dangers involved in going overboard on these matters). The human brain is very good at reading patterns in the noise. It's part of what helps us to survive. But it is also very easy to see patterns where none actually exist (like hearing satanic messages when playing rock music backwards). But, even given my innate skepticism of conspiracy theories, this does not mean that I naively assume that the people who are my leaders aren't capable of the worst sort of atrocities. I can believe this and accept it without a feeling of horror because (1) history is so full of examples of leaders who commit atrocities and (2) I don't have any arrogant notion that my leaders are somehow immune to this behavior simply because they are my leaders. Hermann Goering had an interesting perspective on this (link via snopes, who confirms the quotes authenticity):
- "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Regarding the reaction of some to French intransigence, a poster on Table Talk (Mrs. Monsky) came up with a great analogy: "Bush is mad cause France is being that guy who tries to take away his car keys after a night out." And, like the drunk who insists that he is okay to drive, America is getting angry at the very people who are trying to keep us from getting ourselves killed (along with any passengers or pedestrians who get in the way).
Chris Mathews, Moralism, and The Music Man
From the recent Salon interview with Chris Mathews:
- Some liberals still won't watch "Hardball," remembering the excesses of Matthews' impeachment shtick. In his new book, "What Liberal Media?" Nation press critic Eric Alterman insists Matthews is no better than Fox's O'Reilly, calling him "a showman rather than a journalist," though Matthews was a Washington correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner and then the Chronicle for 15 years. Like O'Reilly, Alterman notes, Matthews is never more apoplectic than when going after elitist liberals, especially Hillary Clinton, whom Matthews nicknamed "Evita." He once bragged to Ad Week, "You're never going to see Hillary Clinton on my show," because, he predicted, she wasn't man enough to face his hardball questions. But Hillary Clinton, at least, seems to have forgiven Matthews -- and he's sweetened on her, too. They sat down for an hour-long conversation late last year as part of the "Hardball College Tour," at State University of New York's Albany campus, and it was as flirtatious as a first date. In a long talk with Salon, Matthews admitted the New York senator has won him over with her hard work, but he says he still can't stand her husband. Still, with the Bush administration on the verge of war with Iraq, the "Hardball" host even admitted to second thoughts about his over-the-top crusade against Clinton, given the magnitude of the issues that threaten the nation today.
Which is easier? War or Peace?
Earlier this morning I read a comment on a blog somewhere (sorry, lost track of where) that an invasion of Iraq and removal of Hussein has one advantage over a toughened inspections regime: the former would be over quicker than the latter, which means that the latter provides more opportunity for allies with weak knees to bag out of the inspection regime. But would the invasion solution really be any better in this respect? After all, there is more to winning in Iraq than just sweeping in and removing Hussein from power. Indeed, one main complaint against the U.S. position is that it doesn't address what happens afterward. There are many who suspect, with good reason, that once Hussein is out of there that America will lose interest and...well...bag out. This reminds me of a boast I sometimes hear coming from Bush supporters. They like to brag that Bush accomplished in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks what the entire Soviet military could not accomplish in over ten years. This is a dreadfully misinformed point of view. The Russians quickly "subdued" Afghanistan after the 1980 invasion and installed their puppet government. But, over the course of the next years, the Mujahadeen steadily wore them down until the Russians were forced to scurry back across the border. In other words, America's "success" in Afghanistan is, at this point, no better than Russia's "success" was by 1981. Winning the peace can be harder than winning the war. There are many who believe that fighting the war makes winning the peace just that much harder. I am, generally, among them. Is the chaos that will result from an attack on Iraq really that much easier to deal with than the situation we have right now? Or are we being driven by an ideology that prefers the chaos of war to the order of peace?
- Bush Says War Protesters Won't Deter Him By RON FOURNIER AP White House Correspondent February 18, 2003, 12:00 PM EST WASHINGTON -- President Bush declared on Tuesday that he wouldn't be deterred by global protests against war with Iraq, saying "I respectfully disagree" with those who doubt that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace.
- He said such a war remains a final resort, but "the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned."
- Bush said that the size of the protests against a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq was irrelevant. "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security -- in this case -- security of the people."
- "Democracy is a beautiful thing," Bush said, adding that "people are allowed to express their opinion." "Some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace," he added. "I respectfully disagree."
*Sigh* It looks like Chirac has been taking diplomacy lessons from Donald Rumsfeld.
- Chirac lashes out at 'new Europe' BRUSSELS, Belgium -- French President Jacques Chirac has attacked eastern European countries hoping to join the EU, saying they missed a great opportunity to "shut up" when they signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq. France has been a leading voice against Washington's press for war in Iraq to disarm President Saddam Hussein and is insisting weapons inspectors in the country be given more time. But 13 countries either set to join the EU or in membership talks have signed letters supporting the United States. Chirac said: "These countries have been not very well behaved and rather reckless of the danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position." "It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet." "I felt they acted frivolously because entry into the European Union implies a minimum of understanding for the others," Chirac said. Chirac called the letters "infantile" and "dangerous," adding: "They missed a great opportunity to shut up."
I caught a little snippet of Blair this morning on TV expressing disappointment in "those who would seek to pull apart the alliances between America and Europe" (not an exact quote). I couldn't agree more Tony. The only problem is that we have a fundamental disagreement about exactly WHO is doing the "pulling apart". Just because so many in Europe (and American) disagree with your and George's proposed solution to the Iraq question does NOT meant that THEY are the ones pulling Europe and America apart. Being part of an alliance does not mean that everyone does what YOU think they should do. It means that everyone does what EVERYONE agrees should be done. It's callled a partnership, Tony. Look it up. Take your time. We can wait.
Monday, February 17, 2003
Some enterprising soul has put up a NoWarWiki.