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…

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.)

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?

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.

Now 86% Reality Free!

According to recent polls, 50% of Americans believe that weapons of mass destruction were actually found in Iraq, and at least back in December 24% of Americans believed that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11 were Iraqis. And a presumably different 36% of Americans believe it is either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or deliberately took no action to stop them, and another 16% of Americas speculate that the World Trade Center collapsed because of government-planted explosives rather than as a result of burning jet fuel.

So on the right we have fundamental ignorance about the facts (no doubt encouraged by scurrilous politicians) and on the left there’s a rising belief in ill-supported conspiracy theories (no doubt fanned by the Loose Change video). To the remaining 14%, please hang in there — you’re all we’ve got left in an increasingly reality-free nation.

(Links via On The Media.)

Lack of imagination

The phrase all the newspapers have picked up about the recent foiled terrorist plot:

“Put simply this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.”

OK, so say their plan was to blow up 12 US-bound flights simultaneously, and say that by some stroke of absolute genius and/or luck they actually managed to succeed in every single case (fat chance, but humor me). If you assume around 259 people onboard each flight (the same number of people as were killed on Pan Am 747-100), that’s 3108 deaths. That would be a tragic loss of life. It’s roughly equivalent to the number killed in the WTC attacks, three times the number of civilians killed so far in Lebanon in the past few weeks, 7.5% of the number of civilians killed so far in Iraq, a third of the number killed every day in Rwanda in from April to July 1994, and only slightly fewer than the number of people killed in the US in auto accidents every month.

That’s a lot, and I’m glad they’ve arrested these guys. But unimaginable? That sounds like a serious lack of imagination.

The case for fraud in the 2004 election

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. summarizes the huge amount of evidence of malfeasance and outright election fraud that led to Bush’s “win” in 2004, including a whopping 208 footnotes ranging from newspaper reports to court decisions to official investigation findings. The article is the result of a four-month investigation by Kennedy and Rolling Stone magazine (to echo my friend Judith, why the hell do we have to go to Rolling Stone for in-depth political reporting?).

Most of the findings will be old news to those who followed the story at the time, and it’s clearly just one side of the argument, but seeing the case laid out all in one place is still maddening. (I’m actually still reading it, because I can only read about a page at a time before getting too mad to continue.)

Update 6/3/06: As Death comments, Farhad Manjoo responds in Salon that Kennedy’s article has “numerous errors of interpretation and… deliberate omission of key bits of data.”