Saturday, July 04, 2009

nothing to fear but lack of fearmongering itself

Today is the day when we celebrate the birth of America, even though the Declaration was actually passed by the Continental Congress a few days before that.

Yesterday, we watched a spectacle too oft repeated these days: the self-implosion of a GOP presidential hopeful. First Bobby Jindal, then Mark Sanford, and now Sarah Palin. But someone else wants to grab our attention desperately and no matter what your politics in the U.S., you can agree with me that this guy is crazy.
North Korea fired a barrage of short-range missiles off its east coast Thursday, a possible prelude to the launch of a long-range missile toward Hawaii over the July Fourth holiday.
The AP tries to scare us. Long range missiles? Aimed at President Obama's home state on America's birthday weekend? But wait, did you catch the key word, "toward"? How long is "long range"? Let's ask the Posrt:
Military officials told South Korea's Yonhap news agency that they appeared to be Scud-type missiles and described them as more dangerous than the short-range weapons fired Thursday.

Government sources in Japan and South Korea told reporters that the missiles may have been Nodongs, a mid-range Scud.

North Korea has more than 200 of these missiles, which are capable of striking nearly all of Japan. They are regarded by the Japanese government as a serious threat, and it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years buying two U.S.-made anti-missile defense systems.
Scuds, the legendarily inaccurate missiles Saddam used during the first Gulf War. This one too is extremely crude for 2009.

A Nodog has a range of 500 to 1300 kilometers depending on whether it is a Nodog-1 or -2. And remember it is about 3800 kilometers from Tokyo to Honolulu, and from North Korea you have to add another couple hundred kilometers. Which explains this paragraph of the AP story:
The head of the U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart, said in an interview with the Washington Times this week that U.S. missile defenses are prepared to knock down any incoming North Korean missile.
Now to be fair the Taepodong-2 missile could hit Sarah Palin's house in Wasilla (making her a foreign policy expert). But the other reason Northern Command is prepared to knock down any long-range missile from North Korea is this:
In 2006, North Korea launched its most advanced Taepodong 2 missile while the U.S. celebrated Independence Day, though the rocket fizzled shortly after takeoff and fell into the ocean.
The April 5 [2009] launch of a Taepodong-2 required 12 days of preparation on the launch pad, which was fully observable to U.S. satellites. Short and medium-range missiles, however, can be launched with little notice.
So they can try to hit a major city in Japan and risk not only pissing off but hitting U.S. military forces stationed on the archipelago, or they can try to hit the U.S. directly, but it takes so long for those missiles to warm up, we can blow them on the launch pad with ease if we felt like it. No need for "Star Wars" here. The Axis of Evil, in short, is no excuse for the so-called National Missile Defense.

This is all a long way of saying the AP article, which was picked up by the Tribune, among others is all about scaring us despite the fact that the only think North Korea is capable of is starving its own people while building crappy weapons.

Friday, July 03, 2009

the imaginary middle

I have grown tired of those who claim to represent the ideological center but in actuality only represent their need to be the center of attention and action. Yesterday, I had lunch with one of my Conservative Republican friends who agrees with me on this point, as well as who the phony centrists are.

So, to name names and get particular, by phony centrists, we mean Sens. John McCain, Kent Conrad, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, and SCOTUS Justice Kennedy. These people continuously create imaginary divisions and problems so that they can be the solvers of said problem and the beltway media can fawn over them about how statesmanlike, bipartisan, centrist, important and powerful they are.

There are countless examples, but here are a few. Thanks to a prior vote earlier this year, Democrats can pass health care reform within the budget process, which means they only need 50 votes and their can't be a filibuster. Moreover, the budget framework already passed (which created 50 votes only possibility) set aside $634 billion as a "down payment" on health care reform. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee bill to cost $611 billion. Using my amazing math skills, this means that if this bill is passed as is, there is $24 billion of wiggle room when you merge the Senate Finance Committee bill into the HELP bill and only 50 votes are needed to pass the HELP bill. Yet Sen. conrad wants there to be some sort of fake compromise to axe the public option, claiming the health care reform legislation is in a "60 vote environment." Sens. Snowe, Specter, and the other Maine Senator who just does whatever Snowe does changed the Stimulus Bill to cap it at some arbitrary number so that they could be "fiscally responsible."

Justice Kennedy's need to be in the middle often results in unreadable and incomprehensible opinions that cause confusion for lower courts and attorneys. Other times, the opinions just make no sense and are internally inconsistent.

The problem is not just bad policy is the result of their pomposity but the fact that these folks are only representing themselves and there is not a silent majority of folks in the middle that agree with them. They oppose or alter widely popular things just so they can have their fingerprints on them and get written up in the big papers. Enough already.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What a crazy week of news: a governor that skipped out on his state, staff, and family to go see his lover in Argentina; the US getting to its first FIFA finals and only losing by one goal to Brazil; the sudden, odd death of Michael Jackson; and now Billy "shouting about made for TV products" Mays found dead in his home. The only "normal" pieces of news were continuing protests in Iran and the House passing a watered-down cap-and-trade bill. I wonder what next week will bring.