Monday, September 28, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

I've noticed, over and over, that there is a big difference between people who work in a technology field, such as computers and those who are consumers. By 'consumer' I mean anyone who is not interested in how something works or who doesn't really put a lot of thought into the details of a device. They just want to use it. You know, the vast majority of the population. I've listened to a lot of people who write and opine on technology and I'm struck so often by how out of touch they can often be from the mass of consumers.

For example, I was listening to a podcast that featured one of the more well known names in the world of Apple's technology, Ted Landau. He has spent decades writing about Apple's computers and other products, in general, and Macintosh troubleshooting extensively. He and the host were discussing the new iPod Nano, that now has a built in video camera. Landau was speaking about how so many ordinary phones nowadays have built in video, so why would the video in an iPod Nano be a big selling point? It's a good example of someone 'in the know' who has analyzed this from the tech point of view, but completely missed the consumer view. However, I don't think video is standard on a majority of phones on the market right now, much less the majority of those currently in use. But in the world he moves in most often, where he's surrounded by techie types who often have the latest gadgets, I'm sure he sees video on phones all the time. Hence, it must be on most people's phones, right?.  But I suspect the reality is that the vast majority of cell phone users don't have video on their phones. Not to mention the percentage who may have it, but don't remember/know that they have it.  Also, lets not forget that many consumers only use their phones as just a phone. He is also completely forgetting the 'Want' factor. Consumers often buy things, not because they need it, but because they just want it. Because it's new or cool. Remember, if everyone only bought what they needed, our economy would be a fraction the size it is. America, and all market driven nations, derive their wealth from 'Want' not 'Need'.

Another example are the proponents of Linux or Unix based computers. Those who live in the world of Linux can't understand why everyone isn't using that operating system on their home computers. They see all the benefits, such as the operating system being essentially free, all the low cost and free software and the fact that you aren't locked into a proprietary system like Windows or Macintosh. (Apple's OS X operating system is actually built on a Unix foundation and can run many Unix/Linux based apps. Though the graphical interface and such wrapped around that foundation is proprietary.) They like to tout how many months and years their systems go without having to reboot. Impressive as these things are, they completely ignore the consumer. They're thinking like the people they are, knowledgeable and tech-savvy. They ignore the reality that is the other 80% or more of the population. Yes, the operating system is essentially free, but it's no easy thing for Joe Consumer to install and setup. Yeah, you can download all kinds of applications, free of charge. But again, you have to know what you're doing or follow very detailed instructions to install and configure them. These are things that seem like no-brainers to those in the Linux/Unix world, but not at all to those outside it.

I've run into this myself during my tenure in the desktop/network support arena. I sometimes had to give myself a quick reality check when I made assumptions on what was obvious and what was not. I've certainly found myself thinking that a particular client 'should' know a certain piece of information. And perhaps they should, but my expectations often have little in common with reality. So I generally run my conversations through a buffer, in a manner of speaking, and do a quick edit for jargon, acronyms and the like. Kind of weird to have the live edit running in the background, but seems to work. Also have to remember when setting computers up or working on them in general that many things that seem normal for me to do, just confuse the average user or cause them problems.

The bottom line is that Techies, and those in a similar positions, have to occasionally take several steps back and look at things from the consumer viewpoint. They need to remember that many, probably most, lack much of their specialist knowledge. Knowledge that gives them an unbalanced view of what the rest of the world may know or think. And this applies not just to tech fields, but any profession really. From desktop support to politician, lawyer, doctor, electrician, carpenter, among others. It's not about thinking down to someone else's level, it's about thinking outside your own box. In these cases, more often than not, the problem is yours in assuming, not theirs in understanding. Just something to think about the next time you're wondering why someone would want 'X' item or doesn't understand 'Y' instruction.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Long Week

I must apologize for the delay in my next post. Figures that I would make my grand statement about "at least one a week" only to miss that mark almost immediately. Something about best laid plans and all, I suppose.

I had a stressful week and therefore blogging wasn't at the top of my list of things to do. But, worry not! You were worried, right? I have four posts in progress even as I type this. I'm hoping to have one polished and posted by the end of the day. Oddly, I'm not sure which one. Go figure.

Anyway, if you've stopped by looking for my brilliant [cough!] musings, be patient, I'm back on the keyboard!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President,

I realize that you want to find a solution to the Healthcare issue that includes input from all parties. You want to find a consensus. I respect that. I respect your desire to create true, bipartisan legislation. It's a noble idea and speaks well of your character. Particularly the tenacity you've shown in sticking to it. But there are times when we have to accept that bipartisanship will not work. We have spent months now, trying to engage in a dialog. To find middle ground. And it's been worthless. A dialog only works when both sides are willing to sit down and work for a solution. 

Let's be honest, the Republicans never even walked in the room. Instead of approaching the discussion with an open mind, they have come with a political agenda. That agenda is, first and foremost, to stop you from passing anything of substance. Period. Exclamation point. Think about it. They gain absolutely nothing from this Administration succeeding. Even to the smallest degree. Yet they have everything to gain from even the tiniest failure. Second, as the party that has always championed the corporate right to do virtually anything that isn't actually illegal, they don't want to see the, extremely powerful, insurance companies threatened in any way. As soon as you set healthcare reform up as a major Administration agenda item, you painted a target on it. It doesn't matter what the Bill, if one is ever actually produced, says. A large percentage of Republicans will oppose it. Not because of what some obscure provision states, but because 'President Obama' supports it. The massive losses the Republican's sustained in the last election has backed them into a corner. And they are fighting, not for or against a particular bill, but simply for survival. No Republican congressperson will ever be re-elected by touting a vote in support of a 'Democratic' Healthcare plan. This is an ugly truth, but it is a truth nonetheless. And one you must face.

Then we have the Democrats. Your own party. And I'm sure you entered office with every expectation of having their support. This is understandable. You won solidly. This would indicate that you won, not just the Democratic affiliates, but also a significant percentage of moderates and even some of the more liberal Republicans. Basically, you came into office with the full support of both the Left and the Center. So you certainly should have expected predominantly positive support from the majority of these groups. But you don't have it, do you? That's because the Democrats have always been a fractious lot. They stand together when they must, to survive. But when the crisis is over, they fly off in every direction like a flock of pigeons. Only to then cluster nervously in tiny, discordant factions. With Democrats in 'control' of Congress, it's sad that it's the Republicans who are in control of the Healthcare debate. And have been from the start. Your party has, in it's euphoria over their victory last November, sabotaged any benefit that might have been gained from it. They are like an army that solidly defeats an opponent, then gets so drunk in celebration that they allow the opposition to capture them all the next morning. The Democrats won a battle during the last election, but if they don't stop celebrating soon, they'll ensure their loss in the next one.

This is why you find yourself where you are today. You started, during the campaign, with some good ideas for healthcare reform. Ideas that obviously connected with the masses, based on your solid win in the election. But it's all coming apart, slowly, but surely, isn't it? Day by day you are having to drop item after item. Not in a compromise to find a middle ground. Not due to logical discussions of what can really work or make a difference. No. You are losing them, one by one, as the plan is pecked to death by sound bites, lunatics and lies. And I can feel your frustration, even some 500 miles from DC. 

But you, and those Democrats that support you, have to take a significant share of the blame. You must take a deep breath, look in the mirror and see your enemy. With all due respect, Mr. President, you've dropped the ball on this for one simple reason. Overestimation. You overestimated the American public's ability to listen to intellect over emotion. You overestimated their ability to withstand smoke & mirror parlor tricks and to shrug off fun house level scare tactics. You overestimated the ability of your own party to stand together and the willingness of the Republicans to set aside political considerations and deal in good faith.  It is past time that you looked yourself in the eye, Mr. President, and accepted that you made a mistake. 

Once you come to terms with this, it's time to do what you should have done from the beginning. Step up to the microphone and explain your proposal. Not in the context of a speech to a joint session of Congress. That is virtually pointless, sad as it is to admit. As proven by your Republican heckler, the Republicans in Congress are not your allies. They spent the whole speech 'Tweeting' their disagreement to anyone who would listen. And the Democrats are so lost to their individual schemes and alliances as to be useless in building anything approaching a solid front.  What you have to do and what you should have done from the beginning is to take control of the debate! I respect your desire for consensus. But it's not Congress that you need to convince. They aren't listening anymore anyway. You have to convince America! You have to fight the ignorance and lies with Fact. Too long you have allowed your opponents to control the debate, by carefully crafted sound bites and sweet smelling bullshit. Speeches, inspirational  or not, that tout the vague outlines of your plan will never be able to compete with shouted phrases like, 'Death Panel" and "The government between you and your doctor." Yes, they are gross distortions at best, but if they are broadcast with enough volume and vehemence they will drown out all the logic and reason in the world. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hyper Critical

What is it about movie critics? Why do so few 'get it', when it comes to reviewing movies? Year after year I see enjoyable movies ripped to shreds in reviews. Sure, some deserved it. After all, as Huey Lewis said, "Sometimes Bad is Bad." (I've dated myself here, haven't I?) But sometimes it's not so clear cut. The issue, in my opinion, is about what makes a good or even great movie. This is not as simple as many critics like to pretend.

I think part of it is that critics think they have some grand responsibility to only extol the movies that are of breathtaking quality in the mold of 'A Lion in Winter', 'Casablanca', 'Lawrence of Arabia' and all those other Great (with a capital G) movies. You know, the ones that have the epic story, the masterful script, flawless performances and amazing Direction. Sure, those are top end flicks. No argument. But there is more to a movie experience than these pedestal toppers might lead you to believe. 

To me, what makes a good or great movie, is harder to define. I have seen a lot of films that were panned by critics, but I really enjoyed them. In spite of their flaws. It's like a book that has a flawed plot, but engaging characters. Do the plot holes stop me from re-reading it half a dozen times? No! A movie, like a book, is always more than the sum of it's parts.  I've seen movies that rose up solely on the strength of the actor's skills. I have seen movies with lousy Direction still completely engage me. And a great screenplay can make up for all sorts of shortcomings. In other words, a great movie, doesn't have to be Great.

Then there is the question of what kind of movie it is. Someone who adored 'Remains of the Day' might very well hate 'Terminator 2'. Someone who sees the humor of 'Dumb and Dumber' might be bored out of their mind watching 'Amadeus'. And I have seen more than a few critical reviews that were done by critics who obviously don't appreciate a particular genre of film. That drives me nuts. If you rarely, if ever, like Science Fiction then please don't review Joss Whedon's 'Serenity'.  Because you can often feel the under-layer of contempt coloring the entire review. It starts being about the type of film rather than the substance. Picking at things that make perfect sense within the boundaries of the plot and the universe the story inhabits. But to the critic, they are stupid or silly. If you don't like that type of movie, then do us a favor and step away from the keyboard.

The other thing that is a problem, is when critics take a movie like 'Transformers' and review it in the same way as they would 'Forrest Gump'. Look, there are movies designed to pull you into their world, engross you and lead you along the road with them. Then there are moves that throw you into the front row of a roller-coaster and tell you to disengage your logical thought processes and "hang on!" No argument that both 'Transformers' movies had more plot holes and continuity errors than explosions. But, in the end, it was still a pretty good ride, as long as you didn't analyze and just rolled with it. My point is that sometimes you have to take a movie for what it is, not for what you wish it was. Sure, 'Independence Day' got a little silly with the now infamous hacking of an alien spaceship with a laptop and the almost melodramatic patriotism, and yet I really enjoyed the movie. Would I have nominated it for any awards outside the technical sphere? Not a chance. But you don't have to be an Oscar contender to be a good movie. I just caught part of a Biography Channel story that offhandedly ripped the movie 'Van Helsing'. Sure there were plot issues, but I still re-watch that movie occasionally. It's just fun watching Jackman and Beckinsale, not to mention the other actors, swashbuckle their way through the Transylvanian countryside. I find myself returning to movies like that far more often then I queue up 'Rain Man', and I thought that was a Great film.

That's the odd thing, the movies I watch over and over are not the Great Films. The ones I return to most often are the ones that touch me in some way. Either they tickle my funny bone, the cast is especially engaging, there's an emotional connection or maybe it's an action film that just pushes all the right buttons. In some cases, these were, from a purely critical view, not very good Films. But they were great Movies. I'm sure some will laugh to know that I own and re-watch 'The Adventures of Ford Fairlane' from time to time. Critically, well . . . it wasn't much of a Film. But it's a hell of a fun Movie. I love the absurdities, Andrew 'Dice' Clay's turn of phrase and even the low brow humor. When it came out, you would have been hard pressed to find one positive review, but I'm sure I'll continue to pull it out once in a while and chuckle like an idiot the whole time!

Maybe what we need to do is be more specific in our terminology. There are Great Films, like 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'Schindler's List' that deserve their accolades for the high degree of quality at all levels. But there are also Great Movies, like 'St. Elmo's Fire' and 'Underworld'. Movies that, while no masterpiece by many critical measurements make an emotional connection or give a visceral thrill. Both types of movies are Great in their own way and both are deserving of respect for what they do right. After all, when the lights go down and the titles roll it's about being entertained, not about attaining perfection.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's About Respect

Look, I'm lazy sometimes. I admit it. Leave dishes in the sink way too long. Put off vacuuming and dusting. Toss something frozen in the oven when I'm too lazy to even bother boiling water. But I have my limits. Based on this picture, some people's limits are much, much lower than mine. I took this while paddling on Lake Jordan. It's the side of the road embankment, where people regularly hang out to fish. Apparently, based on much of the garbage left strewn about, it's also where most of them hang out and drink.

This is the scene at various locations around the lake, especially in areas like this, with the rocky embankments.  Probably just more noticeable there since the nooks and crannies in the rocks keep it from blowing away. This left me fuming for quite some time as I paddled out. What is the matter with someone that this seems OK to them? At what point does strewing the landscape with your garbage seem normal? You can manage to bring all this crap with you, but boy it must be a daunting thought to bring a virtually weightless trash bag along as well! I'm amazed that people this lazy and uncaring are able to actually get out of the house and down to the lake to fish. And what's worse, I doubt they would be very happy if someone tossed the same trash on their own lawn. Guess it's all perspective. If it's mine, you better not mess it up. If it's not mine . . . who cares!

Think I'm over-reacting? I don't think so. I think it says a lot about a person, how they treat things that aren't theirs. It's easy to treat your own property with care. Anyone can do that. It's natural to protect what's yours. But it takes integrity and respect for others to take that extra step outside your own sphere. Judging by what I've seen around Lake Jordan, there are a lot of self centered people in this world. I would pay money to see these people get fined. Literally. Though, to be honest, if common sense hasn't made a dent in their brain pan, I'm sure a fine would have no more impression than a raindrop on a windshield. I'm afraid there is no cure for this level of selfishness. Someone at this level of indifference probably can't even conceive of what is wrong with this behavior. After all, it seems to get cleaned up eventually, so what's the problem?! Yeah, cleaned up by those who actually respect their fellow humans and enjoy seeing nature without the Miller Lite garnish!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What a Difference Eight Months Makes

It's amazing how things have changed since the last Presidential election. And I'm not talking about health care reform or financial policy. I'm talking about politics, pure and simple. Repeatedly over the last 8 months I have watched as conservatives have made hair-pin changes of heart that would give any driver whiplash. Not in their core political beliefs, but in what is acceptable and what isn't when it comes to the President. 
Last night a news story caught my eye as I skimmed across Yahoo's front page. It was about a planned speech by President Obama, directed at students. According to Obama, in an interview last month with an 11 year old student reporter:
"I'm going to be making a big speech to young people all across the country about the importance of education; about the importance of staying in school; how we want to improve our education system and why it’s so important for the country. So I hope everybody tunes in."
I'm thinking that it sounds like an interesting idea. An authority figure like the President talking directly to kids. Treating them like real people to reinforce the importance of education for them and for the country. I'd say it's a win-win idea. But oddly, the conservatives seem to see it as some liberal, 'activist' attempt to mind control our youth. Below is an excerpt from a statement by Jim Greer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Though he's far from the only person to ooze from the woodwork with words of lunacy, his press release is truly impressive.
"The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates." 
"President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves." 
You can find the full press release here and it would be funny if the guy wasn't serious: 
There are so many things wrong with this single Press Release that I have difficulty deciding where to start. Since when does listening to a speech obligate you to agree with the speaker? Is he claiming that kids are so docile and easily lead that they'll believe anything they are told by an authority figure? If it was that easy, then parents wouldn't have any problem at all with keeping their kids in line. In the 'Real World' kids are pretty skeptical when adults tell them things. They're also a lot smarter than Mr. Greer apparently gives them credit. And what is this babble about spreading liberal lies?! I keep forgetting that if you don't agree with a policy then it's obviously a 'Lie'. Sounds so much more dastardly that way. I saw nothing in the description of the speech that indicated Obama was going to try and sell health care reform or financial bailout proposals. You know why? Because it would make no sense to preach these things to students. They aren't the ones who will decide these issues. Mr. Greer is either an idiot or is desperate to get his name onto the national stage as a 'Conservative Bastion' for future political benefit. Since he's gotten this far in his career, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it's just crass self promotion.
What really gets under my skin about this whole thing? If this had happened 12 mos ago, and it was G.W. Bush doing the speechifyin', these same people would be beside themselves with praise about what a 'historic' occasion this is and how this shows the President reaching out to kids and speaking to them with respect. But the Republican party is incapable of passing up a chance to turn anything Obama says or does into some Democratic plot. As if the Democratic Party was organized and unified enough to manage such a thing!
It's just another example of how quickly what was praise worthy when their man was in power suddenly becomes despicable when the political tide changes. The hypocrisy I've seen on display from conservatives since January is truly awe inspiring. Many, especially conservatives, like to look down on The Daily Show as just fake news. But what they really hate about the program is that it projects their hypocrisy and petty concerns on the wall for all to see. They can't stand to have their own words brought back to haunt them. That's what The Daily Show excels at. Digging up the week, month or year old tape that clearly shows how this person has perjured themselves over and over in the public arena. It's not the fake segments that people love the most. It's the real video clips that clearly display how shallow, arrogant and condescending so many of our elected leaders are. 
Their recent election losses have backed the Republicans into a political corner and they are biting, scratching and yowling at anything they perceive as a threat. And just like a cornered animal, doesn't matter if the threat is real or not, anything that isn't 'them' is treated as an enemy. Unfortunately, many Americans who support the Republican party seem incapable or unwilling to parse through the drek. If it comes from 'their' party, then it must be true. Doesn't matter if it's coherent or logical. All that matters is if it's officially sanctioned by their party. It's sad, but unfortunately true.

The video of the President's speech to Students
Text of speech to Students

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Deafening Ignorance

I'm a big fan of the First Amendment. Free speech is certainly one of our core values. So I am all for other viewpoints. Doesn't matter if I agree or not. If someone has a thoughtful comment to make, I am open to listening to it. Note the operative word there. Thoughtful. That's something I don't hear a lot of lately. Instead I hear a lot of yelling and screeching that contains no substance whatsoever.

This trend has gone ballistic over the last eight months. Take the Town Hall meetings. Might as well just stop bothering, from what I've seen. We have people bringing weapons to them, just to show everyone that they are legally allowed to do so. As if a Town Hall meeting on health reform is going to magically repeal the Second Amendment when they aren't looking. Then, it's not unusual to see those same individuals stand up and scream nonsense at the speakers about "wanting their country back" and "I'm scared of Obama." So in one fell swoop they have not only shown that they are too ignorant to actually discuss the issues, but may also be too unstable to be carrying around firearms.

I know that I'm no expert on health care reform, but I also know that getting all your info from a commercial, sponsored by one side of the debate is stupid. This also goes for relying solely on the opinion of one of the popular 'Pundits'. Most of these loud mouthed, know-it-alls, really know very little. If you're relying on Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck for your unbiased information about what healthcare reform does and does not address, then I dearly hope that you don't operate any heavy machinery. Doesn't matter if you agree with his general political outlook. That doesn't make him an expert. The only thing these individuals or those like them, on either side of the isle, are 'experts' at is their own, narrow opinion. And their 'opinion' is generally that more people should be listening to them.

And this goes for both sides of the debate. I hear a whole lot of talking points and catchy statements, but very little intelligent discussion. These are complicated issues that cannot be explained by some ex-Governor's offhand Facebook posts. I know it's easier to let other people think for you, but if you are going to get involved in the discussion, then do us all the courtesy of not pretending you know more than you do. There is nothing wrong with saying, 'Hey, what exactly does that term mean? How exactly are you proposing this be put into effect." And so on. But screaming, 'Obama scares me!' at the top of your lungs? I don't want to hear it. Not because I'm a devout Obama worshiper, but because it's the kind of thing I'd expect to hear from a 4th grader. You are an adult and should be able to control yourself enough to put a coherent thought together without resorting to grade school antics. Have some self respect, please.

And another thing. For the love of all that's good in the world, stop comparing everyone you don't like to Adolph Hitler!!!! It's enough to make my temples throb. First off, it is almost always a stupid and inappropriate comparison. Secondly, it makes you look and sound like an idiot. Same with the posters festooned with the iconic little black mustache. What this actually shows, is that you are too ignorant of history to do more than grab one of the only 'bad' historical figures you've ever heard of. Get the idea that this bothers me? Oh yes! It drives me insane. First you call Obama a Socialist, then you say he's Hitler-like or that the health reform reminds you of Nazi programs in the '30's. I don't think I'm wrong when I say that most of those who are throwing around these statements have little understanding of the terms, beyond what some pundit told them. Does anyone else watch the History Channel or read books? If you don't know the truth, don't scream it at the top of your lungs. It makes you look ignorant and does nothing to advance your agenda. Assuming you actually have one.

Look, if you have a grievance or concern, please step up and make it. But don't squander your opportunity, and everyone else's, by these infantile antics. You will sway nobody with outbursts like that. I'm sure it's very good for your ego to have a few other nut-jobs join in with your chant, but shouldn't this be more important than that?

Though, sadly, maybe that's all these individuals want. To stop any discussion on the subject. They see their narrow little world and damned if they'll let anyone change it, even to help the nation as a whole. It's that fear of change that opponents always play on. If they scare people enough with lies and half truths, then there's no need to do anything so silly as to actually discuss it. And therein lies the big truth of these campaigns. It's easier just to yell 'Fire' in a crowded theater than it is to explain to the patrons the reasons why exiting the theater might be beneficial to them. And American's respond to nothing so eagerly as 'Fear'.

Iran's Nuclear Fixation

I'm going to posit an idea that is certain to have people screaming incoherently or, conversely, fainting in shock. All I ask is that as you read on, you make a concious effort to set aside your knee jerk reaction and consider my points as fairly as possible. I realize that it may be a radical idea, on the surface, but I firmly believe that if you listen to my reasoning calmly and without snap judgement, that some of you may be surprised how much sense this makes.

America has, along with much of the industrialized world, been conducting a long diplomatic battle with Iran over it's nuclear program. Iran claims that this program's primary aim is the creation and nurture of nuclear power. They state publicly that they are not seeking nuclear weapons. Now we know this is a lie. Iran knows that we know it's a lie. Of course they want nuclear weapons! This is not a surprise. But Iran continues to pretend, in public, that this program is civilian in nature. They continue this pretense because to admit the truth, for all to hear, would send the west into an absolute tizzy. Why, I'm not sure, since as I stated earlier, we all know it's true. Sometimes the truth is only acceptable as long as we don't look directly at it. Call it human nature.

So we all know that Iran would like a nuke in their arsenal. This scares the hell out of us. After all, this is 'Iran'! The Iran that over-threw our friend the Shah in the late '70s. The Iran that subsequently took American's hostage for over a year. The Iran who has supported Hezbollah and Hammas against Israel. And the self same Iran who, from all available evidence, appears to have disregarded the popular vote in the last Presidential election and returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office for a second term. And we all 'know' he is a nut! Or at least sounds that way in his speeches.

So, of course, we must prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs! Or do we? That's certainly the conventional wisdom. To listen to the pundits and politicos tell it, a nuclear Iran would be the end of the world as we know it. Just this side of apocalyptic. Really? Why? Has anyone really thought this through? I'm not saying that I trust Iran to 'do the right thing' but what would happen if they had a couple nukes locked away in an underground bunker?

First, lets remember that this is a sovereign nation. In other words, not likely to just do whatever they are told. As such, the only way we could ultimately stop them from obtaining nuclear capability is by a military invasion and occupation. Even Israeli air strikes will not be able to stop it from eventually happing. It is inevitable. Why? Because a significant percentage of the Iranian people want it. They are convinced that being a part of the world's nuclear fraternity will give them prestige and influence. They know that it will set them on a different level, politically. And then there is the natural human response to being told in a firm, commanding voice that it's not allowed. So the pressure to gain nuclear status is too high to stop without an invasion.  And as bad as Iraq has been, An military operation like that against Iran would be ten times worse. Both in the initial attack and subsequent occupation. It would be a mistake of mythic proportions. Not to mention that to do so would be against everything America, and the democratic West, stands for. Not that this has always stopped us at times in the past. We would be telling the world that we are no better than the Soviet Union at it's height or any of the countless dictators around the world. Willing to jettison our ideals anytime it was convenient. That way lies madness and the destruction of all that is good about America.

Another point is that Iran is probably the closest thing to a democracy in the Islamic Middle East, despite the recent election. I don't count Iraq, since they haven't managed to get out from under American coat-tails yet, so are hardly a stable example. Iran is much more democratic than some of our closest allies, like Saudi Arabia. My point being, that Ahmadinejad is far from an iron handed dictator. Even the 'Supreme Leader', Ayatollah Khamenei, was hard pressed to deal with the public outrage from the election debacle. That election showed everyone, in and outside the country, that the Iranian people are not mindless drones, following the whims of their government. They are an educated people who are not at all ignorant of the outside world. This is not a country lost in the 'stone age', as some would like you to think. Listen to the journalists who've spent time there. I've seen interviews with Iranians who seemed far more knowledgeable about the world than some Americans! My point is that this idea of Iran being a bunch of ignorant fanatics, who can barely be trusted with fire is ludicrous and insulting.

The biggest mistake that people make, when talking about Iran and nuclear weapons is forgetting that this is a nation, not a terrorist group. Yes, they may support groups that perpetrate terrorist acts in Beirut and Israel, but that is not the same thing as being a terrorist themselves. I know, I know! This is one of those ideas that is likely to send emotions flaring, but please try and consider my points before you judge. We can all agree that some extremist groups like Hezbollah,  Hammas and Al Quaida shouldn't have access to matches, much less a nuke. And I suggest that Iran would agree fully with that as well, believe it or not. Even those who support the aims of some of these groups would never want them to get their hands on nukes. It's one thing to use a bunch of nut-jobs to undermine an enemy. It's quite another to give them nukes! I don't think even a stoner like Kadafi would do something that crazy.

Finally, the most important point to consider. Gaining a nuclear weapon is not the trump card so many seem to think it is. Most people just see the power of a nuke. They think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Images of the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll and other locations. But that is jumping way ahead. Remember, that although more and more countries have gained nuclear capability since 1945, nukes have still only been used twice . . . ever! That's right, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sixty-Four years without a nuke being detonated in anger. Why? Because within a few years of that first use, the reality of Mutual Assured Destruction prevailed. Every nuclear nation knows that to pull the pin on a nuke would be tantamount to suicide. Having a nuke is one thing. It puts you in a different league. It forces a certain level of respect and gets you a chair at the big kid's table. But no nation ever wants to actually use one. The only groups that would ever want to use a nuke are landless, decentralized extremist groups on the model of Al Quaida. They have no goal beyond chaos and destruction. And no home to worry about protecting. Even Hammas and Hezbollah have no use for nukes, as to use one would be, for them, essentially setting it off in their neighbor's back yard. A clear 'Con' in any Cost/Benefit analysis.

Once a nation obtains that genie in a bottle, a cold bitter wind of reality sweeps in. First and foremost comes that 'someone walked over my grave' sensation as every nuclear power on the face of the Earth adds you to their master target list. That's a point that can't be underrated. There's nothing that says, 'You've Arrived' on the world stage quite like knowing every major city in your country is now on a contingency target list for everyone else's ICBMs.  There is no going back from that. And there is no way you are going to give nukes to a terrorist organization. Partly because, nobody trusts any of these groups, especially not the ones who've employed them in the past.  Hell, they know better than anyone how flaky these wing-nuts are. But mainly because, if it can EVER be proven that you did hand over a nuke to a fringe group, . . . well lets just say that it wouldn't take more than one MIRV equipped SLBM to erase the Iranian nation from the planet. That's not the kind of risk, even 'rogue' nations are going to take. They may not be the West's bestest buddy, but that doesn't make them insane.

Then you have to securely store your new 'ultimate weapon' since you now have to worry about all the fringe groups who would like to steal it, or it's raw components. After all, every nation has it's own brand of extremists to worry about, in addition to all the random groups roaming the world's back alleys. Next you have to make sure it can't be detonated accidentally and blow yourself up. That's a serious loss of 'cool points'. You can get away with improperly storing a rack of 500 lb bombs. Worst case, you destroy a bunker. You screw up with a nuke and you can kiss the entire military installation, as well as anything in a 20 + mile radius, goodbye.  You'll need a place to at least test the first one and that's not a location you can then repurpose for farmland when it's all done. So there's a ridiculous amount of overhead just to own one.

There are really only two reasons to have a nuke. One is to show that you aren't just a second class, hick country. That you've 'arrived' on the world stage and have to be taken more seriously. And two, to ensure that no other nuclear power will ever use them on you. Really, that's it. In all other respects, it is a complete negative. Financially, the costs of developing one are staggering. But that's nothing to the cost of maintaining and securing them over time! Think how many Tens of Trillions, yes Trillions, of dollars America has spent on nukes, alone since 1945. Money spent on a weapon that we had no plans to EVER use and prayed no one else would.

My point is that a nuclear Iran is unlikely to be any more dangerous than a non-nuclear Iran. It might even mellow them out a bit once they actually realize what kind of demon-genie they have stored in the basement. Some of Iran's leaders may screech extreme rhetoric, but they aren't going to pop off a nuke at Israel, as much as the idea might appeal to some of them. Why? Self preservation. Israel is widely believed to have it's own nuclear capability. And no matter how much joy some in Iran might get from seeing a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv, that would be vastly overshadowed by the knowledge of how short the celebration party would be. Even if they silenced Israel, the US would very likely 'test' some ordinance in retaliation. Hell, I doubt Russia would sit on their hands for that either. The rules of conduct in using a nuke ain't as relaxed as they are for a few sticks of C-4. And, as mentioned above, supporting a nuclear program is certainly going to drain away a good chunk of their GDP. Less money to send to fund fringe groups.

No, I would rather they not have nukes. But what everyone must accept, is that it's inevitable.  Anything the industrialized nations could do to stop it would probably be far worse in the long run. Look, it's way better to have a nuclear Iran, whom we have decent relations with than a bitter enemy who is still going to obtain nukes one way or another anyway. Wouldn't you rather they got nukes in the light of day instead of tinkering in an underground bunker on a shoestring, black-ops budget? Because if we force this issue, they'll still get nukes, but they'll likely do it with emphasis on secrecy instead of on safety. And who knows how secure that would be?

All this being said, I don't think Iran actually wants to use a nuke anyway. I think they are desperate for respect. To stop being seen as a desert nation of rag-head extremists. I'm not saying there aren't some Iranians who meet that description, but it's hardly an accurate assessment of the country as a whole. So I say we stop pushing to the point of insanity. Back off this 'Line in the Sand' rhetoric. Do I think that Iran would supply high-explosives to Hammas to use against Israel? Good chance they would. Would they hand over a small nuke? No friggin' chance in Valhalla!