Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 5, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BONUS TALKING POINT....Here's the official line on why we're supposed to believe the GAO's pessimistic evaluation of progress in Iraq is just so much nonsense:

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) said Pentagon officials had told Republican leaders that the GAO had relied on outdated information....He added that lawmakers were far more interested in the assessment coming next week from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker.

....The GAO concluded that all forms of violence remain high in Iraq — causing senior military officials to complain that the report did not consider statistics for August, when, they said, trends in sectarian violence and the performance of the Iraqi security forces improved.

"They use the end of July as the data and evidentiary cutoff and therefore are not taking into account any gains in any of the benchmarks that may have become more clear throughout August," one official said.

This is beyond pathetic. Even if the August numbers are good — and that's a helluva stretch in any case — are they seriously contending that we should toss out the entire previous six months and judge the surge a success based on four weeks of data? Is that the best they can do?

Kevin Drum 12:47 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

yes.

Posted by: gregor on September 5, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, look over there! Paris is talking about jail and Lindsay took her dog to rehab! (After the break, we'll revisit the case of the missing college girl who went missing, next on Fox News).

Posted by: Captain on September 5, 2007 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

yes indeed gregor .. and it will work.

Posted by: b.h. on September 5, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Remember, according to Bush and the GOP, the surge didn't actually begin until June!

Voila, goalposts automagically moved!

Posted by: blatherskite on September 5, 2007 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

The bastards lie and lie again. Honor and dignity in this White House. I have trouble describing the situation to my young daughters. They dont remember any other president, and must reference the US government to this pack of toads.

Posted by: troglodyte on September 5, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

You ignore all the germanic tribes not attacking Roman outposts and cities.

Posted by: Romulus on September 5, 2007 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent work Kevin. You are doing something tremendous here. Very important.

My question: as far as I can tell, not only may the surge not be working, but what I want to know - how do we know it is not actually making things worse?

Posted by: bdelloid on September 5, 2007 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

are they seriously contending that we should toss out the entire previous six months and judge the surge a success based four weeks of data? Is that the best they can do?

Yes. THBAEOSATSQ.

Less briefly, remember that they're simultaneously arguing post facto that the last four weeks have been crucial, and that the next six months will be critical.

Posted by: ahem on September 5, 2007 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently it allowed the ethnic cleansing to play out nearly completely.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 5, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose if the GAO added August, they'd say: "You left out Sept 1-4. We rocked those four days!" And then of course, "Yeah, but in the last hour things are looking much better! No one has been killed in at least 37 minutes!"

Posted by: Bush Lover on September 5, 2007 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

are they seriously contending that we should toss out the entire previous six months and judge the surge a success based four weeks of data?

Kevin, I see you do not understand the basics of statistical analysis so let me explain. In statistical analysis, we have the option to throw out data which is at variance with the main data we are looking at. This thrown out data is called a outlier. Throwing out data is done all the time in statistics. In this case, the previous months statistics is at variance with the more recent data so it's absolutely correct to toss it out. Quite simple really when you think about it.

Posted by: Al on September 5, 2007 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

we have the option to throw out data which is at variance with the main data we are looking at. This thrown out data is called a outlier.

Liars figure.

And Al is a liar supreme.

An outlier is only an outlier when it is three standard deviations or more beyond the mean. You can't just toss anything you don't like and call it an outlier! Liar!

(Did you really think you could get away with that shit here? Seriously? I dunno about anyione else, but I am not unique in this crowd, and I can reach four different stats texts from my desk. Not only can I reach 'em, I understand whats between the covers. Which obviously gives me several laps on Al.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 5, 2007 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

I think Al is using Karl Rove's math.

Posted by: fostert on September 5, 2007 at 4:11 AM | PERMALINK

I just finished posting about this too - I read the GAO report, and several articles from the morning papers - and then found the Blunt quote in the Post. (Y'all know that prick is from my state.) What I wrote was a whole lot meaner than what Kevin wrote.

(But then, Kevin isn't a redheaded bitch.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on September 5, 2007 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

There is no government in Iraq. If the U.S. has temporarily quelled the violence through force of arms, it doesn't mean shit to a tree. It is not sustainable unless we stay, since there is no functioning government, police force, etc.

A million civilians are dead, cholera is spreading, there are millions of refugees, unemployment is over 50%. In short, IRAQ IS A HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE!

Anyone who calls this a success is either insane or not paying attention...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 5, 2007 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps another reason is that the military didn't provide the data the GAO requested.
From WaPo (sorry, don't know how to do links here, but Atrios has it)
Walker (GAO chief - ed.) said the GAO consulted with the military until Thursday. "We asked for, but did not receive, the information through the end of August," he said. "But we obtained their views for where the situation was . . . as of August 30th."

Posted by: sal on September 5, 2007 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

... are they seriously contending that we should toss out the entire previous six months and judge the surge a success based four weeks of data?

—Kevin Drum

Who are you talking about here? HRC? Obama? Edwards? Reid? Pelosi?

Bush knows he has to clear only one hurdle to successfully move the goalposts once again: Get our so-called leaders to admit the surge is "working," or at least remain fearfully and silently on the fence about it, permitting the MSM to "twist" their words.

The GAO report doesn't matter unless our leaders find a way to make it matter. The MSM will be watching them closely. If they ignore irrefutable data that the surge is not working, and cave -- calculating that it's the safe play to win in 2008 -- it's over for us and them.

We are exactly where we were in the run-up to the war. If our leaders blink, the MSM will ensure that dems own this fucking war, and any involvement of Iran as well. That includes all those who voted for the war, AND Obama as well.

If this all becomes merely another political calculation, all the statistics in the world will have NO impact -- other than to show Americans the weakness of dems.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 5, 2007 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK

The seasonally adjusted data demonstrates that violence in Iraq has increased. So far deaths for every month of 2007 are higher than for every month of 2006. What is this administration going to say in the fall when the weather cools off, heavy fighting resumes, and the unadjusted monthly deaths rise?

They are boxing themselves into a corner that only a war with Iran can take the focus away from.

Posted by: m on September 5, 2007 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

The sad thing is that they don't really have to do any better than that.

Posted by: Dung on September 5, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

There are places you can find casualty data that shows a completely different picture. This guy argues that casualties are down and down significantly since the surge began to be felt. Engram says: According to the ICCC figures, civilian casualties are about 300 per month lower over the last 3 months than they were over the preceding 5 months.


Posted by: TJM on September 5, 2007 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Seasonal variation! Seasonal variation!

August and September have been low months for US deaths in Iraq for several years - because it is freaking hot there right now.

The August decline from July is meaningless.

Posted by: JohnN on September 5, 2007 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I think the joke is "outlier". (Hint: pun on "liar")

When the bulk of your data is an "outlier" and you discard it, you've got a real liar.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 5, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Germany: 'Massive' attacks foiled

I thought that this was not supposed to happen while we remained in Iraq.

'Stay there so they won't attack us here [in the West].'

Looks like that's not working out so well.

So, again, why exactly are we staying in Iraq?

To create and maintain a launching site for an attack against Iran, the original Cheney/neocon target.

Posted by: anonymous on September 5, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Question of the day.GAO or White House.Who do you believe?The Generals will be turning thier findings over to BushCo to spin it anyway they want.If you believe the new book out about Bush even he wants it to be Gen. Preatarus vs. the truth.

Posted by: jack shadenfruede on September 5, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

This thrown out data is called a outlier. Throwing out data is done all the time in statistics.

Bush and Al live by the statement on my old sweatshirt: "When all else fails, manipulate the data."

Posted by: tomeck on September 5, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Rummy said, "They fight less in the summer."

Posted by: cognitorex on September 5, 2007 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Throw out 1942-45, and presto!

Germany won WWII.

Posted by: Daddy Love on September 5, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

In this case, the previous months statistics is at variance with the more recent data so it's absolutely correct to toss it out. Quite simple really when you think about it.

That's the best comedy I've read in quite some time.

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