The Third Rail

Saturday, May 04, 2002

There's finally a better super-hero movie than Orgasmo. I reveled in full 4 color glory last night along with a lot of other people evidently last night. I was also told by my comics store Wednesday that comic sales for the year is up 22%. With Kevin Smith set to appear on Jay Leno to hype his new Spider-Man/Black Cat limited series and other public moves, comics might just become mainstream once more. For information on the comics meltdown of the mid-1990's check this out.

For those not interested in super-heroes, check out some of the titles in CrossGen comics or Lone Wolf & Cub and Blade of the Immortal at Dark Horse.

I'm going to be glad once I'm ready to post non-Middle East issues. In the meantime check out the growing discontent with the Palestinian Authority. I think by any measure of military success Sharon's operations have been a huge success. Suicide bombing has retreated to practically nothing; the Israelis have apprehended many of the terrorist leaders, and most important of all they have shattered the beleif among Palestinians and Arabs that they would not or could not fight back. The hope that the second Intifada could defeat Israeli by continuous low level warfare has been shattered.

Whatever you think of Ariel Sharon personally, I think people must admit he's had a huge success. Whether he can translate that into victory with peace is another matter. Hopefully he's smart enough to realize that unless he wants to do this every other year, he needs to proceed with a solution. I happen to agree with many that if Arafat will not give him peace then he needs to unilaterally separate from the Palestinians. Israel doesn't need diplomatic recognition as the Arabs and their cronies in the UN won't give it to them unless they eviscerate Israel to an extent they can't defend themselves; what they need are secure real borders that allows Arafat and his henchmen to grind their own people into the ground with corruption and oppression so that the rest of the world finally realize what these people are like.

I happen to side with the Israelis right now in their response to Palestinian terrorism, but this is simply insane.

The supporters of the Palestinians are correct that the occupation of the West Bank is a legitimate grievance. What they fail to acknowledge is that the occupation of the West Bank is the legitimate security need of Israel given Arab aggression and hatred for the Jews - evidence of which is found throughout the region's history since 1947 and broadcast daily in the Arab media of practically all Middle Eastern nations. A peace agreement can only come about with the establishment of a Palestinian state AND an international regime that recognizes Israel's right to exist. I would also add defenisble borders which would require Israel to permanently annex certain key areas of the West Bank. And since Syria has never been serious about peace, they should keep the Golan Heights as well.

But for Representative Armey to call on Israel to forcibly expel Arabs in the West Bank is the height of insanity and speaks of a hatred for these people inappropriate for a just and lasting peace. I'll be glad when this maniac retires.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Just sell NOW. No good news for those of us who own H-P stock. I recommend selling as soon as possible. Facts are most mergers destroy shareholder value. More info on that here.

Good to see Ditko's getting his just deserves. For more information on one of the princes of comics and his legacy click here. An abbreviated commentary can be found elsewhere. You cannot imagine how much enjoyment a cheap pocket book of his stories gave me when I was young. Still read him now. I'll know where I'll be Friday night.

I'd rather have no news. I remain totally uninterested in reports about every odd firefight in Afghanistan or how many have been killed. Remember when body counts were used as victory conditions in Vietnam? Didn't seem to help us then. Wars are won by destroying the enemy's will to resist, not by how many you kill. Besides, the peons who make up Al Qaeda's "field army" isn't what's important to us. It's destroying the infrastructure of terrorist cells that could threaten the United States. For a clearer understanding of US objectives visit this. For news with relevance check out this.

Palestinians now say no massacre at Jenin. Someone's credibility just went all to hell.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Remember when videotapes sold at $100 or more? This was the golden age of video piracy as every household in America violated FBI warnings like buccaneers raiding the Spanish Main. The moment videos sold at $20, piracy stopped, video sales soared, and movie companies had sales far greater than they had before. There was a reason for this. 1) People thought they were being robbed before by paying $100. B) The moment they stopped feeling ripped off, they willingly handed money over for the movies they wanted. I remember all too well the bizarre family rituals needed to record favorite movies at odd hours of the night, and was quite relieved when it became possible to simply put down a Jackson at Suncoast and leave.

And now this bit of news regalling the benefits of a free online library for authors. In addition, multiple studies have indicated that use of services like Napster and Audiogalaxy actually increases music sales by those same people. Yet we are witnessing assault after assault by Hollywood and other media outlets against this wonderful technology.

My sister has even stated she's against Napster because of some perceived infraction against "artist right's", seemingly without realizing that artists are precisely the ones who benefit from it. I can't believe I actually agree with Courtney Love on this one. The only thing record companies really provide artists is distribution and marketing - precisely the things the web levels. Such services do not threaten artists at all, they are mere harbingers of making the current music and entertainment industry obsolete - and hence gutting the jobs of overpriced suits whose contributions to the economy is negligible. I think it's high time for some creative destruction and put these people into jobs where they will be useful - like looking after my cafe latte at Coffee Plantation. From the perspective of the consumer service improves, artists have more visibility, greater sales, and more control over their image. The only "losers" are those people who contribute nothing to the actual creative process.

I don't mind them making money from an essential service, but I don't think it is right for them to use political clout to prevent new technologies that can do the job better. After all, we didn't let accountants stop the use of spreadsheets, did we? What is worse is all the wasted money that will be spent on legal fees that could be better used. The media execs are nothing more than neo-luddites. You can no more ignore the destabilizing effects of technology than the Ming Emperors of China. Business history reveals that if companies fail to leverage full advantage of such technology, another eventually will anyway.

The attempt to thwart Naspter and Morpheus sites is doomed. Let's not waste any more time fighting about it, and let's start forging new worlds.

This bothers me.I generally don't have much to complain about the British as they are about our only REAL allies in the Al Qaeda War, but this is part of a disturbing trend. I am not an international lawyer, but from what I read earlier Al Qaeda combatants are legally NOT eligible for protection under the Geneva Convention precisely because they are an underground paramilitary that specifically seeks to murder civilians. It seems foolish to accord them rights as a legitimate army. The US has very strong legal and moral grounds (I think there was a Slate article on this, I'll hunt for it), and this backsliding by Europe sets a dangerous precedent.

I understand that people must be fair and impartial, but this means they judge things by the facts alone. It does not mean viewing both sides of an argument as morally and legally equal when one is a ruthless band of criminal murderers, and the other is a legitimate and recognized state defending its citizens against an act of war. Acting according to the latter does not make you "fair," it makes you complicit in their crimes.

A Prince Who is Not Wise Cannot be Wisely Counseled
And the award goes to...

Sunday, April 28, 2002

News from Afghanistan today of possible warlord feuding. I'm withholding judgment of how Afghanistant will turn out until the loya jirga meets in June. However, if Karzai or anyone else hopes to unite Afghanistant into a real country, it won't be accomplished by being nice. There has not been a case of someone uniting a divided people except by judicious use of violence of his own. Remember Bismarck? Or Lincoln? If the person in charge in Afghanistant isn't particular bright or ruthless, it will continue to descend into factionalism and war. On the other hand, if Afghanistant is so blessed with a leader with the right amount of skills and values, expect the Western media to scream about how awful he is.

Washinton Post has an OpEd on why Jordan should take over the West Bank with Israel's blessings. This is the first time I've read a real news source express this view, although I've seen it numerous times on other blogs, especially InstaPundits. It would be especially ironic if Arafat's gambit to win militarily what he rejected in negotiations ended up in the occupation of the West Bank by another Arabg power. I'd almost laugh hysterically if it wasn't so cruel.

To read an anti-Arafat position on the actual state of negotiations before the second Intifada check out the Weekly Standard. There was a more pro-Arafat piece in MSN's Slate, but I've since lost the link. If anyone knows it, please email it in.