Friday, September 05, 2008

Behind the scenes

"I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated," Obama told host Bill O'Reilly. "It's succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Setting: Oval Office, December 2006:

PotUS Bush: So, General Petraeus do you have a plan for me?

Gen Petraeus: Yes sir! But it won't work. Or more technically, nobody thinks it will work, but it is the only idea we have--you know, besides just abandoning the project.

PotUS Bush: Okay, so the plan won't work. But my understanding here is that it will not work in a less-bad way than any other conceivable plan?

Gen Petraeus: Exactly sir! Some of the optimists claim that this effort will delay the inevitable civil war and that is a kind of success. Doctors (for instance) consider a treatment a success if they extend a patient's life beyond what it would have been without the treatment. In this case however, we have no expectation (nobody does) that this effort will even delay the civil war. Some of our political opponents even claim that our effort will aggravate the situation.

"I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," the Illinois senator said that night, a month before announcing his presidential bid. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

PotUS Bush: So, General; why should I approve your plan?

Gen Petraeus: Mr. President: When we plan this kind of operation we establish scenarios. For example there is a 50:50 chance that the plan will go more or less as we expect, within a range of slightly better or slightly worse. Then there is a 25% chance it will go much better than expected and a 25% chance it will go much worse. If the plan goes much, much, much better than expected; a less than 1% expectation, then it might someday be called a success.

PotUS Bush: So this plan will only be considered a success if it works as well as our wildest dreams?

Gen Petraeus: No Mr. President. It will have to succeed beyond our wildest dreams to ever be considered a success.

PotUS Bush: Senator McCain, can I count on your public endorsement for this plan?

Sen McCain: As you know Mr. President, I am in favor of any costly effort which nobody thinks will work as long as there are no available plans which will work better. As I see it sir, if you are going to loose at something you've got to show that you tried your hardest. Otherwise, people will always say that you could have won, but you just didn't try hard enough.

PotUS Bush: That is a good point Senator. If we pull-out now, we show lack of resolve. If we show utter resolve but still fail, we show a fundamental lack of capability. Which is worse? I say resolve is more important and who knows, maybe our capabilities go beyond what any of us expect!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why are commenters so bone-headed?

Not mine of course: Hers. Here is an Obama supporter who debunks a lot of the anti Palin nonsense going around. She ends with this, pretty easy to understand comment:

On Sarah Palin as a VP I have no particular opinion, except that she doesn't make me any more interested in voting for John McCain. But the people criticizing her are making me considerably less interested in voting for Obama. If this sort of deranged logic produces unwavering support for Obama, I have to question my own judgement.

It is very simple really. If you are part of a group and you can see that some members of that group are acting in an unhinged manner, it ought to make you wonder if your membership is wise.

I didn't wade through all 278 responses, but I read the first few dozen and the pro-Obama types just don't get it. At all. They point out that this trash isn't coming from the "official" campaign so why should it redound to the chosen one? This misses the point and I thought these guys were from the subtle, nuance-getting party...

The fact that Megan is introspective enough to reconsider her position is pretty good evidence that she is not among those caught-up in the hysteria.

New Marathon training route

It says it is 15.5 miles, but I suspect it is actually further since I had to guess at the route through the woods--you cannot see the path on the map. I know from timing myself that my road pace is around 8 minutes per mile and while I spend more than 12 minutes in the first section of woods, the mapping gives me less than one mile: It is probably more like 1.5 miles. Similar analysis of the second wooded path indicates it is short by 1/4 to 1/3 mile. All these errors taken together probably push today's route to just shy of 17 miles. Maybe next time I will keep it all on the roads to make it easier to measure.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

28 year-old training route.

The below route is the one and only long distance training run I did in preparation for the 1980 Seattle Marathon..

I would start from my school (just up the road) once mid-week and then do the route once per weekend starting from home. That makes two of my 6 weekly runs, two more were short slow recovery runs and then two more mid-distance regular pace runs.

Now that I am about to try a marathon again, I need to put in at least one run per week of this kind of distance. Ack! That's a long way!

The Prophet and the Country

I read a lot in different forms, but when reading a book it is usually a novel. I keep a few books of short stories around for when I am all out of novels (that I want to read).

Lately I have been ploughing through Kipling's Debits and Credits. Some of the stories have been entertaining, some incomprehensible but the latest struck a chord with me.

The bulk of the story is an American in the English countryside describing his views on prohibition. In a nutshell, he thinks it will weaken the national character and the nation destroyed--much like the way native Americans were destroyed by European vices (and germs).

I will indulge in only a small bit of literary criticism and then move on to my larger point.

The two men are together for the night because the Englishman's car broke-down due to a faulty magneto, which if memory serves is described as two inches of finest steel. It is described this way at least twice: Once at the time his car breaks down and then again at the end, after listening to the American all night long. I think what Kipling is trying to say is that a big, powerful thing can become totally useless if one very important part goes bad. The part I don't get is whether he is warning America that we risk our country by weakening our moral fiber with nannying laws. Or maybe he is commenting on the American, who due to his wife's death, or possibly his exile from his home,-has some part of himself broken.

What really interested me was that both sides in debates like prohibition have the same goal: They want their nation to be strong. That alcohol causes harm in the form of lives wasted can not be ignored. But do we not weaken all who can learn self-control by taking such decision making out of their hands? This is on top of the utility of preventing the vast majority from a slightly beneficial enjoyment, all to protect a few abusers from themselves.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

History repeats itself--Except when it doesn't

Marx is supposed to have said:

“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”

It would be neat to try and force the selection of two women as running-mate for the U.S. Presidency. It just doesn't work though. Each selection made sense at the time, but for different reasons. In the first case, Mondale had no realistic chance of winning against the very popular Reagan--Indeed, the President won every state except Mondale's home state of Minnesota. It made sense to at least make history by his selection of Rep. Ferraro. If there was any "tragedy" it was only in that Rep. Ferraro and Sen. Mondale went back to the relative obscurity from which they came. The present case is similar in that he made a pick which was logical given his situation: He needed someone young and dynamic (a rising star), someone who could shore-up the conservative and evangelical base and it would help if it could be a woman. Gov. Palin fits all of these criteria.

Farce? No. Tragedy? No. Still, history in the making is interesting even if doesn't fit dramatic templates.

Meenah does six.

Now that it is becoming a little cooler and the girl is getting out of her puppyhood, it seems like a good time to see just what she can do. She definitely seemed more tired at the end than normal, but she was in good spirits during the run and would speed up when I did.