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Archive for September, 2009


[ 0 ] September 20, 2009 |

Call me a godless, gunless, pussified liberal, but I’ll never be able to comprehend the lingering appeal of a film based in part on the notion that scores of Soviet armored divisions might somehow invade North America via the ALCAN Highway. On second thought, that’s likely among the more plausible details from Red Dawn. At any rate, here’s Lance Mannion, in the midst of a wider meditation on the implausibility of seeing the film as vital either to the era or to Patrick Swayze’s career:

Red Dawn may have been an enjoyable popcorn movie . . . but taking it seriously either as a work of art or a political cautionary tale or even as a shoot-em-up on par with the best westerns or war movies is like saying that your favorite Star Wars movie was Return of the Jedi because of the Ewoks.

Brilliant. Though to make use of a cliched formulation, this is a bit unfair to the Ewoks, since it’s hard to imagine that their supporters — whom I’m sure exist somewhere — would be so unselfconscious as to name Iraq War missions after them. Then again, the film itself is a fabulously shitty expression of unselfconscious appropriation; as Devid Denby noted in his great and fittingly brutal review at the time, the film borrows from the actual legends and history of partisan — and frequently communist — resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. I won’t speculate on how a film like that could have evolved into a cult classic within a military as dominant as that of the post-cold war US, but Red Dawn has always seemed more relevant as a prosthetic device for — you know — morons who have convinced themselves of late that by protesting Keynesian economics, they’ve approached moral equivalence with the Committees of Correspondence.


Dear Fox

[ 0 ] September 19, 2009 |

I know it’s been your mission to do what you can to degrade baseball coverage, but isn’t failing to broadcast the only game with postseason significance in order to show us…the goddamned Cubs yet again going a little too far? What the hell is wrong with you people?


(And, yes, yes, I know that this should be “Dear the Idiots At My Local Fox Affiliate”…)

…in fairness, without Fox’s idiocy I probably wouldn’t have watched a second of my alma mater’s game, which from SC’s standpoint I can say without hyperbole is the most humiliating loss in the history of organized human sporting activity.

The best health care system in the world is unlikely to succeed in killing you if your sister is a good enough lawyer

[ 1 ] September 18, 2009 |

That’s the basic moral of this story.

I did a town hall-style health care debate last night in Denver with Hugh Hewitt, before an audience of 973 people, 964 of whom were shall we say predisposed to favor Hewitt’s views on the matter over mine. One of the questions from the audience was about the linked controversy, which was proffered as evidence that Obama is telling lies to get “his” proposal enacted. Hewitt’s main argument against the present proposals is that they don’t do enough to lower medical malpractice costs, when ironically stories like this are if anything arguments for universal access to good legal advice.

State Courts: The Darker Side

[ 1 ] September 18, 2009 |

For less encouraging news about state judiciaries, we can turn to the state of Texas, where a man was sentenced to death in a trial in which the prosecutor and presiding judge were having an affair. You don’t have to be a legal scholar to see the, ah, rather obvious due process problems with a trail in which the state’s representative is literally having sexual relations with the allegedly neutral arbiter, and indeed even the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals can’t quite bring itself to deny it. Rather, it falls back on the tool so beloved by reactionary jurists everywhere, the arbitrary procedural Catch-22:

But Wednesday’s decision overturned the findings of a district court judge who had found that Mr. Hood should be allowed a hearing on a new trial. The decision did not discuss whether the affair had prejudiced his first trial; instead, the court rejected Mr. Hood’s claim on the ground that he should have raised it when he first appealed his 1990 conviction.

Yes, if Mr. Hood wanted to contest his unfair trial, he should have acquired a time machine, obtained the evidence that emerged 18 years later, returned, and presented it to the courts. If he was too lazy to do that, we can’t help him. The logic is impeccable.

If you submitted a novel based on the injustices of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, I’m sure it would be rejected as just too crude and implausible. Maybe this will be the sort of thing that shocks Tony Kennedy’s sporadic conscience….

Europe Roiling!!!! Seriously!!!

[ 0 ] September 18, 2009 |

Here’s a magic trick in the making! A key element of the conservative case against Obama on missile defense is that cutting the program will undercut our allies, and that it represents a “betrayal” of the brave Poles and Czechs who are willing to stand up against the Russian bear and accept large sums of our money. See this article on how the decision has “roiled” Europe, and this article on how Europeans are “angry”. The former article is particularly noteworthy, in that it includes quotes from the following persons:

  • President Barack Obama
  • Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout
  • Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski
  • Former Polish President Lech Walesa
  • Arizona Sen. John McCain
  • Former Assistant US Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long
  • NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen
  • An Anonymous Israeli official
  • Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin
  • Member of the Russian Duma Konstantin Kosachev

Ok, so four of those aren’t European. Let’s cut them out, leaving:

  • Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout
  • Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski
  • Former Polish President Lech Walesa
  • NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen
  • Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin
  • Member of the Russian Duma Konstantin Kosachev

Ok, and let’s pretend that Russians aren’t European:

  • Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout
  • Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski
  • Former Polish President Lech Walesa
  • NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Ok, so Rasmussen actually had really nice things to say about the decision, so let’s cut him:

  • Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout
  • Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski
  • Former Polish President Lech Walesa

Kohout is quoted as follows: “‘Canceling the radar by no means jeopardizes the security of the Czech Republic as the country is safely entrenched in NATO.'” Hurm. That actually doesn’t sound like “roiling” to me, and it’s not surprising given that 70% of Czechs oppose the shield. Let’s cut him out.

  • Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski
  • Former Polish President Lech Walesa

Sikorski is interpreted thusly: “Radoslaw Sikorski, said he had secured assurances from Washington that the U.S. would honor a commitment to deploy Patriot missiles in Poland, made as part of the deal to host the shield.” Huh. Again, a notable lack of roiling. Let’s cut him.

  • Former Polish President Lech Walesa

Walesa is quoted saying: “‘It’s not that we need the shield, but it’s about the way we’re treated here.'”

OOOOOOKKKKKKKAAAAAYYYYY…… So, in an article about the “roiling” that has been inflicted by Obama upon Europe, exactly one European is quoted as expressing unhappiness, and that European specifically notes that the shield was unnecessary.

I’m not sure that the United States is ever going to recover from a diplomatic disaster of this magnitude….

Indiana Court vs. The Vote Fraud Fraud

[ 0 ] September 18, 2009 |

The Indiana Court of Appeals struck down the Voter ID Act that was upheld by the United States Supreme Court last year. The opinion gets right to the heart of the issue:

All qualified voters must be treated uniformly and impartially. We fail to see how the Voter I.D. Law’s exception of those residing in state licensed care facilities, which happen to also be a polling place, would be a uniform or impartial regulation. Furthermore, the Voter I.D. Law treats in-person voters disparate from mail-in voters, conferring partial treatment upon mail-in voters.

The disparate treatment of mail-in and ballot-box voters is particularly indefensible given 1) the obvious political self-dealing (absentee voters are predominantly Republican, voters without IDs primarily Democratic) and 2)the fact that the few cited examples of vote fraud involved absentee ballots, not in-person voting. When the rights of a discrete and insular minority are burdened in ways that benefit the partisan interests of the majority party by means of a law is farcically underinclusive given the stated justification…what you have there is an equal protection/privileges and immunities violation. Good for the Indiana courts for doing what the Supreme Court shamefully wouldn’t.

How Socialist is US Health Care?

[ 1 ] September 18, 2009 |

Andy Engelson finds it to be more socialist than Communist Vietnam, thus supporting what we already know: the tea-baggers are idiots.

The money paragraph(s):
The much needed health reforms proposed in the U.S. won’t be perfect, but will go a long way to making sure everyone is insured and that getting really sick doesn’t bankrupt you (which also happens here in Vietnam). Will this be costly? Sure. But remember that the Medicare drug insurance plan passed by a Republicans Congress during the Bush administration in 2003 is expected to cost 1.5 trillion dollars, higher than the approximately $1 trillion cost cited for the current health care proposals.

Where were the tea-baggers when that bill was making its way through Congress?

But what do I know? I live in a communist country.

Meanwhile, Tim Egan argues that these same tea-baggers have unleashed their inimitable rage on the wrong target, of course:

Where was the Tea Party movement when the tax burden was shifted from the high end to the middle? Where were the patriots when Wall Street, backed in Congress by Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, rewrote securities laws so that the wonder boys of Lehman and A.I.G. could reduce home mortgages to poker chips at a trillion-dollar table?

[ . . . ]

They were nowhere, because they were clueless, just as most journalists were.

But now, at a time when a new president wants to reform health care to fix the largest single cause of middle-class economic collapse, he’s called a Nazi by these self-described friends of the working stiff.

I recently returned to England from spending a two month stay in my homeland on a mixed research / professional / quality time with my partner trip, mainly in Oregon. (So recent was the return that I’m still jet lagged). While I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and am actively considering returning to the United States, one distinction that I anecdotally noted was the quality of political discourse. I found this to be thoroughly asinine and banal to the point of profound discouragement. Not only the obvious, to quote Egan again, “the brat’s cry of Joe Wilson”, but simple personal dialogue between private citizens. Six years here in the UK, indeed I start my seventh academic year in a week or so, political discourse here seems more reasoned, toned down, and respectful than the US (save for the English Defence League or our non-racist friends in the BNP). Hell, when the best I often encountered was utterly unoriginal (as well as amusingly inaccurate) tea bagger talking points, I miss the BNP’s amusing attempts to demonstrate their lack of racism.
Please show that I am wrong, with examples.
Feel free to lie if you must.

All BMD, All the Time

[ 0 ] September 17, 2009 |

I have some more missile defense thoughts at Guardian: Comment is Free. See also Bryan McGrath on what this means for sea-based missile defense.

"Now you get me Pig, and then we’ll be ready to record this song….You get your hair cut. You don’t belong in Nashville."

[ 0 ] September 17, 2009 |

Henry Gibson, R.I.P.

Kenny has more.

Democrats Should Cause Unicorns Moderate Republicans To Materialize out of Thin Aur

[ 0 ] September 17, 2009 |

Another example of the “but the New Deal and Great Society were bipartisan” argument.

To add another point, as I understand it the political justification for seeking Republican support is that it would mean Democrats wouldn’t “own” health care reform (this would seem to be why McArdle brings up social security privatization.) But this is a really bad reason for insisting on Republican votes. First of all, it’s only relevant if the policy is bad for most voters. Republicans had a good reason not to want to own social security privitization and the many older people forced to subsist on cat food and peoplelosing their pensions near retirement age that would have ensued. But if you do it right, health care reform will (like Social Security and Medicare) be popular and something you want credit for, and if you don’t do it right it shouldn’t be done whether you get zero or 50 GOP votes. And second, it won’t work — the governing party will get the credit or blame depending how it works out irrespective of how much collaboration with the opposition there was. Who do you think is most associated with Social Security and Medicare — FDR and LBJ, or liberal Republican congressmen?

On the Surrendering to the Commies…

[ 0 ] September 17, 2009 |

I do love this bit, from Michael Goldfarb:

The consequences of this action in Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine and in other countries that feel vulnerable to Russian power, will be disastrous. It is a major American retreat in the face of Russian bullying. And we will get absolutely nothing for it.

Wow, yeah; I mean, when the US was planning on building a missile defense shield in Poland, it like totally stopped the Russians from bullying their neighbors. And now that Ukraine realizes that we won’t be building a system that can’t protect from Russian missiles in a nearby country, they’ll, like, totally give up or something. And as for the Poles, I only wish their were SOME way of conveying the idea that the US was committed to Polish territorial integrity…. some way…. some way...

I hope you’ll also take note of the bait and switch. Five years ago, we desperately needed this missile shield to defend us from TEH SCARY IRANIANS, and it was soooo important that it was worth pissing off the Russians. Now, not a word about the Iranians; the whole POINT of the system is that it pisses off the Russians. Let’s say that again; the US should spend bucketloads of money on a system with no strategic rationale beyond its own existence. For Goldfarb, the fact that the Russians don’t like it is reason in and of itself to build the damn thing.

Call this reason #344366377 for why it’s utterly insane to take seriously conservative protestations of “fiscal responsibility,” and “big government waste.”

Missile Defense Done

[ 1 ] September 17, 2009 |

No Eastern European missile defense shield:

The Obama administration is expected to announce Thursday that it will shelve plans to deploy its controversial anti-ballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe, a Polish official said, a move that will be welcomed by Russia but deeply regretted by Poland and the Czech Republic, two key American allies.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the administration was “very close” to the end of a seven-month review of a missile defense shield proposal but he would not give any more details.

Polish and Czech officials said they expected to be briefed by American officials about Mr. Obama’s decision which almost certainly will led to the scrapping of plans to deploy 10 inceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

That keening you hear is the sound of a million wailing wingnuts. The Poles and Czechs will be disappointed, but they’ll live; there are other ways of conveying a long term commitment to Eastern European security if we so choose. Indeed, some of these ways might actually have something to do with Eastern European security, rather than with a set of expensive techno-fantasies jury-rigged to a manufactured geo-strategic threat. Nevertheless, the screech of “EMP!!!” is one that you can get used to hearing in the near future; no President actually born in the United States would be so dismissive of ineffectually (but expensively!) protecting America from non-existent boogeymen.

Let’s be clear; this is a huge victory for common sense over fantasy, and for responsible defense budgeting. This project had no function other than to serve the pecuniary interest of the missile defense industry, and to sate the ideological lust of conservatives infatuated with St. Reagan. No convincing strategic logic could ever be provided for the program; advocates careened wildly between arguments, desperately trying to see if they could make anything stick. Protecting Europe from Iranian missiles? Nobody in Europe was particularly concerned, or, outside of Poland and the Czech Republic, really wanted the defense. Protecting from the Russians? By the admission of advocates, the shield could not have served as a deterrent to Russian attacks. Necessary to demonstrate our commitment to the Poles? Meh; I’d rather get them something they could actually use.

… it’s old, but this post from Robert Gard is pretty definitive regarding the serial idiocy of missile defense proponents. I should also make clear that I think missile defense systems can be useful tactically, and even strategically against the threat of a large number on conventionally armed ballistic missiles. Missile defense is never sold on that basis, however, mainly because advocates have not even the faintest interest in engaging in an actual debate about costs and benefits.

it’s done:

The Obama administration’s move was confirmed by the Czech Republic interim prime minister. “Just after midnight I was informed in a telephone call by President Barack Obama that [his] administration has decided to pull out from the plan missile defense shield installations” in the Czech Republic and Poland, said Jan Fischer said at a news conference Thursday.

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