Monday, November 30, 2009

$700,000,000,000 a year

On Sunday, George Will claimed that with our current reliance on deficit spending, "we're apt to be spending in 10 years $700 billion a year servicing our debt." And this huge sum takes into account "unreasonably cheerful assumptions about economic growth and interest rates."

$700,000,000,000 a year is a lot more than what I pay my thieving credit card company in finance charges in a year. (More about Bank of America in a future post.) But the economy of the United States is almost unimaginably larger than my household finances. According to Paul Krugman, this difference is key in thinking about deficit spending. Read about it here.

Republicans are suddenly raising the alarm about deficits. (It is obvious why they waited until after Bush left office to do this.) If you consider the huge figures in their proper context, it is more likely that you'll keep your head. Republicans have an ulterior motive for trying to scare you: republicans have a history of growing deficits in order to pressure the president and Congress to shrink the size of government. But that is a topic for another post.

"209 pages? My favorite comic book isn't anywhere near that long!"

Don't believe all the scary things Republicans say about the length of the health care reform bills in Congress. Only those people not accustomed to reading anything more challenging than Animal Farm will find reading these bills daunting. Read this Associated Press article for details.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holder: The Anti-Gonzales

Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(Excerpt; emphases mine)

I would like to use the rest of the time allotted to me today to address a topic that I know is on many of your minds – my decision last week to refer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others for prosecution in federal courts for their participation in the 9/11 plot. . . .

I hope we can have an open, honest, and informed discussion about that decision today, and as part of that discussion, I would like to clear up some of the misinformation that I have seen since Friday.

First, we know that we can prosecute terrorists in our federal courts safely and securely because we have been doing it for years. There are more than 300 convicted international and domestic terrorists currently in Bureau of Prisons custody, including those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the attacks on our embassies in Africa. Our courts have a long history of handling these cases, and no district has a longer history than the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. I have talked to Mayor Bloomberg of New York, and both he and the Police Commissioner Ray Kelly believe that we can safely hold these trials in New York.

Second, we can protect classified material during trial. The Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA, establishes strict rules and procedures for the use of classified information at trial, and we have used it to protect classified information in a range of terrorism cases. In fact, the standards recently adopted by Congress to govern the use of classified information in military commissions are derived from the very CIPA rules that we use in federal court.

Third, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will have no more of a platform to spew his hateful ideology in federal court than he would have in military commissions. Before the commissions last year, he declared the proceedings an "inquisition," condemned his own attorneys and our Constitution, and professed his desire to become a martyr. Those proceedings were heavily covered in the media, yet few complained at the time that his rants threatened the fabric of our democracy.

Judges in federal court have firm control over the conduct of defendants and other participants in their courtrooms, and when the 9/11 conspirators are brought to trial, I have every confidence that the presiding judge will ensure appropriate decorum. And if KSM makes the same statements he made in his military commission proceedings, I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is. I’m not scared of what KSM will have to say at trial – and no one else needs to be either.

Fourth, there is nothing common about the treatment the alleged 9/11 conspirators will receive. In fact, I expect to direct prosecutors to seek the ultimate and most uncommon penalty for these heinous crimes. And I expect that they will be held in custody under Special Administrative Measures reserved for the most dangerous criminals.

Finally, there are some who have said this decision means that we have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality, or that we don’t realize this nation is at war. Three weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the President at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of the remains of eighteen Americans, including three DEA agents, who lost their lives to the war in Afghanistan. The brave soldiers and agents carried home on that plane gave their lives to defend this country and its values, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to carry on the work for which they sacrificed.

I know that we are at war.

I know that we are at war with a vicious enemy who targets our soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and our civilians on the streets here at home. I have personally witnessed that somber fact in the faces of the families who have lost loved ones abroad, and I have seen it in the daily intelligence stream I review each day. Those who suggest otherwise are simply wrong.

Prosecuting the 9/11 defendants in federal court does not represent some larger judgment about whether or not we are at war. We are at war, and we will use every instrument of national power – civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, and others – to win. We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.

We will also use every instrument of our national power to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks against our people. For eight years, justice has been delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It has been delayed even further for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole. No longer. No more delays. It is time, it is past time, to act. By bringing prosecutions in both our courts and military commissions, by seeking the death penalty, by holding these terrorists responsible for their actions, we are finally taking ultimate steps toward justice. That is why I made this decision.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

If we're lucky, he'll just go away now

The Associated Press reports today that Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana justice of the peace who was in the news recently for refusing to marry an interracial couple, resigned today.

This is obviously a positive outcome. But I worry that Bardwell learned nothing from this experience.

At least we have additional anecdotal evidence that racism is alive and well in the United States—you know, for people who think that there's no need for affirmative action anymore. People need to be reminded occasionally.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson