About that cliff…

President Obama’s comments yesterday:

We can’t embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face; that ignores critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, or the soaring cost of health care, or falling schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees. I don’t care whether you’re driving a hybrid or an SUV — if you’re headed for a cliff, you’ve got to change direction.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what that cliff looks like. (From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, via swampland.)


Meanwhile, Republicans are doing their damnedest to scuttle the bill entirely, or at least to convince everyone that what this economy needs is even more tax cuts! Because, you know, they’ve worked so well so far.

I’ve heard speculation that the only thing the remaining Republicans fear more than a complete economic meltdown is the possibility of Obama getting credit for saving us from one, and they’re willing to screw the entire country to avoid that fate. Me, I’m guessing Republican leaders have secretly cornered the market on generators, kerosene and ammunition, and plan to make a killing once everything collapses.

Update 2/10/2008: Justin Fox and William Polley have put up some more complete versions of the graph.

About that cliff… Read More »

Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear

In the past week, we have heard Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) call for an investigation of whether members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.” As a first-term representative she can perhaps be dismissed as fringe, but we’re hearing similar language from Sarah Palin on the campaign trail, and some are beginning to see this as a pattern on the part of the McCain campaign.

Fifty-eight years ago, Senator Margaret Chase Smith — the first woman to be elected to the US Senate — had the courage to speak out against fellow Republican Joe McCarthy and his unconscionable debasement of the US Senate “to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.”

“The nation sorely needs a Republican victory,” she said in her Declaration of Conscious, “but I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.” As a first-term Senator, speaking out against not only a member of her own party but one of the Senate’s most powerful and vindictive members was hardly a career-advancing move, costing her a key subcommittee appointment and almost costing her her reelection.

It would be another four years before the Senate would finally censure Senator McCarthy and bring his witch hunt to an end, four years in which countless careers were destroyed, our leaders were distracted from addressing more pressing issues, and paranoia and division gripped our nation. It would be many more years before the damage done during that period would be repaired. History now remembers Senator Smith as being the first to speak out against this nightmare, before it became safe or popular to do so.

In the coming months and years we will be asking our elected representatives to lead us out of a global financial crisis, climate change, two wars and a severely tarnished reputation abroad. To address these problems we will need to draw on the strengths and ideas from all the diverse backgrounds, faiths and ideologies our great nation has to offer. We can not afford to waste time with hatred and division in our government or in the population at large.

Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear Read More »

Torturous questions

Republican candidates at last Tuesday’s debate were asked about a now tired hypothetical:

The questions in this round will be premised on a fictional, but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it. Here is the premise: Three shopping centers near major U.S. cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured off the Florida coast and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they are being questioned. U.S. intelligence believes that another larger attack is planned and could come at any time.

First question to you, Senator McCain. How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantanamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?

As an editorial in the Washington Post points out, only John McCain got the answer right: when you torture your prisoners you actually make things worse, both in terms of world opinion and in wasting time on the unreliable information it produces. The trouble is, Hume’s hypothetical is actually two questions: a surface question about torture and an emotional question about what the candidate would be willing to sacrifice in the name of security. Personally I’d like to see the second question made more explicit. For example, how about asking one of these:

  • “Would you be willing to saw off your left leg with no anesthetic to stop a terrorist attack?”
  • “If you could go back in time and murder the 5-year-old Osama bin Laden with your bare hands, would you do it?”
  • “Would you be willing to repeal the First Amendment if it would stop another 9/11-sized attack? What about the Second Amendment? Would you raise taxes? Would you give up your immortal soul? How about your chances for re-election?”

Or maybe we should make the whole question less hypothetical. How about this?

“Gentlemen, on your left is Jerry (dressed in an Osama bin Laden mask), who is holding device that in one minute will send a million volts through the chairs of 10 random people sitting in our audience. To your right you see a switch that will disable the device, but will also drop poor Mrs. Grinwald here into this vat of hungry sharks. The decision is yours, but please be prepared to explain your actions.

Our TV audience will then vote for their favorite response via SMS, and the top 5 candidates will go on to the next round of questions.”

Torturous questions Read More »

We can’t lose

President Bush on Border Security, 11/28/05:

And one of the best examples of success is the Arizona Border Control Initiative, which the government launched in 2004. In the first year of this initiative — now, listen to this, listen how hard these people are working here — agents in Arizona apprehended nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants, a 42-percent increase over the previous year.

President Bush on Border Security, 4/9/07:

In the months before Operation Jump Start, an average of more than 400 people a day were apprehended trying to cross here. The number has dropped to fewer than 140 a day. In other words, one way that the Border Patrol can tell whether or not we’re making progress is the number of apprehensions. When you’re apprehending fewer people, it means fewer are trying to come across…. We’re seeing similar results all across the southern border. The number of people apprehended for illegally crossing our southern border is down by nearly 30 percent this year. We’re making progress. And thanks for your hard work. It’s hard work, but necessary work.

(Via Media Matters)

We can’t lose Read More »

Double or nothing?

Ouch. A reader of the Talking Points Memo blog comments about the Pentagon’s “Double Down” strategy of one last big push in Iraq:

Since the Pentagon has decided to discuss its new strategy in gambling parlance, it should at least use the proper terminology. Today’s LA Times article says that a Pentagon official has referred to the option of sending more troops in to Iraq as a “double down” strategy. The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let’s call it what it is: double or nothing. This is is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives, and such a strategy inevitably leads to another appropriate gambling term. Gambler’s ruin: winding up completely broke.

It’s scary how many of our political errors can be described in terms of psychological disorders…

Double or nothing? Read More »

Rush Limbaugh on last week’s election

Rush Limbaugh, on the results of last week’s election:

The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I’m gonna – I’m just gonna tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried.

Now, you might say, well, why have you been doing it? Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me, they represent a far better future for my beliefs, and therefore the country’s, than the Democrat [sic] Party does, and liberalism. And I believe my side is worthy of victory. And I believe it’s much easier to reform things that are going wrong on my side from a position of strength.

Now, I’m liberated from having to constantly come in here every day and try to buck up a bunch of people who don’t deserve it.

It’s not often I complement Limbaugh, but good on him (and about damn time). I think Limbaugh is a buffoon, but I also think the country is a lot better off with a cacophony of buffoons all speaking their minds than a bunch of ditto-head water-bearers all marching in lock-step. It’s something citizens of all political leanings need to keep in mind.

(Limbaugh quote via On The Media… in case you were wondering whether my radio taste had changed recently.)

Rush Limbaugh on last week’s election Read More »

Today’s news from Iraq

In today’s news, US soldiers lifted their cordon around Sadr City after an order from Prime Minister Maliki, essentially accepting that their search for a captured American soldier had failed and was not tenable given the increasing backlash from Moktada al-Sadr supporters. We also just ended the fourth deadliest month for American soldiers in Iraq, with 101 105 U.S. service members killed. Meanwhile, security company Kroll and engineering company Bechtel both announced they were pulling out of Iraq due to deteriorating security, and a briefing prepared by the US Central Command indicates Iraq has been rapidly sliding into chaos since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February.

So with all that and the mid-term elections less than a week away, I guess there’s no question why the President hopes we’ll just forget the past two years and think it’s still election 2004, huh?

Today’s news from Iraq Read More »

It’s the reality, stupid!

Haven’t we heard this song before?

Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent attacks against Israel and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

It’s the reality, stupid! Read More »