The Blue Raccoon

Friday, September 26, 2008

Disappointing Debate

Image: Lord of the Rings Movie Shots.

The electorate last night was sent down the river and asked to gawk up at these two candidates who performed in a fashion that wouldn't have persuaded anybody who hasn't already made up their minds. I was disappointed that there weren't greater and wider differences between the two of them. And as a nation, we're preparing to go over the falls with one.

Before any members of the billion-eyed audience want to hurl virtual tomatoes, hear me out.

I was more confused than enlightened by this debate between McCain and Obama in Oxford, Mississippi, hyped by the media like a Ali-Frazier bout, or an Idiocracy scene. The two debaters seemed tone deaf to the tenor of the times.

Jim Lehrer urging them to speak directly to each other was annoying, as was the disconcerting number of times Our Mr. Change agreed with Foxy Grandpa, or the way in which the oldster tried clucking his tongue about how the kid doesn't know the difference between strategy and tactics. (Actually, it was and is a magazine, if you were a war gamer back when).

I was neither impressed nor reassured that the Old One will be overcome. And I almost threw something at the television when he got indignant about his record, recalling that he'd won no "Miss Congeniality" awards in the Senate, and was known as "The Sheriff." Why, why no mention was made of his involvement with the Keating Five (not a R & B group from the 1960s) and the savings and loan debacle, a foreshadowing of the Fun House Hall of Mirrors show we're going through now. Yes, McCain ended up accused of just "poor judgment" and he contributed money he'd earned from the scandal to the U.S. Treasury, but even he's admitted that the affair will probably be on his tombstone. If you care to, you can read a 2000 clarifying piece about the Keating Five here.

A statement Obama made I think two days ago at the Mayflower Hotel was quite true, though. In four months, one of them will be inheriting this mess.

Obama didn't really get to score major points; McCain smirked and crackled like the villain in a 19th century melodrama, and at certain angles gives me a weird impression of resembling the elder Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin, for the record, is funnier. Obama handled himself quite well, though some of his positions, frankly, surprised me.

The basic fundamentals were frightful. Obama thinks sending more troops to Afghanistan will accomplish anything. That section of the world has humbled numerous grand plans. The British and the "Great Game" failed, as did the Soviet Union, as you can read in this prescient 2001 Slate article.

No mention was made of Pakistan, and how they've been firing upon our helicopters, and it's as if the Bush administration is just looking for an excuse to get us into some other international imbroglio. Because in the next few weeks, if, say, Pakistan takes down a U.S. gunship, or, if Russia decides to move against Ukraine just as they did Georgia --what will we do about any of these events? Neo-cons and hawks on this side would love it; meaning our old Cold War nemesis had returned in a different guise, and further buttressing the condition of Permanent War.

So then there's the notion of Iran as a rogue state; but, Obama did make the point that if we'd not smashed Iraq to pieces, we wouldn't have a resurgent Iran, flexing its muscles because--he could've added-- from where they sit, they are getting surrounded. This is why diplomacy, as Obama advocates, is important.

Then the whole Billion Dollar Bailout of the Wall Street banks. McCain is all for it and I think Obama, grudging in a way, is also, though with quibbles about parts of the plan --which isn't even agreed upon yet and far from implementation. One of them should've loudly and without equivocation called bullshit on the whole damn thing.

Obama made me sit up from my debate doze when he mentioned missile defense in a favorable way -- the Strategic Defense Initiative is like never-ending war in itself. There's no end to this; a huge money pit working with technology that does not operate. Talk about billions spent for no result! You can start with the science fantasy of missile defense.

SDI has lerched through backstage of U.S. military planning since the Regan administration like some crazy clumsy robot that having started cannot be stopped. Through perverse bureaucratic logic, money keeps getting spent to prove that the previous money wasn't wasted. Missile defense is the height of folly, though not as stupid as giving Wall Street bankers a trillion dollars.

I'll lift from an April post:

"Dr. Evil's Radar Installation
Though I've written about this many posts ago, in view of this horrific situation in the world, I thought this 2006 piece from Brad DeLong's blog Grasping Reality With Both Hands is as good as any an indication of the warped-beyond-understanding consensus reality that the U.S. operates under in these critical days:

Nuclear Armageddon-Prevention Blogging

His name is Stross. Charles Stross. And he writes about the X-band radar system:

Charlie's Diary: Paging Dr Evil (or, Who designs these things, anyway?): The Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars" program) has, since Ronald Reagan announced it more than 20 years ago, cost the US government more than US $100Bn.... There are about ten interceptor missiles available, and the current goal of the project is to pop a cap in the ass of any rogue state that tries to destroy the United States by launching a single 1950s-vintage ICBM with a single warhead and no countermeasure capability.... However, there is one leetle weakness in the BMD program. To hit a missile with a missile requires fairly accurate radar -- it entails accurately tracking a target the size of a dustbin at a range of several thousand kilometres -- and so they've also developed an appropriate radar system. The sea-based X-band radar system... looks as if it sailed in out of a Bond movie: a $900M fifty thousand tonne offshore platform with a 1800 ton radar installation on top of it, it's designed to sit in the ocean near the Aleutian islands and spot incoming sub-orbital trash cans and guide the rocket interceptors into the target.

Unfortunately, there's a problem with it.... [A]ny budding Doctor Evil can ensure the success of his orbital mind control lasers or terrorist ICBMs by... sending... a 1950s vintage Whisky class diesel-electric submarine to poke a pointy stick through the eyes of the ballistic missile defense system. Which is, you will notice, not exactly mounted on a vessel that's capable of fighting off a bunch of Malacca Straits pirates.... I don't know about you, but I'm coming to the conclusion that the Pentagon subcontracted this job to the same guys that James Bond's enemies always hired to design their headquarters -- you know, the one with the prominently labelled SELF DESTRUCT button. (That would be Halliburton and Brown & Root, right?) I mean, what other explanation is there...?

I am told that the vulnerability of the X-band radar to pretty much anything with explosives, and the absence of two rotating carrier battle groups to protect it would be a serious defect in the system--if it worked, and if it couldn't be spoofed.

But I am also told that it doesn't work. And that it can be spoofed. So the vulnerability of the radar problem is only a third-order flaw in the system as it stands."

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