Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A prelude to war? One can only hope.

This story includes a picture that's worth a visit. The US Navy is an impressive organization. If Iran's not worried, then they're even more irrational than they're given credit for.
This story outlines an IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program:

The brevity of the four-page report indirectly reflected the lack of progress agency inspectors had made clearing up unresolved issues, among them; Iran’s possession of diagrams showing how to form uranium into warhead form; unexplained uranium contamination at a research facility; information on high explosives experiments that could be linked to a nuclear program and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle.

"...form uranium into warhead form"? " of a missile re-entry vehicle"?

I'm left without words. Seriously.
I believe this is true, as a general statement: "the average high school student is an incompetent writer." I believe it, because as a father of two kids I've experienced the "quality" of the American public school system firsthand. I've also noticed a marked decrease in quality since moving to California from Illinois--the latter isn't great in this respect, but it's certainly better than the former.

Schools like the VanDamme Academy in Irvine, California are priceless. I only wish it weren't so far away.
I'm not usually into "Top X" lists, finding them often banal and unineresting. This one is no exception. Why is Google Apps Premier Edition the #1 technology of 2007 (particularly when 2007 still has a few months to go)?

You'll have to read the article to find out.
Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 3721 Diggs, is a bit ironic (poor capitalization aside), "IRONY: Anti-Cellphone Senator Crashes while talking on CELLPHONE." Personally, I use either a Bluetooth headset or a Bluetooth handsfree connection between my Sprint Treo 650 and G35, and so such legislation doesn't really impact me personally. And in the overall scheme of government intervention into private matters, it's a fairly insignificant example.

But, it's today's #1 Digg, so have at it.
I'm not sure why it's "bleak" that the EU-Russian forum ended in conflict over human rights issues. In fact, I think it's extremely encouraging. The West and Russia should be in conflict, or else the West has abandoned the little of its principles that it currently retains.
I dislike essays about how high income earners are good for the economy because they pay taxes. When they quote Ayn Rand in this context, I like them even less. This article redeems itself somewhat by pointing out that overall economic activity would be reduced if the productive (although he uses the term "innovator," which is a non-essential) were to quit producing. But, it still focuses too much on income tax payments, which is an evil in and of itself.
I don't think that Bernard Lewis was saying this at all in his recent WSJ op-ed. The point is not that "all Muslims" are violent butchers bent on destroying the West. At no time has any group been completely single-minded in its pursuit of another group's destruction (except perhaps the Nazis, but even they were "only" one aspect of a larger militaristic German culture); there are always those who buck the trend.

Rather, the point is that today, the principal threat to Western civilization comes from within the Muslim population and from certain aspects of Islamic philosophy. The real straw man is the idea that all Muslims are the problem, and it's typically raised precisely in response to one's pointing out that, in the current milieu of atrocities being conducted around the world, Muslims of one flavor or another are at the center of most of them. Articles such as the one linked above focus on knocking down the straw man to obfuscate the reality of contemporary Muslim crimes.

The fact is, there are those Muslims, such as bin Laden, who wish to rip down the Western world and replace it with an Islamic caliphate of their creation. It matters little whether this is due to religious determinism, revenge for past geopolitical events, or pure nihilistic disdain for the modern world. The dead victim of a suicide bomber remains just as dead.

Consider current events in Iraq, in particular the attacks against Iraqi citizens that are essentially worthless militarily. If the "insurgency" were a typical one, it would be just as concerned with protecting Iraqi lives as driving out the occupying American forces. Instead, the "insurgents" target either completely random civilian victims, to create as horrendous and newsworthy an event as possible, or they target other religious sects in what must be either a smokescreen to hide their true intentions or a demonstration of their underlying religious collectivism. Few of their attacks against military targets achieve anything but to bleed American support for the war. In all cases, the ultimate goal has nothing to do with Iraq, but is to drive America out of Iraq solely to claim a victory against the Great Satan (and/or, peripherally, to give one religious sect ascendancy over the other).

Given the long-term effect on their cause, namely that a group such as al Qaida can't get away with indiscriminate killing forever before even the radical imam must denounce them eventually, there must be a reason for such behavior. The only reason that makes sense is that the al Qaida leadership believes that America is too weak in character to take the necessary steps to crush them. Our ability to crush them militarily has already been demonstrated.

And so, one must conclude that Lewis is correct in his assertion that radical Islamists understand only strength, and respond to weakness precisely as in Iraq and elsewhere. Were we to have shown true strength at the very beginning of the conflict, then perhaps Iraq and the rest of the Middle East would be at least marginally more peaceful than it is today.
Of all the episodes, Monday night's Heroes season finale seemed the most steeped in altruist dogma. That was disappointing. Otherwise (and no spoilers, other than philosophically, for those four people who haven't yet watched the episode), but it was still good television. It was surprising, emotionally charged, and action-packed. It tied up some loose ends, provided some foreshadowing for next season, and in general satisfied, while leaving plenty of good material for another season (at least).

In philosophical terms, Heroes is a mixed bag. It's good vs. evil, as it should be, but it's an odd mix of true heroes and anti-heroes. While all of the good characters "mean well," some of them are fairly Milquetoaste-esqe, in particularly Peter, who's also the most powerful character. Of course, the entire show is based on a fantasy premise, and in that sense is inherently rational, but even allowing for that it's still all over the map philosophically.

On that basis, Firefly was much better (although the followup movie, Serenity, wasn't quite up to the same standards). But, I can't say that Firefly was that much better than Heroes, as far as pure entertainment goes. Both are outstanding examples of how television can be of high quality, although Heroes certainly enjoyed a far larger following.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Heroes, though, that separates it from most other shows is its Internet tie-ins. To fully understand the story, one must keep up with the comic book on the NBC Web site, as well as subscribe to the various text messages, phone calls, etc., that provide background information that supplements the show itself.

In this respect, Heroes might be a model for future entertainment, which will engage us on a number of levels via a variety of mediums. Whether this is a good thing remains to be seen. Entertainment is often a form of escapism for many people, and many won't embrace a show in so many different (and often time-consuming) ways. So far, the Heroes writers and producers have walked this fine line rather effectively, in that although one can enjoy a richer experience via the Internet, the show itself is good enough on its own.

In short, I'm very much looking forward to next season, which is testimony enough for me.
And so, I'm assuming from this story that Putin will "retain influence" over whatever puppet he puts in place, because he can always return to power later. He will maintain the illusion of stepping down, constitutionally, but in reality will remain in control. If that's not the definition of a true dictator, I'm not sure what is.

Good luck, America. With our current and foreseeable leadership, we're going to need it.