The Next Big Error and the Next

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 brings forth a wealth of speakers. The sadness of the occasion is relieved by tales of heroism. Maybe it’s just me, but two of the speakers were of place. It wasn’t because of the positions they occupied. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are fixtures at these events. It just struck me the two people presently occupying these posts didn’t belong where we honored courage. In their younger days, Sec. Llyod Austin and Chairman Mark Milley wore the uniform of our armed forces with distinction. But that was then. Their character hasn’t aged well.

With our possible involvement in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt took the bold step of appointing a junior officer Chief of staff over many senior Generals. Roosevelt realized in peacetime; military men owe their rise to top positions more to political connections than to being warriors. With war on the horizon, we needed warriors, not soft politicians.

Marshall, in turn, cashiered 600 officers, clearing the way for the likes of the then colonels Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and many others to lead us to victory. When asked why he dumped “the brains” of the Army, Marshall said, “I was eliminating considerable arteriosclerosis.” I fear Austin and Milley are no longer fighters. People shouldn’t stay past their expiration date. Not when they forget who and what they represent for political considerations.

How else can you explain their actions or lack thereof in the Afghan pullout? The lowest second lieutenant knows better than agree to a plan where the military leaves before the civilians. No trained military person with a clear mind could okay Biden’s plan. Did our top military people agree to this dishonorable and stupid plan? If so, they need to leave in shame. They’ve stained the services they represent.

If they opposed this despicable plan, why didn’t we know their objections? Leaks to some news organizations cover your butt. It does nothing to stop a program that results in a significant loss.

It’s not that they weren’t aware of how to act honorably. Facing similar circumstances, Trump’s Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis loudly opposed troop pullouts in the Middle East and Afghanistan as he resigned. As I’ve pointed out, the fact that we still have troops in Syria shows that doing the right thing can change minds.

Goodness knows, Biden’s disastrous Afghan plan needed changing. The two might not agree with their President, but they failed in their duty to speak up even if it cost them. They’ve stained the services they represent. They need to leave in shame.

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The Biden Wall

Six planes containing US citizens and Afghan allies are sitting in an airport in Afghanistan, unable to take off. The State Department admitting at least 100 US citizens are stranded in the country, while Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) says it could be as many as 500. Over half of our Afghan friends we were supposed to get out are still trapped. Undoubtedly all the Sunday news programs would be exploding with questions of how this could happen. Newspaper Headlines demanding to know how we are getting these people out. 

Unfortunately, most media outlets had little or nothing to say on the subject. Most headlined a Supreme Court procedural vote rejecting a stay of implementing a new Texas abortion law. The court said there had to be an actual case before the court could act. It didn’t take up the merits of the case. Just saying it needed to follow a long-established procedure. The recent severe storms and wildfires also claimed a lot of space. Thousands of lives in Afghanistan, many US citizens, at-risk just weren’t that important.

On his program, George Stephanopoulos steered any conversation away from Afghanistan. Of the four Network weekly news shows, only Fox News Sunday devoted any real-time to the peril of those trapped. One of the greatest disasters in our history, and somehow it’s yesterday’s news. What’s going on? Where are the journalists?

David Ignatius is one of the Washington Post’s journalistic crown jewels. Not only a longtime columnist, but he’s also a senior editor. He’s the paper’s go-to guy on foreign affairs. So how do you excuse his recent column explaining away Biden’s Afghanistan debacle? This Harvard Summa Cum Laude graduate blindly accepts the General’s numbers for abandoning Bagram Airbase. Arguably the dumbest move in the whole fiasco.

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Consuming Garbage

Many decades ago, I was an undergrad in Northwestern University’s School of Business. Statistics and marketing were mandatory courses. Donald Trump, some years later, was an undergrad at Wharton. The curriculum was much the same. We both were aware of the dangers of using tainted data—surveys asking the wrong or improper questions or focus groups skewed one way, or the other can lead to disastrous results. New coke and the Ford Edsel resulted from avoiding the tough but right questions. Instead, they went with those likely to confirm what you already thought. Everyone in business school has heard the cautionary, “dogs don’t like it story.” The last thing you want to do is fool yourself.

Possibly an awful polling question asked in slightly different versions by several organizations led to the worst foreign policy disaster in memory. In my last post, I referred to the Dispatch article showing how you asked the “should we remain in Afghanistan question,” yield widely differing results. 

 The “Do you approve or disapprove of Biden’s plan to remove the troops from Afghanistan?” is a version of the eternally high polling “Are you in favor of world peace.” “Everyone is for world peace. However, if we add you lose all your freedom to attain it, the results reverse. “Do you think the U.S. should remove all military troops from Afghanistan, or should some U.S. troops remain for counter-terrorism operations?” elicits a some troops’ stay majority.  

We’ve all heard the quality of the data concept, “Garbage in Garbage out.” There’s a variation “Garbage in Gospel out.” The latter applies here. The Bernie Saunders peacenik group has long dominated the left. Add the Trump “America First” bunch, and the Rand Paul “never get involved overseas” libertarians. You have many people emotionally ready to accept and repeat the 70+ percent favor pulling out foolishness.

The question is why “reputable polling operations” would ask the Afghan question in this manner. They have to be aware this is sure to mislead. If a student taking Statistics and marketing is taught this is rotten practice, why would pros make the error? We know polling in the 2020 election was the worst ever. Why leaders would make such an important decision based on a faulty polling question must’ve been because it gave them the desired answer.

Donald Trump especially had to know his claimed pullout support was bogus. If he wanted to know how Americans thought about Afghanistan, he would’ve demanded the right questions. Maybe he wasn’t the great student he claims to have been.

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Sometimes You’d Rather be Wrong

On March 9th, less than two months after Biden’s inauguration, I posted “The Dog ate Biden’s Homework.” I warned the new administration’s capabilities weren’t as advertised. We already had an out-of-control Southern Border. A total misunderstanding of “Project Warp Speed” led to kids not being in school and an unneeded $2. 1 billion in additional spending. The vaccines combined with those naturally immune allowed a return to everyday life and a rapidly expanding economy. With substantial pent-up demand, the last thing we needed was additional relief. It all but guaranteed inflation. The administration appeared to be unaware of any of this.

At the time, I concluded, “Much of the new administration’s problems arise from the same flaw, lack of preparation. One of the primary reasons put forth for electing Biden was competence. Joe and those around him knew what they were doing. It appears they don’t.” 

In subsequent posts, I spelled continuing errors of judgment. It became clear the question wasn’t what the administration got wrong but could they get anything right. Gathering and understanding information and analyzing data was beyond their capabilities. They heard what they wanted to hear and expected the outcomes they desired.

If you’re surprised by the present Afghanistan debacle, you weren’t reading Detour on the Road.” The longer the inept stay in control, the greater the failures. On the other hand, the mainstream media willingly continued the myth of Biden competency. Further, the media bubble likely contributed to the resulting disaster.

Now we have the media suddenly aware the administration was ineffective. If I could see the flaws, they had to be visible to those with the big newsrooms. I and others questioned abandoning Bagram Airbase in the middle of the night. The slow extraction of Afghans was visible to all. They chose to ignore and cover-up.

When Hunter Biden’s laptop surfaced, they refused to cover it. Instead, they promoted a bogus Russian disinformation operation put forth by left-leaning former intelligence people. To date, no one has disputed the computer’s ownership or contents. Rather than alerting the public Joe Biden wasn’t up to the job, they covered -up the possibility he was corrupt as well.  

One of the favorite media tricks is the use of simple issue poll questions eliciting a one-word response. Sarah Isgur and Chris Stirewalt in the Dispatch understand how it contributed to the administration, and others misreading the situation. The question asked matters. On Afghanistan, “The Hill asked:

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The Biden Effect Today

July 29 strongly confirms Biden is hell-bent on destroying the recovery. His tool of choice is ineptitude. As I’ve pointed out, on Inauguration Day, the new president was the beneficiary of rapidly increasing injections of amazingly effective Covid vaccines. An already growing economy could only go into overdrive with the spreading Immunity. Momentum was in place to carry us forward with zero input from the Biden team. All Biden had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride. Later in the year, when the memory of the Trump administration had faded, he could take credit for the good times. In any case, a good economy always helps the incumbent Administration.

Instead of preparing a carrot and stick program to overcome the vaccine reluctance the UK had experienced, the Administration has sent mixed messages from the J & J vaccine to the current mask advisories. This confusion is playing havoc with people’s ability to plan for the future. These puzzling missives are spilling into our economy.

The government reported the economy grew at 6.4% rather than the expected 8.4%—quite a miss. Further, unemployment claims rose by a surprising amount. A growing fear of the Delta variant has contributed to investment and hiring hesitancy.

The Administration’s almost $2 billion Covid stimuli extending generous unemployment insurance and adding childcare payments with no work requirement has kept many from returning to work. Lack of workers restricts supply. All that money is floating around, goosing demand while we aren’t producing goods. We already have supply dislocations coming out of the pandemic. All this has led to the classic scenario “too much money chasing too few goos,” for inflation.

Misreading or ignoring of data led to the present disappointments and threatened further damage. It is essential to get out ahead of the fear and confusion. When the trepidation comes from the top, it gets quickly out of hand. On ABC New York, they are looking at the possibility of 4,000 deaths a day in the fall. This prediction is wildly improbable. How can I say this? It’s because I look at what is happening. India, where the Delta Variant originated, had a big spike. The UK, which is a few weeks ahead of us in vaccinations, has significantly increased cases. However, both have topped out::

Instead of growing out of control, the virus appears to be running out of potential victims. Shots in the arm and natural Immunity have narrowed its opportunities. Is this going to happen here? Very likely.

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