I agree that Hero was ChiCom propaganda- and with the rest of this article. War with China in 20 years or less- that's my prediction. Sleep well.
¶ 2:33 PM
Yet another interesting article in TCS, this time about video games. My friends know that I am quite the connoisseur of video games, and, given half a chance, will launch into a detailed exposition of their value as compared to, say, movies. That's not to say I don't like movies; just that video games, as active entertainment, are far, far better.
Really, they have a much greater potential for cultural influence, as well. Consider: if movies can cause cultural change by sending "messages", how much more so in an entertainment genre that the user is directly participating in? It's one thing to see, for example, Tom Cruise in a movie and feel the subtle pressure to conform to his behavior; it's quite another when, in a game, you actually initiate the behavior.
That's one reason I didn't really like the GTA series (don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing censorship or anything; I just didn't like it). When I play a video game, I like to be the good guy. GTA makes you the bad guy. Now, I kinda doubt it will have broad-ranging effects and so on, but it certainly is one more factor pushing for, shall we say, improper behavior.
¶ 10:34 AM
Thursday, April 28, 2005
...From TechCentralStation. Here ya go. It's about nuclear power- which is STILL the wave of the future. The environmentalists scotched it a few years ago, but the fact of the matter is that we'll almost certainly need to use it for awhile before alternative resources can be found. Nuclear energy is cheap, efficient, environmentally friendly- note in the article the quote about how, if the US had now the nuclear plants that we going to be built before Three-Mile Island, we would be within the Kyoto Protocol's limits.
Environmentalists missed a trick with their opposition to nuclear power; especially now, with pebble bed reactors that theoretically can't meltdown, this is the technology that could be most effective at reducing CO2 emissions. And yet WE'RE NOT DOING IT!
I'm convinced, however, that this situation won't last forever. Remember, you heard it here first...er, after TCS. And a lot of other people. But after them, you heard it first here.
¶ 7:49 PM
During a state visit to China, French Premier Raffarin threw support behind a law allowing China to attack Taiwan and continued to push for a lift of the EU arms embargo.
At the outset of a three-day visit to China, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he supported Beijing's "anti-secession" law on Taiwan, and vowed to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell weapons to the Asian giant.
Raffarin also signed or finalized major business deals with Beijing valued at around $3.2 billion (2.4 billion euros).
You know, we should have just bribed Chirac et al. It's clearly the way these things are done. Bloggledygook has more on the big picture."
If what Tom Clancy says is true (and it always is, right? I'm kidding, of course) then our Human Intelligence resources (i.e. spies) in China are limited. It seems to stand to reason- can't be too easy to infiltrate such a country...although perhaps there are some high-ranking Chinese passing information. I don't know, but the recent performance of the CIA doesn't inspire me.
So, could our intelligence gathering detect an imminent attack against Taiwan? There are a few factors we need to consider.
First, most of our intel likely comes from SigInt- Signals Intelligence; that just means eavesdropping on the bad guys in various ways. It can mean wire-tapping, picking up radio waves, even detecting radar and mapping anti-air positions. The plane that was the center of the big imbroglio a few years ago was a SigInt aircraft.
Now the basic limitations of SigInt are twofold: first, most of the traffic is encoded. That means that we might be able to read it, we might not. Second, not all communications must travel over non-secure means. For example, a cable must actually physically be tapped into, which generally requires human intelligence resources, who also have access and the capability, and we're willing to risk. In practice, it isn't feasible for ALL communication to go over "completely" secure channels, such as couriers or land-lines; however, a critical order such as "Invade Taiwan" could.
But what about the build-up? Our satellites could rather quickly spot a Chinese build-up of ships and troops that intend to invade Taiwan; however, there are ways to hide this. One is to camouflage the build-up; gradually move troops into big cities (Shanghai, for example) and spread them apart so they aren't detected. Move ships at night or under cloud cover, one by one, and hide them when in port. Cities are big, and a sizable group of transports and troops could be hidden in them.
That's one way. Another is the classic "military exercise". Have your troops practice landings and such near Taiwan- and then have them suddenly attack. However, this suffers from the fact that the United States isn't particularly stupid, and keeps a close eye on all such activity.
Finally, there's something most people don't consider, I think. China could go for broke; instead of attacking Taiwan and acting reactively if the US decides to intervene, they could simply start by attacking the US carrier group in the area (don't ask me which one it is, but I for damn sure know there is one). The Chinese have what is in effect an enormous, unsinkable aircraft carrier- they call it the mainland. From it, they could launch waves of fighters, bombers, and, most deadly, missiles (mostly French missiles, damn the frogs anyway). If the carrier group is close enough, and not incredibly lucky, the majority of it could be sunk in a few hours. Well before America could get another carrier group in position to assist, Taiwan could be invaded. However, this would pre-suppose that China is willing to pull a Pearl Harbor, which would undoubtedly make the Americans very, very mad. That's generally not a good idea.
However, there is a certain fact that Americans may not realize; we can't defend Taiwan. Oh, sure, we could sink a few transports, and so on, but the fact that we need a really expensive carrier to project power over there, and the Chinese just need to sit there, we have an incredible disadvantage. Our submarines would be virtually unstoppable, but what could they accomplish? Would they be able to sink all the invasion fleet, or even a significant amount? Of course not. Could we get a large enough force over there to help defend against landings? Almost certainly not. Would we be willing to take the casualties a fight against China would entail? I doubt it.
So the Taiwan invasion is basically a given. It's going to happen, and we're not going to be able to stop it. The only question is whether we'll fight after the Chinese capture the island. If that happens, the odds look a bit more even- though asymetrical; I'll discuss it later, but think Athens and Sparta in the Peloponnesian Wars.
¶ 12:37 PM
So China signs a treaty with India, and I seem to remember a post a while ago on Instapundit speculating on an OOTB (Out Of The Blue) attack on Taiwan.
I'm not an expert on China, but from what I understand, they're pretty intent on taking Taiwan. After all, they've got Tibet, they just got Hong Kong...I'm just saying.
A lot of people don't realize that China is an expansionist empire, not a Big Happy Country With Very Peaceful People. They missed their chance to get on the world stage back when imperialism was "in" (having been carved up by the imperialists) and so want to get some of their own.
I have a hypothesis that, after a large, powerful country goes through an industrial revolution, they go into an expansionist, imperialist phase. Look at Germany, France, England and so on, which did it at about the same time; then Russia (the Soviet Union) when it took over Eastern Europe; Japan in WWII, and now China. I'm not sure it holds water- it's a bit speculative right now. Still, it's worth considering.
Especially as my guess is that we'll be at war with China in, say, fifteen years. Much less if we decide to fight over Taiwan- I suspect that attack will come either before or soon after the 2008 Olympics (I lean toward after).
The treaty with India? Think Soviet-German Nonagression Pact- one power covering her flank by signing with a formerly hostile other power. Historical parallelism is a tricky thing, and usually a bad idea, but might be applicable in this case. We'll see.
¶ 12:29 PM
Hi, kids! Remember me? I'm the guy who used to blog here. While I switched for a while to livejournal, I realized that's only useful for friends and family, not really for me. So I'll continue to blog about personal stuff there, and talk about 'portant stuff here.
("Important" being relative; i.e. whatever I feel like talking about.)
If anyone is paying attention, I'll get started today with a few posts. But gotta go to class now.
¶ 9:10 AM
Friday, January 30, 2004
That reminds me, by the way. What the heck is up with this American tradition of ignoring the Russian part of World War II, also known as the European Part?
The Russians lost an estimated 20 million people during that war. Of the approximately 11 million Germans killed, probably 8 million or so fell fighting the Russians. Russia was all but conquered in the first few months of the war; they rallied, in one of the greatest comebacks in history, and defeated a force that time and again showed more skill and tactical expertise.
There are a few reasons that this theater is unrecognized, some good and some bad. A good one is that it was an eminently Soviet- that is, Communist- war. While Stalin did appeal to nationalism pretty quickly (and that, by the way, worked far better than any appeal to their Communist sensibilities), the Commies ran and used the war to extend their power. So we tend to shy away from glorifying the Commies by ignoring their war.
A less good- even bad- reason people tend to ignore the war is that it doesn't follow American notions of heroic conflict. In the American mind, the Good Guys will be massively outnumbered, but well-led and with high morale. When battle comes, the Bad Guys will be outwitted by clever strategems that inevitably result in Good Guy victory. Technological sophistication often lies on the Good Guys' side as well.
The Soviet war wasn't like this. The Soviets had mass, but were poorly led (with the exception of Zhukov, possibly Khruschev, and maybe a few others), poorly trained, with often low morale, and rarely well-equipped. They fought with sometimes moronic tactics, being slaughtered in horrifying numbers. Throughout the war, the Germans had a high kill ratio, even when the Krauts were outnumbered and heavily outgunned, due to their tactical expertise.
However, these aren't good excuses. The war saw men fighting and dying to defend their Motherland (Rodina) against what were, to them, enormous odds. The best (and thus far only) movie I have seen regarding the Soviet war was Enemy at the Gates. That movie showed the kind of courage the common Russian soldier needed to have.
Zhukov would be an excellent subject for a movie, as much for his complex character (similar to Rommel in some ways) as for his heroic fighting of the war. The man never gave up, and where he was, victory followed. Nearly every important Russian victory- stopping the Germans in front of Moscow, the counter-offensive that followed, the Leningrad defense, the Stalingrad offensive, etc.- had Zhukov's fingerprints or even direct leadership.
I am as anti-Communist as the next man- actually, probably way, way, more anti-Communist- but I also think that credit should be given where credit is due. Those Russians who fought and died did it not so much for their ideology, as for their country. And now that Russia is at least semi-friendly (and hopefully will become more so), it is high time we acknowledged that World War II was a Russian and German war, at least in Europe.
¶ 11:53 AM
I've noticed there has been a bit of hubbub over the Republicans comparing Orrin Hatch to Neville the Wimp; the Dems think this means that we're comparing them to Nazis.
Without mentioning the fact that Republicans are compared to Nazis all the time (trust me, I know), we'll analyze this.
See, people like to use World War II as an analogical resource for a few simple reasons, that apply to both sides.
1. World War II was black-and-white (for the most part). The Nazis were the Bad Guys. We were the Good Guys. It gets hazy with the Soviets, but since the American way is to ignore the Russian contribution to the war (they actually fought virtually the entire thing in Europe), that's rarely an issue. See, if I compare a Democrat to, say, a dope-smoking hippie, they might well think it's a compliment. So comparing people to Nazis leaves no room for misinterpretation (please note, I am not defending the tendency to compare anyone and everyone who disagrees with you to Nazis. I'm merely trying to explain why some well-meaning people occasionally make this idiotic and disgusting mistake).
2. Most people know at least a fair amount about World War II, the good guys, the bad guys, the general course of the war- at least, most people who follow politics. So using examples from that era is likelier to hit a receptive and knowledgeable audience. For instance, if I suggest that someone is acting like Hugh O'Neill, the most common response would be a blank look. But if I say Marshall Tito (not suggesting O'Neill was a Communist or anything), then more people would be able to nod and say "Hmmm." thoughtfully.
3. Finally, and I think the most relevant argument to the subject at hand, World War II provided a great many useful archetypes. There was the Evil Dictator (Hitler), the Fearless Leader Against All Odds (Churchill), the Commander-in-Chief Who Arrived in the Nick of Time (Roosevelt), the Good Man Serving the Evil Dictator (Rommel), and, of course, the Soft-hearted Peacenik Who Nearly Lost the War Before It Had Begun (Neville Chamberlain). These archetypes exist in and of themselves- that is, unlike most historical analogies, they are generally understood to transcend their immediate background. When someone thinks of appeasers, they are likely to think of Neville the Wimp, without necessarily assuming that the group being appeased is the Nazis.
I can understand why someone might take exception to the comparison, and perhaps the spot-lighted position of the politicos who rule our fate should make them more careful, but I sincerely doubt anyone was thinking of the Democrats as Nazis when they made that remark.
¶ 11:37 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
I know there are a lot of things one can say about file-sharing- including that recent actions by the RIAA are idiotic and will have a negative effect on their PR, but!
When you download a song, you are in effect gaining benefit from a person without recompensing that person. Now, we do this all the time- but this is in the context of an industry specifically designed to match artists with rewards for their art. Thus, we have laws determining under what sort of situation we can legally make use and distribute songs and such.
To put it more simply: artists go into the business expecting to be recompensed for their time and effort (whether you personally agree that they should be is your business; the proper way to express your approval or disapproval is through buying or not buying their product). And I believe that they have a right to the proceeds from their products. When you download a song, you are in effect depriving the artists of their proper recompense. Perhaps they are charging too much for it; that is irrelevant. If they are charging too much, then don't buy their product.
I really don't think that most downloaders are against the idea of intellectual property- but as they begin rationalizing their behavior, they will likely move toward a contempt of this idea. The result could bleed over into various other intellectual property issues. This includes copyright (of books, for instance), academic work, even the most important area of patents. How much innovation will occur when one's ideas for a machine aren't sacrosanct? Suppose when you patent a design, anyone could download the design and begin producing it? There would be no real incentive for new designs.
Anyway, the music industry is especially vulnerable right now (because it's hard to think that, say, Britney Spears has a right to all that money and such that she has). But the bleed-over effects could be important, and much further reaching.
¶ 1:29 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
THINGS I HAVE BEEN WRONG ABOUT THUS FAR-
-Saddam Hussein was not dead; nor is he now dead. Instead, it is being currently decided as to whether the Iraqi people will hang him, shoot him, or shoot him while he is hanging.
-Anton Chekhov is a superb writer. He is very close to being my favorite; turns out that all the elements that make Russian authors great are there, but that he uses a somewhat more subtle format than, say, Dostoyevsky. Not that Fyodor isn't any good, quite the opposite.
If you note any more, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
¶ 1:22 PM
A word on Texas A&M, re: last semester.
I was fortunate enough to have a Marxist for a history professor. Why fortunate? Because I knew exactly what he was looking for on the tests. I simply asked myself- how would a Marxist answer this question? It worked especially well because this guy was as close-minded as they come. His way was right- if you disagreed, you were either a) misguided, b) stupid, c) evil, or d) some combination of the previous.
Now, I've had Commies or at least extremely far-left profs before; but they all exemplified the academic spirit. They had opinions, and expressed them (oh, how they expressed them) but they also respected me and viewed me as someone who thought through his opinions. This prof (for my history class) merely stated what he viewed as Truth, and expected the class to fall in with his political opinions. It reminded me more of a political commissar berating the troops than a professor lecturing a class.
Bottom line- I learned virtually nothing in that class, except what the professor thought about various issues and events. By contrast, in my political science and other classes with left-leaning professors, I learned a great deal- including the professors' opinions. In the history class, I had nothing but contempt for the professor, as he exhibited nothing but contempt for me and my opinions. In the others, I respected and liked the professors, because they respected my opinions.
We on the right tend to think of the left as uniformly arrogant, convinced that they know better than others. And we are right in many cases. But we should always be sure that we are respectful of other opinions, and never resort to berating our opponents (Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Michael Moore) or simply ignoring that other views exist (Howard Dean, Bill O'Reilly- at least, I think so).
¶ 12:41 PM
So, the good doctor came in 3rd in Iowa. Well, that's as might be expected. After all, when the primary locution of the candidate is "Bush bad!" there's going to be some point at which that wears thin.
I am somewhat surprised that Jean Kerry (accent on the second syllable of "Kerry") was the guy who made first showing. I rather expected Edwards (who is actually well-respected even by many Republicans) to be a front-runner, but I counted on Gephardt to do much better. Oh, well.
Republicans are, on the whole, disappointed- they knew that Dean was eminently beatable (can you say 39-state victory?). But that's kind of the point of primaries- the only way Dean would win is if the whole of the Democratic electorate were as nuts as he is. It's not. Only the far (or farther, at least) left believes Bush is some sort of evil anti-genius. But they believe it fervently, and the fervency is what made Dean's campaign so noticeable. Which is more likely to be noticed- fifteen guys shooting AK-47s in the air in Times Square, or fifteen thousand guys discussing the virtues of their candidate around the water cooler?
I'll admit, Dean had me going for awhile. I really thought that he was doing pretty well- but I'm not surprised that he failed to come out on top. After all, Dennis Kucinich is remarkably high-profile considering the fact that the only person who would vote for him is his mother and maybe Osama bin Laden (think the Department of Peace would be effective at tracking down terrorists?)
¶ 12:27 PM
Wow. What a semester.
For the quick-witted among you, the fact that there were no posts for the last, uh, four months or so may have tipped you off that blogging wasn't a top priority. However, I assure you that now it will be up there on the old list, right below Keeping A Good GPR and Learning to Skewer Opponents (Also Known as Fencing).
Last semester, I was living off-campus, and I was also cut off from the Internet, unless I walked or rode to campus and fought the crowds at the SCC. However, the good news is that I now live on campus, and thus have access to REALLY, REALLY FAST Internet. That's right. I rock.
In fact, the Internet is so fast that I can almost overlook the other minor problems with my dorm. For instance, the heater here defies the concept of the term "heater". Despite my turning the little knob from "colder" to "warmer", it continues to emit air that is slightly cooler than the current temperature. What the point of this is, I can hardly guess. However, all is well now that I've started a fire in the middle of the room, feeding it with junk mail requesting that I buy a condo instead of renting a dorm, for only 500% of what I am currently paying. I estimate that I have enough to last me through the next three winters, though I may not need it at all if I turn off the heater.
¶ 12:17 PM
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
This is funny (from a Yahoo! news story):
The somber statistic [116 KIA in occupation vs. 115 KIA in invasion) -- no reliable figures are available for the many more Iraqis killed in the conflict -- underlines the scale of the resistance that U.S. forces have stirred since they burst into Iraq more than seven months ago.
Oh, yeah. It's been tough. We've lost (in, what, six months?) two hundred and thirty one people. Holy cow! That's almost as many as we lost in one skirmish of the Civil War! That's almost 1/32 of how many we lost at Iwo Jima! How can we win? How? It's all over!
I've said it before; I'll say it again. A true resistance would cause thousands of deaths in six months time. This sort of resistance is barely street crime. What this shows is not that we're facing serious resistance, but the opposite- we're facing weak, badly coordinated resistance from some of the bitter enders of the Baathist party. Has anyone else noticed that there have been few major demonstrations anymore? That the violence is all in one region?
As Sherlock Holmes put it, it's the dog that didn't bark that is interesting here.
¶ 10:45 AM