Fulcrum Ruminations

Saturday, February 26, 2005

But That's Impossible . . .

Here's a nifty little news story. This is the first google hit I got on it, there's plenty more. Oh, there'll be a surprise down the line, too.

Experimental Naval Missile Scores Fifth Kill in Test

Of course, the anti-missile defense crowd has been telling us for years that missile defense will never work, haven't they?

Now, to be fair, this is a short-range system designed mainly to defend against short-range missiles . . . SCUD-types, essentially, which the Army has already managed to take out with PATRIOT missiles.

But it's working, kids. Time, money, research, brainpower. Just like any other technological problem, missile defense yields to that combination.

One also has to wonder why so many people seem to be so horrified at the idea of a defensive weapons system. You can't blow up a city with a Standard missile. You shoot down airplanes, cruise missiles, or now ballistic missiles with it. You prevent bad guys from killing good guys with this technology.

Horrors. How dare we.

Then again, the paradigm we're all accustomed to, thanks to the cold war, is the charming little thing called Mutually Assured Destruction, very appropriately known as MAD. The idea was that each side holds the other's populations at risk with loads and loads of missiles and bombs carrying nuclear warheads. Any defense against this would theoretically enable the side with the defense to launch a first strike while being able to mitigate the effects of a counterattack (it seems to have escaped the calculation that releasing all that radioactive fallout and debris into the environment would have led to global casualties anyway). So we had the Antiballistic Missile Treaty between the US and the USSR. This treaty, regarded as a cornerstone of arms control, limited each side to one small ABM system. The Soviets set up an elaborate ring of defenses around Moscow. We had an experimental system that lasted only a few years before being shut down. Or at least, that's what the history books say.

Along comes Ronald Reagan and his much-derided "Star Wars" idea. Good idea, poor timing. The technology of the 80s wasn't really up to it. So for two decades it's a research project. Well, guess what, kids? Research pays off eventually. Missile defense is looking not only possible, but probable now.

Interesting aside, here . . . one of the big criticisms of BMD was that the tests being conducted weren't realistic enough, weren't rigorous enough. So now we've got borderline-operational systems on both land and sea platforms conducting realistic tests and the new complaint is that the tests are too expensive and don't work.

The land-based system has had a couple failures, of a sort. Interceptor missiles haven't launched at targets. Which, oddly, is how the system is supposed to respond when it detects a fault. Be that as it may.

Meanwhile, the Navy is getting good results. Under increasingly realistic conditions, they're accumulating successes.

How about that?

The other big argument against missile defense is that it's unnecessary and wasteful when it's far more likely that the bad guys will smuggle in a nuke on a boat or something rather than pop off a missile. That's true, to a point, but there are countries out there that don't like us who have ballistic missiles. And ballistic missile technology is proliferating. Somehow this gets overlooked.

And it's always been true in military matters that when you leave a gap in your defenses, your enemy can be counted upon to discover and exploit that gap.

So here's the balance point. One side says it won't work/costs too much/is unnecessary. The other says go for it, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. The cost point is debatable, but as a percentage of the defense budget or of GDP the expense so far has been trivial. The technology is maturing and demonstrating success. This particular fulcrum is leaning to the side that says it can be done. Is being done.

Now for the surprise. Maybe, once we figure this out, get it working . . . we share it with everyone. Give the whole world the means to make ballistic missiles obsolete.

Radical. But do-able. If you can think long term.

More on that sometime later.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Starting Positions

Got this from elsewhere on the web. Here's a quick rundown of my veiws on some "hot button" issues of the day.

Abortion. Not having a uterus myself, I don't think my opinion means a whole lot. But . . .
The "debate" is frequently, and incorrectly, framed in terms of "when does life begin." Obviously, life begins when the fertilized egg begins to divide itself, thereby satisfying all the basic requirements of life. The real question is "when does that life become a person?" To my mind this occurs when the brain begins organized neurological activity . . . recognizable brainwave patterns. After that, abortion should be disallowed unless the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

Prostitution. Legalize it. Regulate it. Clean it up, make it safe. There's no crime being committed, provided all parties are of legal age.

Alcohol. Responsible use is harmless.

Marijuana. In principle I'd like to see it legalized, as that would chop the legs out from under a lot of street crime. However, pot is a dangerous substance. It has long-term effects on brain chemistry, kidney function, reproductive organs, and liver function. The smoke is from three to ten times as toxic as tobacco smoke, depending on whose stats you believe. Probably it should be legal but regulated even more tightly than tobacco or alcohol.

Other (currently illicit) drugs. There are a few that could be legalized, but many of them are illegal for a good reason: they're really bad for you. Personally, I'd legalize almost all of them, but users would forfeit any claim on publically funded health care.

Gay marriage. "Marriage" is a religious institution. It is subject to religious guidelines. That said, if gay people want the same sort of benefits that accrue to married heteros, I don't see any reason to deny them. Call it a civil union to make the fundies happy, but leave the poor bastards alone if they really want to saddle themselves with divorce lawyers and in-laws.

Illegal immigrants. There's a well-established mechanism by which foreigners can become US citizens. Use it. If not, the hell with you. You're a criminal and your ass should be shipped back where you came from.

Smoking. It's currently legal, and making it illegal would work about as well as prohibition did back in the twenties. That said, people who think lighting dried leaves on fire and breathing in the smoke is a good idea are obviously brain damaged.

Drunk driving. A DUI/DWI should be an automatic loss of driver's license. No ifs, ands, or buts. For one year. Do it again and that year will be spent in public service under supervision, picking up trash along the highway. Third time, a year in prison. If you killed anyone while driving drunk, you should get twenty years in prison at minimum.

Cloning. It's inevitable, so we should be sensible about it. At base it's just another medical procedure, so it should be regulated as such.

Racism. I have no tolerance for it.

Premarital sex. It has always happened, it always will happen. Deal with it. There's nothing wrong with it so long as everyone involved is of legal age.

Religion. A source of great strength and comfort for many people. BUT - religion seems to be the point where ritual becomes more important than faith. I think faith is the real core of the religious experience.

The war in Iraq. Sold to us on false premises. But now that we've made the mess, we are responsible for cleaning it up. And so far, we've been doing all right. The mainstream press, with its "if it bleeds it leads" standard, has not been giving us much coverage of what's been going right in Iraq (and Afghanistan). More fun to count casualties, I guess. But in both countries, elections have been held and reconstruction is proceeding.

President Bush. He has shown himself untrustworthy and no conservative. Running up insane deficits, launching a war on false pretenses, poor policy decisions . . . no. I didn't vote for him for those reasons.

Downloading music. Never done it. Artists should be paid for their efforts, if they want to be. If they want to share for free, that's their choice. Record companies are hives of weasels who take the lion's share of the profit from other people's work. Online distribution of music by the artist directly is the way to go.

The legal drinking age. I favor an "age of majority" wherein all adult rights and responsibilities begin. Call it 18 just because. Voting, drinking, military service, all that good stuff.

Porn. Generally harmless. Covered by the First Amendment. Leave it be, as long as those participating are of legal age and uncoerced.

Suicide. While I can envision some circumstances where it might be justifiable, for the most part suicide is the coward's way out. Stand up, stick out your chin, and yell "Come get some!!" Don't slink off to open your veins.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Launch Point

So I've been avoiding the blog world, figuring that I was already wasting enough time online. Plus, I have a bloggish thread at Wordforge in the Blue Room forum. Why make a redundant blog?

The Blue Room thread is biographical. I post about stuff that's happening to me. I want this one to be more about my observations of the world.

It's thanks to my online friend Generik that I do this. I've been reading his blog, and the one he originally started on, for some time. I've been profoundly disturbed by what I've seen there.

See, he's a "liberal." Lives out in San Francisco, espouses "liberal" views, seems immune to moderation. More than a little scary. Here, read for yourself. The Generik Brand

Me, I'm "conservative" with a strong libertarian bent. I didn't vote for Bush, tho, since he's shown himself to be no real conservative.

Aside - that's why I put "liberal" and "conservative" in quote marks . . . both terms have been bled of meaning by mis-use. I probably won't use them much in the course of things. Be that as it may.

Anyway. My experience with the blog world (or blogosphere, if you prefer) is limited. This is my entry to it. You, dear reader, if you're there at all, will have to exercise patience as I Figure This Shit Out. So to get back to the point, Gen's blog troubles me just for the sheer vitriol of it. The anger and hate going on there are frightening. And it's made worse by his apparent inability to see that aspect of his own musings. Makes me wonder how wacky other blogs might be,

Hence, the balance point. The center which must hold. The fulcrum over which the fringes sway.

Not too grandiose, eh? ^_^

I'll explore the middle here. Find the Truth of things, with any luck, or at least an approximation. As we all should know, the truth is a three-edged sword . . . your truth, my truth, and the real truth, which lies somewhere in between. At the fulcrum.