Are you protected from North Korea’s missiles?


So, perhaps you hear that North Korea has been threatening to test a missile that would have the range to reach the United States.  In response the United States, has placed its missile defense system on active status.  The thing about our missile defense system, though, is that it basically does not work.  It has been one of the largest black holes of taxpayer money since it was started by Reagan over two decades ago. 

Fred Kaplan has done a great job of covering this program for Slate.com.  As to what we know about the effectiveness of the missile defense based on testing, here's the summary:

“In the past six years of flight tests, here is what the Pentagon's missile-defense agency has demonstrated: A missile can hit another missile in mid-air as long as
a) the operators know exactly where the target missile has come from
and where it's going; b) the target missile is flying at a
slower-than-normal speed; c) it's transmitting a special beam that
exaggerates its radar signature, thus making it easier to track; d)
only one target missile has been launched; and e) the “attack” happens
in daylight.”


So, in short, the system is basically useless in the real world.

For more great coverage of the missile defense
system, check out more of Kaplan's stories
here

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Equal Time

So far, I consider the greatest success of my blog to be the fact that my wife, who really is not all that interested in politics (but is forced to know a ton due to being married to me), has been reading my blog and actually finding it interesting.  She mentioned that she agreed with a recent comment that maybe I should try and point out some failings of the Democratic party as well.  So, here's my story on that.

My blog is not here for equal time, I intend to write on the issues that 1) I feel strongly about; 2) my background in political science can potentially shed a little more light upon for the average reader; and, 3) of course, just stuff that I find cool (i.e., handedness and hair whorls). 

As a political scientist, the issues I feel most strongly about are democratic (not to be confused with Democratic) accountability and good public policy.  What I passionately want is for this country to be the best and can be, and thus the most well-functioning democracy that it can be.  Things that hurt our democracy, be they government being sold to the highest bidder, or the offensive and popular tirades of Ann Coulter receiving mainstream coverage, are what I want to change for the better.  I certainly have a liberal ideology on most issues.  I support more government action to soften the edges of capitalism and protect our most vulnerable citizens, more government action to regulate business in the interests of protecting the public good (as consumers and as residents of planet Earth), and government action to universalize access to health care, among my liberal attitudes.  But the truth is, these are largely matters of preference.  I do not expect people to agree with me on these issues and we can have reasonable disagreements about health care, government regulation, etc.  However, when it comes to a healthy democracy, this is a fundamental issue that goes beyond any partisanship.  When I criticize the president or the Republican party, it is usually not because I am a liberal and I disagree with him on approaches to issues like health care and social security it because they are doing things (i.e., Bush's unprecedented expansion of presidential power) which I believe are harmful to our democracy and especially the idea of democratic accountability.  If I do criticize a policy, it is based on either the selling of a policy through misinformation (i.e., the estate tax repeal) or the fact that by accepted standards of policy analysis, it just does not make sense.

Since these are my primary concerns, the majority of my criticism will be about President Bush and Republicans.  They have the power, they control all the branches of our government.  The Democrats are powerless to actually do anything for which I would be inclined to criticize them.  When, someday, Democrats are back in power, I'm sure I'll have more criticisms.  Though, I like to think that the fact that Democrats are generally not opposed to the idea of government means that they run government more competently. 

All that said, I did come across a recent column from Jon Chait that quite fairly takes a number of Democrats to task.  In addressing Democrats who support the Estate Tax repeal, he writes:

“Lord knows I'm no fan of Republican fiscal policy. But at least Republicans pretend
they have some vague future intention of slashing the hundreds of
billions of dollars from the budget it would take to balance out their
tax cuts, even if everybody knows it will never happen. Anti-estate tax
Democrats such as Lincoln, on the other hand, don't even have the
charade of fake spending cuts to hide behind.

So Lincoln doesn't want rich heirs to pay any inheritance tax on their
windfall. She wants middle- and lower-income workers to pay lower taxes
as well. And she doesn't want to slash the federal budget. So, who does
she want to pay more in taxes? This is the question estate tax foes who
aren't rabid conservatives never answer: Name the group of people who
you want to pay higher taxes so that the heirs of the very rich can pay
less. They don't answer because their vision of government is
incoherent.”

Okay, back to criticizing Republicans… 

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