Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I Miss Republicans.

No, seriously. Remember Republicans? Sober men in suits, pipes, who'd nod thoughtfully over their latest tract on market-driven fiscal conservatism while grinding out the numbers on rocket science. Remember those serious-looking 1950's-1960's science guys in the movies -- Republican to a one.

They were the grown-ups. They were the realists. Sure they were a bummer, maaaaan, but on the way to La Revolution you need somebody to remember where you parked the car. I was never one (nor a Democrat, really, more an agnostic libertarian big on the social contract, but we don't have a party ...), but I genuinely liked them.

How did they become the party of fairy dust and make believe? How did they become the anti-science guys? The anti-fact guys? The anti-logic guys?

I'm not talking McCain, Hagel, Snowe, or Lugar, here, the cool hard-ass Republicans who still operate in the real world. I'm talking specifically about the guys running the party right now.

Stem cell research? Agin' it.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ..."-- Why not?
Biggest Surplus to biggest debt, even not counting the war? More tax cuts!
Post-war planning in one of the most divisive Arab communities in the world? Don't need it.
Global warming? No, no it's not.
No WMD's? So what? ... "So what?" SO WHAT?
Conservation? Bigger tax breaks for Hummers than hybrids.
Soldiers need more armor! No, no they don't. Nonny-nonny-nonny ...

Seriously, if I were writing these guys in a script, you'd mock me for stereotyping. And rightfully so. I know, I usually don't get overtly political here. But this is what set me off (via kos):

TEST OF U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE SHIELD FAILS

An attempt to launch an interceptor missile as part of the U.S. missile defence shield failed early Wednesday in the first test of the system in nearly two years ...

(EDIT: Please see this excellent Defense Tech article for the snark-free coverage of this test and its significance. Be sure to follow the link to Jeffrey's excellent article on Arms Control Wonk)

This test, by the way, was cancelled a few days ago because of rain. Because. Of. Rain. And please note that the previous few successes were because the target missle had homing beacons in them, tuned to the exact frequency of the intercepting rockets. Now, you may mock this, but even now, we are negotiating with Iran and North Korea to have all their missiles emit this radio frequency. So joke's on you.

This is what we get for about $100 billion up to now, with about another $100 billion more spent in the next 5 years ... for these test results.

You understand, I'm not against defense spending. I'm not going to rant about how many school lunches this could buy. I'm ranting about junk science.

$100 billion dollars against an attack mode which is literally the most inconvenient, least likely way for bad guys to kill Yanks. Terrorists don't have missiles. Terrorists have VANS. A white-panel-truck defense shield, THAT would be worth our money. Tie the INS database into the Ryder rental computer. Now we're talking science.

At $200 billion we could literally give every person in the Middle East a thousand bucks to look the other way, maybe buy some Nike knock-offs and chill*. If we Fermi Problem it, figuring on just men, 50% down, then just adult men between , say 17-40, knock it down a quarter, then assume fairly effective terrorists need a smattering of English and some technical knowledge, that's down to maybe 10% of our working number ... that's between $50,000 to $80,000 to every reasonably viable terrorist to go out and not vaporize himself. That's good money. That's "let's focus more on the inventing-algebra parts of Islam and slightly less on the jihad aspects while we watch the game on my new big-screen" money. Sure, you're gonna get your martyrs, but hey, that's what the Dept. of Homeland Security is for.

Yes, that suggestion is crazy. It also has EXACTLY THE SAME REAL-WORLD SUCCESS RATIO OF THE MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM.

I love how in these articles, the system is always quoted as designed to protect us " ... from rogue states such as North Korea ...". No. No, there are no rogue states "such as" North Korea. It's North Korea, guys. That's it. The only fighter in this weight class. China? They're our biggest foreign asset holder, please. Iran? Jerusalem should worry. The US, not so much . Russian loose nukes? More likely to be broken down for parts for a Van-Based Delivery System (TM) than not -- and year's worth of what we spend on missile defense would be a %2000 increase on what we spend on locking down loose nuclear materials now.

What, are the Phillipines suddenly gonna get all cranked up on non-drowsy cough medicine and decide to go postal on us with their shoddily-made fusion-bomb dancing dashboard figurines? No, when we say " ... rogue states such as North Korea", we mean North Korea. And that means Kim Jong-il. One guy. Simple, fifth-grade logic inexorably draws us to the conclusion that we are spending $200 billion dollars to protect ourselves from one guy.

I'll even SPOT you the argument that we should spend $200 billion on protecting ourselves from one guy. He is, after all, nuts. Probably not so nuts that he'd tip off his super-secret invasion of the southern half of his peninsula by nuking and therefore SUPREMELY pissing off the world's only remaining superpower before he got the tanks rolling, but fine. Nuts. Are you telling me there's no better way to spend $200 billion to stop one guy? What'd it cost the mob to whack Kennedy? $50,000 plus hotel? Even with cost-of-living increase, we can get a better deal here.

If there were a rash of break-ins ... no scratch that. Say there's a violent murder in your neighborhood. A really brutal slayfest. Blood on the walls, body parts on the lawn.

Your neigbor decides to take precautions. He leaves his doors and windows unlocked. He sits on the roof, armed with a SpongeBob SquarePants air-rifle, just in case the killers return and attack the house by hang-glider this time. And the air rifle doesn't work. And he spent EVERY DIME HE HAD on the air rifle.

You would of course, say your neighbor was insane. Or supremely stupid.

You do the rest.

My original point was -- Republicans used to be the guys who put the brakes on this shit. A sad chuckle, a little head shake. "Who's going to pay for this?" they'd say, frowning over national budgets. "Where are the facts? The research?" They'd take out their little red pens and buzzkill our little dreams of nationalized health care or solar-powered windmills or maglev trains, and then go back to banning pornography while secretly screwing around on their wives. But you know what? A lot of times, they were right.

We needed those guys. They were a dull but crucial part of the national dialogue. (And they knew their scotches. ) Now ... a void. Simply put, if you are voting for these guys who call themselves Republicans, then you are voting for crazy air-rifle guy. You just walked up, nodded, and said: "Wow, I gotta get me a ladder."

Please. Please. Bring back the real Republicans. Bring back the science guys. I miss you.


(*
Yes, I'm aware not all terrorists are Middle Eastern. But let's face it, the United States' defense policy isn't driven by its fear of Irish thugs and Basque with a grudge. Go with me here.)

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