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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.

My Life Now is All CSI, All the Time

[ 0 ] September 17, 2009 |

This is pretty awesome. Via Gary.

Everything Would Be Great if Everyone in the World Was Just Like Me!

[ 0 ] September 16, 2009 |

I don’t really have to say anything about Michael Gerson’s column (ht — I guess — to Atrios), because Kay Steiger pre-emptively gave the definitive response while discussing another recent WaPo article:

Honestly, I think we should stop worrying about when people get married. Or if they get married. Rather than trying to figure out what the “best age” for heterosexual couples to get married is, perhaps she could have thought about a real issue for a change.

It’s not just the age of marriage, of course — this whole genre of trying to identify the one correct way of being in a relationship (which, as in this case, almost always means “everyone should share my values and priorities whether they like it or not”) or identifying how all “men” and “women” think or whatever is just irredeemably stupid and pernicious.

Heckava Job, Baucus

[ 0 ] September 16, 2009 |

You’ve found the sweet spot; a compromise bill that everyone to the left of Snowe and to the right of Jay Rockefeller can support.

I have no idea if Rockefeller would really vote against this bill, and I don’t really care. From what I’ve seen so far the subsidies appear bad enough to make it very likely that this bill will be a substantial political disaster for Democrats (which, of course, has policy implications down the road, which this bill will be quite vulnerable to without a public option). The sooner Baucuscare is tagged as DOA, the better. Snowe may well have done the Democratic party and the cause of real health care reform a huge favor.

You Think the NSF is Immune to Twilight? Think Again…

[ 0 ] September 16, 2009 |

This is amusing enough, but rather past expiration date; I’ve been including sexy teenage vampires in all of my grant proposals for years now.

The Silliness of Olympia Snowe

[ 0 ] September 16, 2009 |

Beloved Senate Centrist bails out of health care reform! For reasons exactly as incoherent as you would expect:

Snowe (Maine), who was one of three Republicans who backed the $787 billion economic stimulus package, was being lobbied heavily by the White House, and some centrists view her refusal to strike a deal with Baucus as troubling. But concerns about how the plan would be paid for prompted her to back away in the hours before its release.


Snowe said she is also concerned with whether Baucus’s bill will do enough to make health insurance more affordable. Snowe and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) have repeatedly pushed fellow negotiators on the Finance panel to increase subsidies for low-income and uninsured Americans.

Now Snowe’s second concern is, of course, perfectly valid. But the problem is that one crucial reason that the subsidies are insufficiently generous is Snowe’s fetish for arbitrarily reducing the total cost of programs whether or not this is consistent with the goals of the legislation. It’s nice that she’s pushing for more subsidies, but everyone knows that when this increased the total cost of the package that she would bail. And this isn’t the first time the totality of Snowe’s position on health care makes absolutely no sense. At least the noises coming from Axelrod are encouraging — just bypassing Snowe and her similarly unserious “centirst” Democratic colleagues would produce much better legislation.

It’s also worth noting the asymmetry here. Even the rare remaining Republican in a solidly blue state is perfectly happy to obstruct health care reform for reasons that are either parochial or nonsensical, whereas even some deep-blue state Democrats think that massive upper-class tax cuts are affordable but aren’t sure about creating a decent health care system. As long as the Democratic Party is structured so as to support the Feinsteins, getting decent legislation passed is going to become increasingly impossible, given the entrenchment of the routine filibuster.

"I beat the shit out of some kids today. But it was for a purpose. Made me feel good about myself."

[ 0 ] September 15, 2009 |

Dan Riehl is brave:

In the back were maybe ten or so black kids taking up that section of the car. There was no confrontation, just one or two of them talking loudly enough to make sure they’d be heard.

Without resorting to the poor diction it was along the lines of, these are the people who think Obama is the anti-Christ. That McCain he wasn’t chit. Obama’s going to be president as long as he wants, so these people better get used to it, etc. It went on but not really to a level that was so loud, or so confrontational that it needed to be addressed.

We just ignored them without much trouble at all.

Yeah, they were technically thugs. But the reality was they were still wannabes really, pretty young, not that big, or many. And if the several adults there for 9/12 actually needed to do something about it, the kids wouldn’t have lasted very long.

I won’t pretend to fathom the complex of mental and emotional pathologies that leads conservative white men to vocalize their fantasies about assaulting black kids. I suppose, though, it’s a good thing that none of these frightening young men decided to whistle at a white woman.

….UPDATE. Shorter Dan Riehl:

In Space, No One Can Hear the Internationale

[ 0 ] September 15, 2009 |

For some reason, I find this enormously fascinating:

Lenin told the British science fiction writer H.G. Wells, who interviewed him in the Kremlin in 1920, that if life were discovered on other planets, revolutionary violence would no longer be necessary: “Human ideas—he told Wells—are based on the scale of the planet we live in. They are based on the assumption that the technical potentialities, as they develop, will never overstep ‘the earthly limit.’ If we succeed in making contact with the other planets, all our philosophical, social and moral ideas will have to be revised, and in this event these potentialities will become limitless and will put an end to violence as a necessary means of progress.”
—Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2002)

I suppose it would be even more interesting to here from Marx on the question. This doesn’t seem all that materialist to me; how would the mere discovery of life on other planets transform the balance between classes, or shift ownership of the means of production? I think that Lenin is making an ideational argument, suggesting that the existence of other forms of life would change the landscape of ideas so completely that class warfare would become unnecessary. Or maybe there’s an implicit assumption that any race sufficiently advanced to be discovered by us would already have proceeded beyond class struggle.

See also Gary. Via SEK.

In Which I Agree Wholeheartedly with George W. Bush

[ 0 ] September 15, 2009 |

Wow. I doubt that we’ve yet fully grasped the enormity of the Sarah Palin VP pick, but the fact that she apparently was considered ill-prepared by George W. Bush is certainly a fascinating piece of the puzzle:

“I’m trying to remember if I’ve met her before. I’m sure I must have.” His eyes twinkled, then he asked, “What is she, the governor of Guam?”

Everyone in the room seemed to look at him in horror, their mouths agape. When Ed told him that conservatives were greeting the choice enthusiastically, he replied, “Look, I’m a team player, I’m on board.” He thought about it for a minute. “She’s interesting,” he said again. “You know, just wait a few days until the bloom is off the rose.” Then he made a very smart assessment.

“This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for,” he said. “She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let’s wait and see how she looks five days out.” It was a rare dose of reality in a White House that liked to believe every decision was great, every Republican was a genius, and McCain was the hope of the world because, well, because he chose to be a member of our party.

I suspect this revelation will only accelerate efforts to write George W. Bush out of the history of American conservatism. The wingnuts love them some Sarah…

Conservatism Can Never Fail, It Can Only Be Failed

[ 0 ] September 15, 2009 |

Shorter Verbatim Byron York: “Republicans have again found their voice on fiscal discipline. And some of them wish they had been more outspoken when a president of their own party was in the White House.” Yeah, amazing how that works, just like with Reagan! At least more Democrats seem to see through the bait-and-switch this time.

Leaving aside the obvious point that actually existing conservatism is both statist and has no particular interest in “fiscal discipline” when actually governing, note one major set of Bush policies that York manages to leave out of his summary of policies conservatives liked: Bush’s massive upper-class tax cuts. Which conservatives supported and continued to support with full knowledge that 1)there was no chance of a significant cut in middle-class entitlements, and 2)there would be a massive increase in defense spending that would vastly exceed any trivial savings from “pork-busting.” When you support tax cuts and spending increases, you don’t support “fiscal discipline,” end of story. In in this respect, Bush’s policies weren’t antithetical to American conservatives; they embodied American conservatism.

…Whoops, Cole beat me to it.

People who died

[ 1 ] September 14, 2009 |

R.I.P. Jim Carroll.

R.I.P. Jody Powell

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze.

Brutal day, though I suppose no more or less than all the others.