What winning looks like, part II

Dems set war bill without Iraq timeline[*1]

While details remain subject to change, the measure is designed to close the books by Friday on a bruising veto fight between Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the war. It would provide funds for military operations in Iraq through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Those who favor victory in Iraq, including President Bush, win this round against the forces of defeatism.

But just this round.

Thinking about Iraq

There’s not enough good thinking about Iraq going on.  Tigerhawk[*1] tries to foster a rational conversation about what the best U.S. policy towards Iraq might be in the months and years ahead.  As Babylon 5’s Morden[*2] might have asked:  What do we want?

Anyone who is not trying to gain partisan advantage should think seriously about the best Iraq policy for the United States in the coming months and years. The purpose of this post is to propose a framework for considering both the Bush administration’s policy and alternative policies offered by both the right and left. Toward that end, I offer a series of minimalist assertions, delightfully free of evidence and supporting linkage. Each assertion or question is numbered; please comment below with reference to the corresponding number. (Background note: Newer readers may want to look at the most recent edition of my “victory conditions” post[*3] , published about a year ago at The Belmont Club. It includes my basic thinking about the intersection of al Qaeda and rogue states.)

The answer determines what the world will look like in the years ahead.

What winning looks like

A recent study[*1] indicates that one person, repeating the same thing over and over, is almost as effective as multiple people saying the same thing.

The studies found that an opinion is more likely to be assumed to be the majority opinion when multiple group members express their opinion. However, the study also showed that hearing one person express the same opinion multiple times had nearly the same effect on listener’s perception of the opinion being popular as hearing multiple people state his/her opinion.

Take, for instance, the statement “we’re losing in Iraq.”  which, of course, started before the Iraq war even began.  It slowly gained traction, and now it’s the majority opinion.  The vast majority of reports we hear from the mainstream media is a context-free body count (“4 U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb” followed by “38 Iraqis were killed by a suicide bomber.”)  Drip, drip, drip.  The overriding context within which these stories are reported is “Democrats say ‘the surge’ has failed.”   Of course, at this writing, ‘the surge’ isn’t yet fully in place, let alone doing what Gen. Petraeus wants it to do.

But occasionally, if you look in the right places (which sadly does not include most of the mainstream media) you can find stories which go against the grain.  This story in OpinionJournal[*2] for instance shows what winning in Iraq looks like:

I lost my head somewhat and ran at the rampart to look over the top but was thankfully tackled and stopped. The visiting sheiks crowded into the community hall. Mr. Chalabi never ceased talking to the TV camera, demanding help for the village. The second shell landed closer and behind us and fine yellow earth-dust floated over us. The sheiks were herded outside as a direct hit would have killed them all. It seemed the enemy had hit the structure before, maybe even had its GPS coordinates. The chaos intensified, the fighters now ducking from incoming fire. It was frustrating not to see the full picture. Two U.S. choppers flew overhead toward the opposition. The third mortar detonated, quite close this time, perhaps some 30 yards to the left, behind shuddering mud-brick structures, making my clothing flicker in the blast and my breath drop out. The tank fired again. The sheiks ran around ascending their SUVs with help from villagers. I counted three shells in all but some say six landed. It was hard to tell in the confusion. Suddenly a shout rose up and the fighters danced up and down below the ridge and came running down to us laughing. They’d destroyed one of the targets, it seemed.
. . .
We later found out, though, that the combined sound of gunfire, added to by bodyguards, had impressed the attackers–they apparently feared the presence of a much bigger force. They stopped, at least for now, which gave us the chance to leap into our vehicles, with Mr. Chalabi in his blue Parisian suit and poplin shirt pleading to the last in front of the cameras, before being bundled off to safety.

As we drove away from the village along the raised earth road, I looked back to see perhaps a hundred SUVs, a mile long, belting along behind carrying the elders. An Iraqi Army Humvee with mounted machine gun charged past us to the front. They’d been helping to guard the last bridge to Baghdad. But now, one felt, the villagers could guard it handily. They no longer felt isolated and forgotten by the world, as the television sets showed this night all over the Mideast.

Winning doesn’t mean that the bad guys are all killed.  Winning doesn’t mean that crazy people don’t do brutal things.  Winning means that the good guys beat the bad guys most of the time.

We’re winning.

Winning also means that these stories of victories in Iraq get out.  It is here where we are losing the war.  The stories are there, but you have to want to find them.

And so, we’re losing.

Reining in the credit card companies

What’s in your wallet?  A ticking time bomb called a credit card.

The Democrats in Congress are starting to think about doing something about it[*1] (Kansas City Star, free registration required).

Here are some traps the “Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act” would address:

•Retroactive interest charges: It would ban the practice of charging higher interest rates on an entire existing balance, including past purchases made at a lower interest rate.

•Unjustified interest rate increases: It would limit penalty interest-rate increases to 7 percent above the prior rate if a consumer fails to make a payment on time.

•Repeat over-limit fees: It would allow card companies to charge over-the-limit fees only once, unless a consumer racks up even more purchases above the account limit.

•Fees for paying a bill: It would prohibit the practice of charging administrative fees to consumers who at the last minute pay their bills over the phone to avoid a late payment.

•Double-cycle billing: It would ban interest rate charges on balances that have already been paid on time.

I’m more inclined towards the Dave Ramsey[*2] “cut the darn things up and walk away from credit cards” approach, but something needs to happen to get under control predatory lenders, from payday loans to credit card companies.

Tipler unloads

Frank J. Tipler wrote the textbook for my college physics courses (yes, more than one).  He’s none too happy with the current state of collegiate physics instruction, and despairs of it getting better any time soon[*1] :

I fear that in the very near future, education in physics will have to be obtained from some source other than a university. It is becoming increasingly clear that this corruption of education is probably universal across all disciplines. If so, then all advanced education will have to be obtained outside of the university. And if that is the case, then why should universities exist at all?

Zoo gorilla gets loose, attacks

Fox News[*1] :

A 400-pound gorilla escaped from its enclosure and ran amok in a Rotterdam zoo Friday, biting one woman, dragging her around and causing scenes of panic among dozens of families before being subdued, zoo officials said.

ACORN vote fraud guilty plea

From the Kansas City Star[*1] :

A former voter registration worker for an activist community organization pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to filing false paperwork with the Kansas City election board last fall.

Carmen R. Davis, 38, was charged in January with voter registration fraud and identity theft before the November 2006 elections.

. . .

Earlier this week, Dale D. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to filing false voter registrations in February, was sentenced to probation. Brian Gardner pleaded guilty in March and is awaiting sentencing, while Kwaim A. Stenson is scheduled for trial in July. Davis, Franklin, Gardner and Stenson are from Kansas City.

My guess is that they were not planning to benefit Republican candidates in Kansas City . . .

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Orangutan has cataract surgery

In the news today[*1] :

The 19-year-old orangutan named Aman is gradually recovering after the two-and-a-half-hour surgery on both his eyes at the Matang Wildlife Center in Sarawak state on Borneo island, said Sarawak Forestry spokesman Zulkifli Baba Noor.

(Is Medary turning into a simian-blog?  Could be . . . between the chimpanzee and orang news, and little articles about the goodness of peanuts.  All I can say is:  Ook.[*2] )

Also, why can’t we in the U.S. have spokesmen named Baba Noor?