Sunday, October 22, 2006

Japan as a nuclear power



The Houston Chronicle has an excellent article discussing the merits of Japan becoming a nuclear power. The author writes:
As the only country ever to suffer nuclear attack, Japan obviously has its own reasons to resist the very thought. But now that the lunatic regime next door, which has already overflown Japan with its missiles, has officially gone nuclear, some rethinking is warranted.

Japan is a true anomaly. All the other Great Powers went nuclear decades ago — even the once-and-no-longer great, like France; the wannabe great, like India; and the never-will-be great, like North Korea. There are nukes in the hands of Pakistan, which overnight could turn into an al-Qaida state, and North Korea, a country so cosmically deranged that it reports that the "Dear Leader" shot five holes-in-one in his first time playing golf and also wrote six operas. Yet we are plagued by doubts about Japan joining this club.
I believe the author is right in that, if anyone could be a responsible possessor of nuclear weapons it would be Japan.

There is another paradigm which he has not entertained - that no one is a responsible potential wielder of nuclear weapons. Maybe today's government will be level-headed in a crisis but what about the next. And the next. Human beings have proven themselves unreliable as far as rationality, even sanity is concerned. That's how the world wars began. I am certain another world war is possible. I am certain the use of nuclear weapons is possible. The only solution is de-nuclearization. What does this mean for North Korea? For once I think the US Foreign Policy analysts have got it right. The threat of retaliation from the US will be enough for now while the world continues to pursue a diplomatic, and not a military, solution.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Courage, Loyalty, Humanity, Ruin



Those four words are my distillation of "The Deer Hunter", one of my favorite movies.

If you haven't seen it, it's about three men, best friends - blue-collar workers in a steel town/smalltown-America in the early 70s who enlist to go to Vietnam. Before they go, one of them gets married and all of them (with other friends) go hunting deer in the mountains. This is significant as De Niro's and Walken's characters are defined by this and a later hunt - I'll skip it though. The story is about the heroism of 'ordinary' guys. Heroism at home (one of them marries a woman who is pregnant by another man - he's never slept with her) and heroism in war. Another is sensitive and romantic and yet manages to fit in with the 'rougher' crowd of the town - you can see what they like about him. He's the most human of them all. This is unfortunately his downfall in Vietnam. The other is the one who is always tough, principled, and 'just' - but not always human.

The movie is long (over three hours) so you have to really be in the mood. It also has some very brutal scenes - but they are brief and exist to bring home what they suffered. No gratuitous violence. There's a lot more I don't want to say or, having already given away much, I'll have given away too much and will spoil the movie.

It does have flaws and is not a perfect movie but it remains one of the best I have ever seen.

"Her Story"



In quotes because I stole it (the title) from the Economist.

Is there any point in writing this post...whatever.

The Economist has a review on Carly Fiorina's account of her years at the helm of Hewlett Packard and the betrayal of her ouster by the board. So why the questioning on the value of this post? I'm writing about a review of a book I haven't read. That's almost...literary incest. I actually followed Carly through her years as CEO with great interest. I'm very strong on equality although not on any form or philosophy based on affirmative action. You may have noticed from my name that I am part of a visible minority. I know and understand exclusion, injustice, unfairness. My view on these issues in a first-world country are - Tough! Get over it. Yes, I've had many problems linked to my race but I can focus on them and become a victim or on what lies within my 'sphere of influence' (thanks Stephen) and do something to overcome them. That is what interested me most about Carly and the challenges of similar women in business. They have got to where they are not just because of talent but largely because of a determination to overcome stereotypes and discrimination. I was not, however, too impressed during the years of her leadership of HP by her bravado and posturing. She too often went over the edge in compensating - but was it compensation or the headiness of power?

It comes out in this book as well (according to The Economist):
Ms Fiorina is at her best when recounting the travails of a woman in a male-dominated business culture...For another meeting, she padded her crotch with her husband's socks, the better to deliver the line “Our balls are as big as anyone's,” to hoots of approval.

Ms Fiorina is also good in her psychological descriptions of the constant betrayals that occur in corporate bureaucracies. The woman that emerges from these pages is cultured, sensitive and vulnerable, even as she acts tough. “To this day I underestimate people's capacity to abuse my trust and the insecurity that sometimes drives them.”

Her bigger theme is leadership, and this is where Ms Fiorina fails. Again and again, she interrupts a good narrative with vain and verbose harangues about corporate strategy. From one paragraph to the next, her language becomes wooden and clich├ęd as she descends into meaningless jargon.
I am not against her desire to be remembered as a management great - she was good. But the "vain and verbose" reminds me a lot of what I didn't like about her public side. I respect her for what she accomplished while she was CEO and the guts (not balls) she demonstrated when she so often went against popular opinion and carved out her strategy for HP.

"Her Story" should be an interesting read but I think I'll order the book from our public library rather then buying it.

Here's the link for the review. Unfortunately you need to be paid subscriber.