Someone sent me an article today that they had found on the Heritage Foundation website. The article said that a recent poll conducted in New Hampshire by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance found that "when asked if the US should have a missile defense, 75 percent of 600 registered New Hampshire voters said it should."
There was of course no mention of who the 600 voters were, how they were selected, or exactly how the question was phrased. I replied, in part:
If you control the questions, you can get just about any answer you want.
For instance, if the only question you ask is: "Should we have a strong defense?" then of course the answer you'll get is "Of course we should." But there are a lot of other questions that deserve to be asked, and seldom are. Questions that in the past, the loyal opposition would ask. Newspapers and local broadcast media of every political stripe--often paired off against each other in major cities--would keep the debate alive, ensuring that the public would at least be aware of the questions.
Today, "loyal opposition" is treated as an oxymoron. Opposition is portrayed as disloyalty, and disloyalty to the President as treason--even by many commentators who showed about as much loyalty to the previous President as a piranha shows a water buffalo.
What happened to cause this change? Both print and broadcast media today are dominated by a few corporations whose sole interest is in making a profit (for which they can hardly be blamed--making a profit is, after all, a corporation's rightful purpose). These corporations have shown a remarkable, if predictable, tendency to curry favor from a government that can greatly enhance or detract from their profitability. Was it coincidence that a year ago, Clear Channel was sponsoring rallies across the country in support of the administration's march to war, while they lobbied the same administration to let them grab an even bigger share of the mass media than they already had? Sure it was--and I've got a bridge to sell you.
Anyway, here are some questions that you aren't likely to hear on Fox or Clear Channel, or read in the Wall Street Journal or at the Heritage Foundation website. Feel free to disagree with my answers, but do yourself the service of at least thinking about the questions.
Is Star Wars a strong defense? No. It doesn't exist today.
Will it ever be? That can't be answered without defining how strong, and even then it could only be speculated on.
Will it ever be 100% effective? Certainly not.
How effective is it expected to be? 90% is pretty optimistic.
Is 90% good enough? Again, that depends on the definition of good enough. On average, one out of every ten missiles would get through. There are hundreds of missiles aimed at us. Tens of hits is not an acceptable outcome. Even if we assume only one missile is launched, 90% effectiveness means there would be a 10% chance that it would get through. Would you start your car every morning if there were even a 1% chance that it would cause a relatively minor personal injury, say, a broken arm? Probably not.
If the cost to build a 90%-effective missile defense system could be used in some other way to reduce by 95% the probability of an attack occurring in the first place, would that be a more effective use of the money? If "more effective" means decreasing the probability of a successful nuclear attack against us, yes.
Is there a way to do that? I don't know. I think there are some good ideas out there.
Is it worth thinking about and talking about? You tell me.
Someone who had seen both the original article and my reply came back with, "I think you should gave said 'a piranha shows a bleeding, fallen water buffalo.' ...so in case of a reckless regime, is preemptive action to effect "regime change" a discussable option?
Of course, I said; in a free society every option is discussable. However, I think the best way to bring about regime change is to vote the reckless regime out by a big enough margin that Brother Jeb's machinations can't throw the election this time.
And then this evening, I heard the news: the Senate had passed the omnibus appropriations bill with a rider reinstating the Bush League's relaxation of media ownership limits. So much for the bipartisan blow to media oligopoly. Goodbye to media diversity, or what was left of it. Hello to more bushwa from the Bush League monolithic media; to less coverage of real issues and more parroting of the party line; to replacement of political dialogue with a "unipolar" propaganda monologue; and to more and more power of the right wing to control the answers by controlling the questions.