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Friday, July 14, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Juvenile

Heheh. Boobies.

Er. Sorry. It’s entirely possible that I’m missing the point.

A Good Defense

Missile defense took one step closer to being a functional reality yesterday--a reality that would give us an extra measure of protection from countries like Iran and North Korea in their race for nuclear armaments. Just as vitally, it would open military options that we are hesitant to use while vital interests remain vulnerable to attack.

With a defense system that could eliminate the threat from petty dictators stuck with technology that we bypassed decades ago, the United States could play a much more aggressive form of diplomacy in facing off against those irrational actors who we believe would put their countries at risk by attacking us with chemical or nuclear tipped missiles. We could also extend that same protection to our allies like Japan and Israel.

The people who spoke against funding defense technology usually relied on three arguments to support their position:

  1. The system will never work
    The system is inching closer to doing precisely what it is supposed to do. That is, protect assets from the older missile technologies deployed by “rogue” regimes. If there is little chance of a strike doing damage, what cause would North Korea, for instance, have to actually launch an attack that would doubtless provoke the United States into a response. A response that would be devastating to our enemy? Yesterday’s test proved just how close we are to having that capability.
  2. The modern threat doesn’t come from missiles
    The missile threat didn’t go away just because the old Soviet Union fell down. The only thing that did was remove the only enemy who had kept even close to our pace in military technologies. But, without the defense, a nuclear weapon striking Los Angeles is a nuclear weapon striking Los Angeles and the delivery method is hardly a factor. The rush for Iran and North Korea to use their nuclear programs to solidify their regional political ambitions has proven that the threat is still very real.
  3. And it would be provocative to put such a system in place
    It’s provocative to not have a defense. It practically invites every thug and dictator around the world to fund a nuclear weapons program that will keep the “West” from thwarting whatever goals they have for regional domination.

Our continued security and prosperity hinges not only on our ability to project power around the globe, but also in our ability to protect our friends and our vital assets here at home. THAAD is just one piece of a much larger construct that will, hopefully, allow the United States to do precisely that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hezbollah’s War of Choice

This from The New Republic:

What has been clarified by this round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, first and foremost, the character of Israel’s adversaries. They are Islamist terrorists, and proud to be so. More ominously, they are Islamist terrorists come to power. Hamas is no longer only a movement; it is now also a government. In the months since Hamas was elected by the Palestinians to govern (or misgovern) them, the regime of Ismail Haniyeh and company has presided over the launching of hundreds of Qassam rockets into Israel, applauded a suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv restaurant (it would have been hypocritical of them not to applaud it!), allowed an unprecedented escalation of the conflict with the firing of a souped-up rocket into Ashkelon--the first time such a strike has been made against a major Israeli city--and, of course, kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit. All of this, again, is the work of a government. When Hamas was elected, there was an eruption of assurances in the media that power will breed responsibility, that the drudgeries of governing will usurp the ecstasies of bombing, and so on. “Hamas?” the headline on the cover of The New York Review of Books asked hopefully. But the Hamas rulers of Palestine have made it plain that they see no contradiction between governing and bombing. Success at the ballot box has had no calming effect. It has merely conferred political legitimacy upon moral depravity.

What confounds me more than anything, what boggles my mind in ways that I can’t find a reliable way to relate, is that this latest overture to war happened during a period where Israel was showing a willingness to compromise and a sincere desire for peace. Which fact can do nothing other than lead an observer to believe the most devestating of apparent truths: Hamas does not want peace. Hamas can’t claim to want a diplomatic solution to this decades-old conflict while they encourage attacks and incursions.

Hamas wants Israel and the Jews run out of the Middle East--and too many countries in the region are willing to quietly support that cause.

So while we watch this play out (hoping that calm can come again and that a lasting peace can somehow be found), we can’t help but wonder what other course of action is open to Israel. If there are wars of choice and wars of necessity, this battle doesn’t seem to be one of Israel’s choosing, but Hezbollah and its patrons continued provocation with their eyes wide open. The terrorists once again chose the war--and once again, some European nations show what can best be described as a confused stance:

Reflecting Western disagreement over the Mideast escalation—France’s foreign minister called Israel’s response, which included bombing Beirut’s airport, a ‘’disproportionate act of war,’’ and said he supported Beirut’s calls for the U.N. Security Council to intervene.

The European Union also called the Israeli response ‘’disproportionate.’’ ‘’The presidency deplores the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure,’’ said a statement issued by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency. ‘’The imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified.’’
[...[
‘It’s really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress (for peace). As a matter of fact, it’s pathetic.’’ German Chancellor Angela Merkel—speaking along with Bush at a news conference in Stralsund on Germany’s north coast—appealed for restraint from both sides in the Mideast. But she suggested they did not share equal blame, noting that the violence began with the kidnapping.

It is hard to imagine that this--barring the return of the Israeli hostages--will end soon. In fact, given that the terrorists who kidnapped the soldiers are sincerely devoted to prolonging their war against Israel, it is hard to imagine that any of this will come to any kind of a happy ending.

Update: Michael Ledeen’s take seems particularly on the mark to me. Depressingly so.

No one should have any lingering doubts about what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted “insurgency” in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

In Praise of Open Source

I am in the middle of putting together a Web site in both traditional and simplified Chinese. The client has supplied Word docs with the translations and it has been my task to put together the html that mirrors their current site. Sounds simple, no?

No.

I found that Word can be a little persnickety about Chinese language and that Adobe GoLive doesn’t display Chinese language text worth much of a damn. So, these two pro apps actually made it hard for me to do my job. Not impossible, just more difficult than it needed to be.

Luckily for me, two open source apps filled my needs. Even with their incomplete feature sets and imperfect interfaces, these two applications handled the Chinese language text much more easily (and, in the case of the HTML editor, faster) than the applications that cost me more than any of the computers that I’m running them on.

The two applications:

NeoOffice, a port of OpenOffice for Mac OS X, and NVU, a off-shoot of Netscape’s old integrated basic Web development utility. While they both have their limitations (NeoOffice is awfully slow and doesn’t perfectly import all Microsoft Office documents without glitches and NVU has a clumsy interface, for example) they will both always be in my own personal developer’s arsenal.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

From Crude, Vile and Vaguely Threatening Commentary to Victimhood in 6 Seconds Flat

Goldstein rubs some people the wrong way and that isn’t surprising. He’s a fiery personality and his commentary doesn’t pull a lot of punches. So, the fact that Deb Frisch wouldn’t like the guy isn’t a shock. That she would write the vile, vaguely threatening, and disturbingly sexual comments about Jeff’s wife and kids (who are both wonderful people completely undeserving of that kind of attack) is shocking as hell. That she would then retreat to a place of hypocritical victimhood is, unfortunately, typical.

Sick little woman.

Follow the links from here to get the whole story.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 5.5: The Summer Edition

That’s right, it’s time.

Start clearing your schedule for the night of booze and brilliant conversation (and the next morning of hangover and mild regret). The specifics are still falling into place, so keep watching here and at Andy’s for more information. Banners and graphics--so you can kindly help publicize the event--will be coming along this week.

And don’t forget to RSVP so we have a good idea of who is coming.

Now, with that in mind, have a wonderful Independence Day. Stay safe, try not to blow your fingers off, eat something barbecued, and don’t forget to spare a moment considering what America’s independence has meant for you and for the world.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Superman Returns: The Superest Review Ever

If you’ve read the reviews you already know the basic premise of Superman Returns: this movie takes place in the same chronology as the previous films (ignoring things like advanced technologies and an obvious disconnect in the actual time line since the previous movies were all stuck in the United States of a few decades ago. Superman absented himself from our planet to visit the remains of his home world, hoping to find some connection to his birth world.

His return finds him an introverted, more complex character brooding over his place on our planet. Of course, this is still a Superman movie, so the brooding remains relatively light (even, ahem, sunny). It doesn’t help his disposition to come back to find that Lois Lane has become a mom and is living with another man.

Aside from that, the movie is filled with the normal Superman activities: rescuing damsels, stopping planes from falling to the ground, and posing very manfully while thwarting the evil plans of Lex Luthor. Good fun.

I’m not a Superman fan—from the comic books to the earlier movies, he’s always been too much of a good guy and far too powerful—so my knowledge of the mythology is incomplete and my care for propriety is even less impressive. I just showed up for the entertainment value and the knowledge that this is one of those summer films that absolutely requires viewing on the big screen; watching it on DVD just wouldn’t be the same.

Now, the review:

The Beginning Just isn’t so Super
The first twenty minutes or so are pretty slow. I was questioning whether I had made a good choice in dragging my girlfriend along. She was skeptical from the beginning and the pace and wooden acting of the opening scenes weren’t very encouraging.

Luckily, from the moment Superman performs his first super-deed, the pace picks up and the stilted early going was forgiven.

Superman is a Super Stalker
The love triangle that leaves Superman on the outside, wishing he could be with the reporter he loves, shows a gently jealous side of Superman that borders on the demented when it crosses over the line into stalkerdom. Which, in the service of giving us more depth and humanity in our alien superhero, works well in its context; which, considering his x-ray vision, super strength, and ability to be almost anywhere in the world in just a few moments time seems seriously unfair to the other masculine side of the triangle.

Lois isn’t Such a Super Mom
She’s late to pick up her kid, she leads him into danger, she apparently doesn’t ever take him to get haircuts…

But Kevin Spacey is a Super(b) Lex Luthor
Superb. While Gene Hackman was fun in a campy way, Spacey really brings the character to life. He is wonderfully evil.

Super(ior) Special Effects Make Superman Better
Watching the earlier movies now is a reminder of just how far special effects have come over the last thirty years. Everything looks more real and some of the shots border on the artistic. But the effects don’t get in the way of the characters or the story.

Of course, one of my favorite touches wasn’t much of a special effect at all: using the Marlon Brando archive footage for Jor-El was a nice touch. Brando—rightfully—has been roundly mocked for the money he demanded to take, essentially, an extended cameo role in Superman: The Move. Still, his voice and delivery were top notch and using his archive footage for this go ‘round brought some extra warmth and depth.

Still, Not Quite a Super Movie
Somehow, with all the pluses, it still isn’t quite a great movie for me—just a damned good one. Perhaps it hinges on the fact that it’s still a Superman movie. Or maybe it was that I couldn’t completely forgive the first twenty minutes. Or was it that the action didn’t flow in as compelling way as I expected or that Lex Luthor’s big, evil scheme didn’t really rope me in. It could just be that Superman—with the TV shows, the movies, and the comics—has been done so many times that I’m overly familiar with the pop icon even while not well-versed in the canonical mythology of the comic books.

And, let me say, the “Passion of the Superhero” parallel was just this side of disturbing. Salvation in blue tights isn’t the most comfortable fit.

I truly enjoyed the movie and would urge the rest of the class to take a few hours out of their summers to revel in this new look at a very old superhero. It was worth the eight bucks—but I doubt that I’ll ever watch the movie again. Contrast that with Batman Begins, the second Spider Man, and the first two X-Men movies and you’ll understand why I can’t quite go as far as to say that this was a super movie. Just a pretty damned good one.

In Reference to the Global Warming “Consensus”

From the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, Richard S. Lindzen:

So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.
First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists--especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a “moral” crusade.

Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce--if we’re lucky.

Again, I say, before giving in to the hysteria of the eco-doomsayers, we need to have a better understanding of the causes and effects of global warming. Before enacting “remedies”, we also need to have a more clear idea of what our actions will accomplish and what their costs will be.

Read the rest.

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