Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

This is a list I got turned on to from Scott over at Spiritual Tramp and decided I'd take a gander.  My results and analysis are below. Bold is what I've eaten.  Regular text is what I haven't.  Strikethrough is what I refuse to eat.
The Omnivore’s Hundred:
1.  Venison
2.  Nettle tea
3.  Huevos rancheros
4.  Steak tartare
5.  Crocodile
6.  Black pudding - don't know what this is, but sounds like congealed blood.  No thanks.
7.  Cheese fondue
8.  Carp
9.  Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB and J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - I wouldn't drink it, but I would totally make some killer sauce or something out of it.
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV - only if it was good for cooking
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef - the most amazing beef I've ever had by a good amount.
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

57 different things on this list, that's not too shabby.  I do consider myself a foodie and I get a chance to try all kinds of different things.  Anybody else willing to give this the lookover?  (originally from Lyndonology)

Game Theory and McCain's Veep Pick

Right now all the scuttlebutt out there is seemingly pointing to a McCain-Romney ticket.  I can definitely see both the advantages and disadvantages of that option. 
Romney's younger, he's dynamic, he's an economic powerhouse (in the sense that he's a very successful CEO), he's got an entire voting bloc by the proverbial short hairs in that I think a good majority of them feel that he is the fulfillment of the White Horse ProphecyI mean, he got 90+% of the Utah vote.  I think he's probably going to do that nationwide with Mormons.
Romney's a Mormon (doesn't play well in the Bible Belt), he's done some flipping and flopping, and Taxachusetts doesn't seem like they like his Universal Health Care that much.
At the same time, from a voting bloc perspective, I don't know that he's a negative.  Sure, McCain will lose votes in the South, but the only state where that matters is Virginia.  It doesn't matter in Florida, but the other states are solid enough that McCain could get defections and be okay.  At the same time, Romney helps him a lot in Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, and perhaps California.  That doesn't mean that he'll deliver all those states, but he'll certainly make McCain far more competitive there, to the point where the electoral math could very well fall McCain's way.  I'd consider Romney the safe choice, even though choosing a Mormon doesn't seem like that would be the case.
What I would like to see however is something that is far more risky, but could blow the thing wide open.  McCain would either win by a landslide or lose by a landslide.  That pick is Joe Lieberman, former Democratic Veep choice and current Independent Connecticut Senator. I know that this would cause a lot of conservatives to throw a conniption fit, but think about it for a minute.  Most of the nation defines itself in the middle of the political spectrum.  Sure, they're not "the base" or even terribly active in politics.  You don't have any blowhards out there on radio or TV spreading the moderate gospel, but those voices are there.  They got John McCain elected as the Republican candidate and they are a force to be reckoned with.  They're the people who were initially enticed by Obama's message of change.  What better weapon could McCain pull out of his arsenal other than some actual change - for the first time in the history of the Republic, a major party ticket would have moderates from each party on the ticket.  Lieberman brings some demographic advantages (he sews up Florida and could perhaps make New England/New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania competitive or even Red) that I think outweigh his negatives (low GOP turnout in their current strongholds).  Let's face it, the Republican base isn't satisfied with McCain as their standard bearer to begin with.  Putting Romney or Ron Paul on the ticket won't change that.  Their beef is with McCain the moderate - as though being moderate is somehow a completely unacceptable option.  Let me tell you, I'm sick of Republicans who want to throw everyone out of the party who doesn't fit their definition of the party.  Let anyone who wants to be a Republican be a Republican.  If you don't agree with their politics, vote for someone who you do agree with.  Don't throw your vote to the other side of the aisle in hopes that the other guy will get elected, thus making conditions perfect for you to say "I told you so" to everyone else.  Anyway, end rant.  
Lieberman would be amazing, and even though I don't agree with his politics on a lot of issues, I know that he and McCain are very good friends and would work together well even though they are in different parties.  This more than just about anything else I can think of would have the potential to energize people about the political process again and perhaps turn things around to the point where you'd get more involvement and turn the tide.  In the process, I think it'd get McCain elected.  Of course, he might not be, but it would shake things up and that's what I think we need a little more of.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lifestyles of the Powerful Pizza Eaters

A friend of mine tipped me off on this yesterday at our weekly BBQ, but apparently Utah State Sen. Curt Bramble has had a run-in with a pizza delivery person.  I actually like Sen. Bramble and his family and I actually quite like Nicolitalia (the pizza place that wouldn't take his personal check) too, so I've got no truck in this little tiff, but I find it hilarious.  I also find it amazing how far this has the local newsmedia, to Sen. Bramble's Wikipedia page (under PizzaGate), and actually out all the way to DailyKos, which is not a great place to end up with a little tiff like this if you want your career to keep moving forward.  Take a look at the OP and see what you think.

Spoilers Gone Wild!

This is a new series I'll launch as I think that most aftermarket spoilers look ridiculous  Some are better than others, but most are ridiculous.  For example, this Acura that I parked behind.  It's not too bad, but it's still too big for the car, even though the owner thinks it looks pretty cool.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Checking Out

Self checkouts are one of the greatest and worst things to ever come to a grocery store.  If you know what a UPC is or a UPC scanner and you have just a few items, it's a huge time saver.  For example, if this is your shopping cart:

Then you're in the right line, because even if you're a moron and can't work the scanner, you can get through in less than 5 minutes.  On the other hand, if this is your cart:

(Yes, that's 2+ shopping carts full of stuff that they're sending through self checkout) Then you're a moron.  That's when you choose what I like to call the "full service" line when someone trained in scanning stuff through a UPC scanner and bagging it will assist you.  Even if you're a former cashier yourself (as I raise my hand) it's impossible to get through faster using self checkout in this situation because the barcode scanners are slower on the self checkouts and because of all the little audits and checks that the system does to prevent you from stealing.  This isn't anything like what they had in mind when they created these things.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mr. Baseball

While I was in Cleveland I had a chance to go to my first Major League Baseball game.  The first time was supposed to be a Yankees-Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium but thanks to the general dickiness of Mother Nature, that didn't happen.  At any rate, I went to the stadium and got an excellent seat:
This wasn't just any seat mind you.  This was a seat that came with a license to eat as much as 10 Somalis.  They had almost everything you could imagine: pizza, pasta, soda, water, peanuts, popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream, bratwurst, nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad, and carved meats.  Add on to that all the condiments you can carry, and you've got yourself a recipe for a bunch of fat guys.  I was relatively moderate with my:
bratwurst/fries/onion rings platter
 ice cream
and of course all the beverages I could drink.
One thing that wasn't all you could freely have was booze, and I think that's the wise move.  Part of that is because I have a general idea what free liquor would do to a crowd and to the pedestrians after the game.  Part of that is because of one of the best parts of the game: 2 guys from Philly sitting right behind me.  They started out pretty funny.  The wife got a call, and she wanted the guys to be quiet.  Well, that didn't sit well with them because they were a) loud and b) fueled with liquid courage.  They decided that if they had to be quiet, so did 35,000 other people.  So one of them gets up and he shouts "hey everybody, be quiet - she's got a phone call!"  That was pretty funny I have to say.  What wasn't funny was the ensuing 2 innings.  That joke got pounded into the ground in ways that were typically reserved only for the really bad David Letterman jokes.  Eventually after their 20th and 21st beers, they started getting really loud and swearing like sailors.  If you want to swear, that's fine...but the children, somebody please think about the children!  The wife did and that drug out the phone bit for another inning as they tried to justify their fowl mouths by saying that at least they didn't talk on the phone during a baseball game, as though those things were moral equivalents.
Finally they left for some reason or another in the 5th inning and I never heard from them again.
The rest of the game was quite entertaining.  I expected an Angels blowout, but it wasn't to be.  The game was close enough that a group of people even decided to try and start the wave, which was promptly thrown down by everybody else in the stadium.  They kept trying, but not long enough for me to get a great picture.
At the end of the day, the game ended after an Indians rally in the 7th that ended up burying the Angels.
The players gathered on the field afterwards in some sort of line fiesta that showed they didn't do much winning.  They also shook hands with the other team.
Thus ended my first MLB game, and I'm ready to hit another when I get a shot

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Holy Terrible Movie, Batman!

I just saw The Dark Knight again tonight and it got me thinking about that ill-fated last movie of the last Batman generation, Batman and Robin.  After seeing this lowlight reel, I am starting to think that it might be worse than the Adam West Batman.  Take a look:

For the record, this is why I hated George Clooney for 5 years. It took repeated viewings of O Brother, Where Art Thou to redeem him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When Bad Marketing Attacks

I came across this country club today:
I've heard of Four Seasons, which makes complete sense (Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring).  It's a very nice hotel, and I think the guy who started this must've thought that if it was Five Seasons, that'd be even better.  Unfortuntely, with the fifth season still TBA I have a few suggestions.  Perhaps either Smarch or Construction would be appropriate.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cleveland: Not Philadelphia

So I'm in Cleveland for some training.  Alas, there aren't any convention center carpets for Mickel to look at, but I was expecting this to be about as fun as chewing broken glass.  I was talking with my wife yesterday about what we thought Cleveland would be like.  The first thing we both thought of was Philly.  I'm sure that there are a lot of things to love about the City of Brotherly Love, Ben Franklin, and Rocky - but we never saw them.  Instead we drove through a neighborhood between I-95 and Independence Hall that left us looking straight ahead and hoping that we'd still have a car after we saw the sights. 
Cleveland on the other hand, has been quite nice, relatively speaking.  The city has one of those gentrified feels to it, where the older buildings aren't tenement housing or grafittied husks, but places for hip people to live.  I've been told to avoid Prospect Square at night (so named because of the johns who get picked up here) as well as a lot of the East Side.  Nevertheless, as I look across at Jacobs Field, I think that this is actually pretty nice.  I feel safe and there's some cool architecture here, including more old school cathedrals than you can shake a stick at.  I have seen cathedrals with Baroque, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance influence here, and that's quite amazing.  In addition, the homes look like A Christmas Story.  It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goading the Bear

It looks like the Soviet Union is back.  Not in Communist form, but rather as a quasi-Capitalist bully of nations around it.  They are currently invading former Soviet state Georgia under a somewhat false pretense - protecting Russian citizens in two breakaway Georgian provinces.  These Russian citizens are actually Georgian citizens who were given Russian citzenship, ostensibly to give the Russians pretext for an attack.  With Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili heading the most pro-US government among former Soviet states, it seems like he is being targeted as an example to others to not mess with the Russians.
The way I see it, the US has a couple of options.  1. Jawbone the Russians to death.  This is what the US is currently doing, and it's not doing one thing.  2. Help the Georgians.  This isn't just giving them daily affirmations, this is actually putting bodies on the ground.  We have over 100,000 troops in theater right now, along with USAF squadrons and carrier battle groups.  These are assets that we could use to protect Georgia's sovereignty.  Of course, they would have to have an extremely limited mandate.  We wouldn't want to have A-10 Warthogs attacking troop columns within Russia or else something regional will suddenly turn into World War III.  Because of the current position of the front lines though, that shouldn't be an issue.  I think I would let the Russians know that if they don't pull back to South Ossetia, Russia, and Abkhazia, we would attack their front lines.  Of course, this isn't something that will ever happen because we're not willing to fight Russia to protect Georgia.  Sen. McCain said we should at least take Russia out of the G-8 in a symbolic slap in the face.  In addition, Sen. Obama called for stopping their entry into the WTO, another good step.  I think that's the minimum that we have to do.  We could also immediately add Ukraine and Georgia to NATO.  That should stop them thanks to NATO's mutual defense pact.  That is highly unlikely because it's committing the nations of Europe to a path of possible war with Russia, which would come with some serious complications, but perhaps they don't want to be the 21st Century's Neville Chamberlain.
The other former Soviet nations have another, and far more serious problem.  Georgia is the first, and others will follow.  Will we see a return to the pre-1991 boundaries of Russia?  We'll certainly see those republics fall back under Russian sway, if only in the form of a new Warsaw Pact.  If they want to stay independent, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and the rest should leap to the defense of Georgia by declaring war on Russia.  With that many fronts and that much territory to cover, you can believe that the Russian bear would back down.  It's easy to pick on a small country in the Caucuses, it's another thing all together to fight a war on multiple fronts covering thousands of miles.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Second Coming

I came across a mention of this McCain ad in the Wall Street Journal, and I just had to post it.  Normally I'm not a fan of political ads - they're just a long list of either attacks or guys walking around showing that they're the little man too.  This one however is pure comedic and political genius:

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Flashy, Crowd Pleasing Moves"

Last week on So You Think You Can Dance, I saw what seems to be one of the best Paso Dobles that I've ever seen.  Of course, my experience with the dance and what it should be begins and ends with Strictly Ballroom, but from that it seems extraordinarily powerful and grounded.  Most of the time when I've seen it, it's too light and the lines aren't sharp enough.  However, Joshua and Katee did an amazing job with it.  I felt that this was the best Paso Doble that I've seen from real people by a country mile.  Take a look - he definitely feels the beat in his chest, it's not down in his legs at all.

A Crock of Boiling Oil

One of the most interesting things that I have seen over the past year has been the run up in oil prices.  In September last year, oil was at just under $70/barrel.  Until prices suddenly took a dive the past two weeks, oil was within sneezing distance of $150/barrel.  There were people who projected $200/barrel or greater as something that was inevitable.  While I don't want to declare victory over these chumps yet, I'm getting closer to saying I told you so.  While $200/barrel isn't unreasonable, it is unlikely.  Of course, if it happens in the next hundred years, I fully expect people to claim that they said it first.  The problem is that they were treating oil demand as so inelastic it was practically a giffen good.  The first problem with this was data showing that people were driving less and/or buying more economical cars.  Second was the drive to increase our reliance on alternate energy sources (nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, etc). Third was the political push to actually open some new areas to oil exploration here at home.  With these forces gathering (and picking up steam with every dollar increase at the pump), you had to see that there was a bubble there.  The first sign of the bubble was the panic buying.  You heard that Angola had a little instability or that the front fell off of a tanker?  It's time to bid it up some more.  The second was the classic volcano pattern.  Things were stable...stable...stable, then it took off like a rocket.  When the real estate bubble popped, you'd think that would have warned people of the same thing happening in commodities.  Instead, they piled in more.
Sure, there are some legitimate reasons for the high prices.  The US Dollar is still far weaker than it should be (although it's not in a bubble situation, I do see the dollar gaining back some significant ground on the Euro), there is still a somewhat tight supply/demand situation, and Mr. Fusion isn't around to power our cars yet.  Nevertheless, the rapid drop to the $120 level showed that the bubble just may have burst.  I wouldn't hold out for oil to go back below $100 anytime soon, but I wouldn't be surprised to see prices stabilize at the $115-$120 level for a few weeks.  After Labor Day, a drop to around $100 wouldn't be out of the question.  Of course, are we going to see those blessed days of $10-15/barrel oil like we had in the late 90s?  That's highly doubtful, but $50-$70 is not unreasonable long term, and that could be high because I've become conditioned to those prices.  At the same time, I know that we're not going to have to fuff about with $5/gallon gas for the time being.  Very long term is uncertain, but I think before too long we'll see the return of sub-$3/gallon gas.  We'll also see the end, for now, of people predicting the gloom and doom of things that they don't know about (at least in regards to oil).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Defensive Preemption

I came across this yesterday. It's a policy paper I wrote for my National Security class. I wrote it a scant week before we invaded Iraq, so it should be looked at in that light. Even with the problems we've had in Iraq and the complete collapse of popular support for George Bush and the Bush Doctrine, I think that a lot of the salient points in my paper still hold. For the record, I believe that the Iraq occupation was bungled, not so much the war (and we're seeing the results of a good occupation with the increasingly good news from Iraq now). Warning: this paper is long and full of good old timey Neocon doctrine. There might be some minor typos due to the OCR and I didn't attach the bibliography, but it is available (if you really cared). I think Francis Fukuyama would be proud.

During the Cold War, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was not a terribly serious concern. It was important to try and halt, however, the greater problem of a threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union instead of focusing on proliferation. As a result of the end of the Cold War and the United States becoming the only superpower in the world, stopping the hemorrhaging has become paramount. This is reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States. In the NSS, it says that we will
[maintain] the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place ofthe enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively (Bush 2002, 15).

The first move toward challenging the United States is to attempt to get on a level playing ground. The United States has a military that is more advanced than any other on earth. As a result of the humongous technological gap between the United States and other nations, the only way they can challenge our might is by deterring us. Because we outspend all other nations in defense spending, and because our military is equipped to handle any other military on the planet, the only hope other nations have of deterring the United States is through weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the past, the US has shown that it can be deterred by a strong nuclear power. This was the case with the Soviet Union, and it is currently the case with North Korea.
As a result of these deterrents, the United States has to walk a very fine line. Doing what appears to be right and doing what needs to be done are no longer necessarily the same thing. There are several problems that arise when nations get WMD. The first problem is that they have complete control over their domestic situation. If there are purges, genocide, or other domestic problems, the United States cannot do anything about it without fear of a retaliatory WMD strike. This is the case in North Korea right now. Kim long Il's people are starving, but the United States cannot do anything to help them (along the lines of regime change) without fearing for the safety of Seoul, Japan, or the West Coast. The second problem is that these dictators can threaten the regional balance of power by either attempting to become a regional hegemon or disrupting the current balance of power, leading to an arms race that could have disastrous consequences.
An instance of the United States attacking a nation with a WMD program already exists. In 1991, we attacked Iraq in the first Persian Gulf War, and we saw what could be done by a dictator with WMD. Without apparent reason, other than merely punishing the US-led forces for liberating Kuwait, Saddam Hussein "[buried] thousands of chemical and biological weapons in Southern Iraq, at Basra, Nasiriyah, Simawa, Diwaniya, and Hilla, the likely routes of the Allied invasion" (Hamza 2000,244). These were blown up according to standard US procedure, blowing a lethal cocktail of chemical and biological gasses onto the attacking Allies, defending Iraqi forces, and the Shiites of Southern Iraq. This is known in the US as "Gulf War Syndrome." There was no warning of this; it was merely a doomsday device to punish those who Saddam saw as his enemies. While this seems irrational to us, it was a rational decision for Saddam. Because we cannot tell what is rational to these regimes, they are unpredictable. This inherently unpredictable nature of totalitarian leaders is something that the presence of WMD merely exacerbates.
Because our current nuclear arsenal is a product of the Cold War, most of our nuclear weapons are larger than 500 kilotons. This extensive city-busting arsenal is an ineffective deterrent against the smaller regional powers in the post-Cold War era, and as a result, many have called for smaller nuclear weapons as a more realistic deterrent (Larsen 2002, 133). While this will certainly deter states who have already crossed the WMD threshold (especially states that have nuclear capabilities), it does not address the problem of states developing WMD. Clearly, if the threat of US retaliation is not powerful enough for them to stop before they have these weapons, then mere deterrence
is not enough. To stop the proliferation of WMD, a different path must be chosen.
As is stated in the NSS, the United States must be more proactive in stopping the proliferation of WMD. Primarily, we would deal with only rogue states and not our allies. For example, if the emerging nuclear threat in North Korea is such that Japan no longer feels safe under the US nuclear umbrella, then they should be allowed to develop WMD as a counterweight to North Korea.
Of course, allowing our current allies to develop WMD presents some problems. First, it is a dual standard. While that is the case, common sense would say that a nation like Japan -primarily an economic power, with a pacific people would not become an aggressor if they got WMD. It would send a message that it was better to be the friend of the United States instead of the enemy, because we will tum our heads when you develop WMD. This was the case in the early eighties, when the French sold Iraq a nuclear reactor capable of making weapons-grade plutonium and very nearly sold them 58 pounds of enriched uranium, enough to make two nuclear weapons (Hamza 2000, 105 and 133).
This leads to the second problem: that alliances are never made up of permanent states with the similar interests, but rather of transient states with similar interests. When Iraq began pursuing their nuclear weapons program, they were allied with the west, and that alignment became even closer following the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979. If the French had been successful in selling uranium to the Iraqis (they were pressured to withdraw by the United States and Israel) (Hamza 2000, 133), or if Israel had not destroyed the Osirak reactor in 1981 (Hamza 2000, 128-130), Iraq would have had a nuclear deterrent when their alliance with the United States ended before the Persian Gulf War. This is the bigger problem of the two, however, if we took into account a variety of things like the threat presented to the country, type of government, etc, we could allow some allies to develop a deterrent force if necessary.
Ultimately, the United States would be helped the most by protecting our allies and helping them feel secure under our umbrella. This could be done in several ways, including mutual defense pacts, a la NATO. A corollary to this would be a promise from the United States to prevent nations from getting weapons of mass destruction, by preemptive force if necessary. Preemption, though, poses some difficulties. One is that we would need to know where the WMD programs and/or warheads were (Haass 1999, 52). Another is the problems the US faces from launching an attack. Either we attack without warning, as Israel did in the 1967 Six Days' War and against the Osirak reactor in 1981, or else we drag out a long bout of diplomacy with a buildup of troops and forces, followed by an attack, either via a traditional mix of ground and air attack, or by other means.
Critics of preemption would cite the diplomatic dance as the most troublesome step. Infiltrating enemy WMD programs would primarily be accomplished by giving the CIA greater latitude in dealing with people, including getting rid of restrictions like not allowing the Agency to hire criminals for field work. Once that was accomplished, and our combination of human intelligence (HUMINT) and signal intelligence (SIGINT) via satellites, phone taps, and so on was good enough, we would run into our main problem. As Philip Zelekow says, the United States cannot preemptively attack a nuclear program while it is in its infancy. We are too powerful a nation, and the world would condemn our actions because at that point in a nuclear program it is vulnerable to both negotiation and military action. The reaction to the United States taking out another nation's WMD program would be even more outraged than it was over Israel destroying Osirak in 1981 (Blackwell and Carnesale 1993, 167-168). By the time it was justified, the program would be too far along, and the United States would be powerless to stop it.
I would submit that while some of this may be accurate, it does not matter in the end. Instead of endless rounds of diplomacy and a drawn out buildup, it would behoove us to attack without a force buildup. The United States could and should weather the diplomatic firestorm that would accompany such a strike. As was the case with the outrage against Israel in 1967 and again in 1981, it would occupy the focus of the world for just a little bit, and then nations would move on, secretly happy that there was not another nuclear power on the planet.
This would work for emerging nuclear powers, like Iran and Iraq, however, for nations like North Korea, who have been developing nuclear weapons and ICBMs and are close to major metropolitan areas, it would not. North Korea is another situation all together. Assuming the United States was able to destroy all of its nuclear arsenal, either through covert means like SEALs or Delta Force, or through pinpoint bombing from our B-2 Spirits, we would still have the problem of 600,000 troops stationed thirty miles from Seoul, a city of some twenty million people. Any attack on North Korea's nuclear program would certainly be used as a pretext for them to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and they would move on the South.
Another problem that North Korea poses is their willingness to provide other -I nations with missile and nuclear technology. Noted foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz suspected that North Korea may even be using, or will use in the future, Abu Sayyaf pirates to ferry nuclear material and technology to other nations (Ijaz 2003). Because Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda, this is a disturbing development and a clear threat to national security. Ultimately, because of the threat that North Korea represents, diplomacy is the least bad option. If diplomacy breaks down, however, the United States should be prepared to launch a preemptive strike on the North Korean nuclear program and on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the North from the South. Because of the depth and dynamics of the North Korean defenses, the United States should not rule out the use of either bunker busting nuclear capabilities or a third generation neutron bomb solution. By using a neutron bomb, fallout would be kept to a minimum, the neutrons from the blast would penetrate the network of North Korean
caves, and it would punch a significant hole in North Korean defenses on the DMZ.
Of course, most nations are not as hard a case as North Korea. Of the current nations who are trying to, or have tried to acquire nuclear weapons, none has the perfect storm of a large army, nuclear weapons, and proximity to valuable targets that North Korea has. With Libya, Iraq, and Iran, among other nations, the United States could launch a preemptive strike without endangering their neighbors. This could even be accomplished without using nuclear weapons because we would not need to take out large numbers of deterrent forces along with their WMD program.
While we should avoid using them unless it is absolutely necessary, it is a sad fact that nuclear weapons may be needed to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That being said, the United States cannot stand by and wait for things to get more dangerous. Appeasement has been tried by major powers, from the British and French in 1936-1938 to the United States and South Korea in 1994 to the French, Russians, and Germans in 2002-2003. Ultimately, if we are not willing to use force to coerce nations into complying with international law, that law will be meaningless and other nations will follow in their footsteps. Especially in the shadow of September 11, we must take a hard line on proliferation, with or without the support of the rest of the world. We have seen what happens when we do not make the tough decisions, and if we continue to shirk these lesser decisions, we risk fighting a war or enduring a terrorist attack that is so destructive that it defies the imagination.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

No Line on the Horizon

Word on the street is that U2's new album will be out November 14 and will be called No Line on the Horizon. I am ecstatic about it, because I love me some U2. On top of all that, you have their long-time producers - Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, and Steve Lillywhite - calling it their best yet. I for one have that date marked on my calendar.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Modern Miracles

The modern world (and humans - apparently the Telegraph thinks we're at war with the world) we live in gets a bad rap. Cars, electricity, and so on are the villains of the day because of the massive amount of fossil fuels that they consume, and we better watch out because you know that the ice caps are going to melt and submerge the planet in a slow moving disaster that we're helpless to stop (never mind that there's enough conflicting evidence in the Global Warming debate to make you think twice about if humans can affect it one way or another - you're a backwoods moron if you question it, even if your name is Michael Crichton). (That was one epic sentence!) They are absolutely somewhat problematic, from a health perspective alone. The air quality in some areas is atrocious (Beijing being the most prominent example currently). This has led to a host of maladies that were unknown in earlier days. Nevertheless, if we take a step back and look at our quality of life even with polluted air or water, look at how far we have come in the past 100 years. Diseases like cholera, dysentery and typhoid used to be household fears. Now a lot of people in the first world haven't heard of them. Life expectancy is up, disease is down (except obesity, which is a function of too much largess and comfort. I think if you asked our ancestors what they thought about it, they'd jump at that being their only problem), and we're concerned about being broke because the retirement system we are saddled with is still stuck in the past. While I'm all for finding better ways to do things (fuel cells - are you there?), I think it's absolutely ridiculous to pull an Al Gore and rail against some of these things that have been the foundation for a better world and life for all of us.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Nuggets To Live By

This may or may not be a recurring series (as my other recurring series are on some sort of hiatus apparently), but just some pithy sayings that I think have some validity:

"The easily offended will always be offended"

"You can't fight illogic {sic} with logic"

Take That, Ted Stevens!

I haven't blogged about Ted Stevens' indictment for corruption charges, but I was dancing in the streets when I heard about it. Here we have a sitting Senator who's penchant for billions of dollars of sweet US pork for Alaska and temper tantrums is legendary. He's one of the Republican Senators who has given all Republican Senators a bad name, and here he is lit up on corruption charges that I think are probably 100% accurate. Even if they aren't, the fact that his reputation makes this seem very probable is bad enough. I hope he gets defeated in his re-election bid, but I am agnostic about whether he's guilty or not. As long as he's out, I'm good. I'd love for this to be a wake-up call to the rest of Congress as well. Let's stop with the handouts and bribes to the states and get back to governing, shall we?

Annoying Commercials

The more I have TiVo, the more I have contempt for ridiculous commercials such as this:

Seriously, that's supposed to make me want Edge Shaving Gel? The thought that little tiny women are doing sexy things to my whiskers and/or nose hair? I'll stick with the kind that is top quality rather than the millions of tiny women I can't see in a bottle.