Friday, February 2, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: SotU and Other Stories

Apologies up front.  I’ve been trying to do less politics on the blog, but with the State of the Union, that didn’t happen this week.  Worse, a lot of the best analysis has come out of the Opinion pages, so…  
Well, you will no doubt deride this week's piece as #FakeNews from a “triggered libtard.”  That’s fine.  I’ve been called worse.

Yet, there is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind? And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?
Americans are much more likely to support war with North Korea
if they don't actually know where Korea is.
Some have argued the risks are still worth taking because it’s better that people die “over there” than “over here.” On any given day, there are 230,000 Americans in South Korea and 90,000 or so in Japan. Given that an evacuation of so many citizens would be virtually impossible under a rain of North Korean artillery and missiles (potentially laced with biochemical weapons), these Americans would most likely have to hunker down until the war was over.
While our population in Japan might be protected by U.S. missile defenses, the U.S. population in South Korea, let alone millions of South Koreans, has no similar active defenses against a barrage of North Korean artillery (aside from counterfire artillery). To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.
Cha’s op-ed actually came out before the State of the Union, and it was legitimately terrifying. He wrote this immediately following an interview with the Administration after which he was passed over for Ambassador to South Korea despite receiving a strong South Korean endorsement because he himself refused to endorse what’s being called a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea (DPRK). The whole thing is worth a read, but the worst part by far is his implicit assumption that Americans generally don’t give a crap how many South Koreans and Japanese die in the--apparently inevitable--nuclear war with the DPRK.
The idea that we would put literally tens of millions of Koreans at risk with a first strike is honestly unfathomable to me.  I mean, why in Hell are we in Korea now if we’re just going to blow the country up later?  Would it not be easier--and smarter--to blow up the country without having our own soldiers on the ground?  Honestly, the whole thing reminds me of the early run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  Experts knew what was going to happen then, too, but the Administration refused to listen, and look how that turned out.
Fifteen years on, and we’ve learned nothing.  If anything, the experts are even more discredited than they were in 2002-03.  All the scientists and experts and whomever--all those folks with too much book-learnin’--they’re are all in on it with the “failing media” and the #FakeNews.  Hell, we can’t even have a conversation anymore.
Look, I get it.  The fallout is going to hit California, and anything that’s bad for California must be good for Real Americans.  Never mind that California grows half our food and accounts for about 10% of the national economy.  Because fuck them, for real.  Am I right?
He said he would bring Republicans and Democrats together around a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan “to give us the safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve.” And he dared Democrats to rejects what he called a “down-the-middle compromise” on immigration where “nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.”
Assuming that we somehow don’t trigger WW3, the president laid out two policy planks in the State of the Union, and despite my personal antipathy for the man, these were planks with which I was personally ready to agree.  Granted, no one was taking my advice on the matter, but really, the Administration should have done infrastructure first, and the country as a whole should’ve passed comprehensive immigration reform back when Bush Jr proposed it the first time.
That didn’t happen.
The problem now is that we’ve already passed tax cuts, and those make either of these other things totally impossible.  There’s just no money anymore, and without money, I don’t see how we get to a compromise anywhere else.  How do you trade This for That when you’ve already given This away?  Honestly, this Administration is worse than the Obama Administration in terms of talking to hear itself talk.
There are many Republicans wary of a second term for Mr. Trump, and yet right now they are entirely reliant on the Democrats to deliver a winning centrist candidate out of a primary process that almost made Bernie Sanders their 2016 nominee. A contest between Mr. Trump and a liberal Democratic candidate like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would leave the middle up for grabs. And a big contingent of politically orphaned political strategists, academics and donors would be ready to lend support.
I certainly am, but no one’s listening to me.
Marvel has a third movie coming out later this year that is getting a little bit overshadowed. Ant-Man and the Wasp is the follow-up to 2015’s Ant-Man with the obvious selling point being that Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) has taken over for her mother as The Wasp and now gets equal billing.

I’m a little surprised that they didn’t give the Wasp top billing.  And also that they seem to be setting her up explicitly as Ant-Man’s sidekick.  Granted, the movies are not the comics, but the Wasp is a much more important character in Avengers history than Ant-Man is.
New film looks good, though.
5. An Army Quarterback Throwing a Football
Been holding this one since just after Christmas.  It’s Army QB Kelvin Hopkins (@FindingExcuses) working out after the bowl game victory.  It’s not especially apropos this week, but we’ve still a few days until lacrosse starts, so…

My main takeaway from Army T Brett Toth’s experience at the Shrine Game and then the Senior Bowl has been that Army has a lot of players with a lot more talent than they get credit for having at the national level.  This does not necessarily mean that they could all potentially be draft picks, but it does mean that they should be expected to compete at a high level next year, even against good teams.
Alas, I don’t love next year’s schedule, but that’s a story for another day.
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That’s all I’ve got.  Do I still have any readers?

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