July 17th, 2006

#121: This really gripes my wagger

I really used to like Nero Burning ROM. Version 5 was a really, really good program. It didn't suffer from any of the incredible stupidities of Adaptec's (now Roxio's) EZCD Creator.

Adaptec's product was just utter shit. The default install would install both EZ CD Creator and their DirectCD product, which allowed one to write data files to a CD as if it were a hard drive or floppy. Fine. DirectCD would auto-start when the computer was booted.

The problem was, with DirectCD running, EZ CD Creator would not create CDs. Burning would fail in one of several ways, wasting a blank CD and wasting your time. In fact, EZ CD Creator could not burn a CD if any other program was running even in the background.

If you're using a version of Windows with a taskbar, go have a look at the clock. See all those little icons next to the time? Those are programs running in the background. Nearly all of those would first have to be closed before you could burn a CD with EZ CD Creator. Some can only be closed by hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL and selecting it from the Close Program dialog.

Nero Burning ROM 5.5 seemed like a godsend. Not only did it reliably burn disks; I could be surfing the internet, chatting via AIM, converting an AIV to MPG, and burn a CD, all at the same time, and Nero would never skip a beat. (Well, unless the video convertor was at the end of a conversion run. It kind of hung for a bit when it was finishing, and that would kill Nero. But it took a couple hours to convert half an hour of video, so a little attention to detail was all that was needed to prevent that.)

Fast-forward to 2005, when I finally got a DVD+/-R-RW drive for my machine. It's a nice one, able to burn just about any kind of disk I want to. It doesn't do Lightscribe, but I don't really give a fat flying Filligree about Lightscribe, so that's okay.

First, the OEM version of Nero 6 that was included with the drive? Utter shit. It wouldn't let me burn disks. Slight oversight on the manufacturer's part, I suppose, including the driver files that would let Nero know how to operate the drive. I could make all the disk images I wanted, but I couldn't actually burn anything to a CD or DVD. Nero 5.x won't do DVDs, and there's no way to convince it to burn CDs on a combo drive like this one.

SO I got another version of Nero 6 and tried that. That worked. Good. NeroVision, the included DVD authoring program, was flaky and annoying, but it worked. Just "save early, save often"; that philosophy and a few reboots are all that are needed to use that program reliably.

But of late a new problem has cropped up, one which is almost infinitely more annoying, and there seems to be nothing I can do about it: it's clipping the first two or so tenths of a second from the sound files I try to burn to CD.

And I don't know why! It just started doing this for no apparent reason. There's no apparent setting in the software to adjust this, and all the Ahead FAQs, help files, and manuals don't even have troubleshooting sections, something which really drives me utterly insane with rage.

If I play them through good old Winamp, they play just fine, so I know it's not the files themselves that are the problem. So, by elimination, it must be an issue with Nero's MP3 decoder plugins. But why on earth would they just start doing something stupid like this? It doesn't make any sense at all.

So I guess I've just about had it up to my eyeballs with any Ahead product. They were pretty good for a while, but they've just tanked. Being able to write DVDs has done them in.

#122: The Atomic Fungus Middle East Peace Plan

Everyone else and his dog is writing about the latest escalation in the Muslim Fundamentalist War on Israel. I figure I might as well, too.

There is a central issue, when dealing with militant Islamists, which must be borne in mind; you must make every move bearing in mind the fact that they are incapable of understanding the difference between unwillingness to fight and weakness, or inability to fight.

After nearly every militant Islamist insult to the US our response was to sweep up the broken glass, mop up the blood, and send money to Israel. Occasionally we might lob a few cruise missiles at one target or another--Clinton blowing up an aspirin factory in the Sudan on the night of his impeachment vote comes to mind--but in general we basically did nothing. Even the first attack on the World Trade Center--itself a major terror effort--resulted only in a few arrests, and no major changes to US foreign policy.

The long, sad story really got its start in 1979, when Iranian "students" seized the US embassy in Tehran. Jimmy Carter's response was negotiation and an amazingly inept rescue attempt which killed more US servicemen than Islamofascists misguided students.

There were Islamic terror attacks before then; but no one had perpetrated one against the United States. It just wasn't done. But Jimmy Carter's non-response to what had traditionally been considered an act of war only emboldened the Islamic terrorists; they could attack the US and it would do nothing! Even Israel would hit back!

I touched on this issue in an earlier entry. I don't care who seizes an embassy; if your embassy is seized by armed thugs, it's an act of war. If American students seized the French Embassy in Washington DC, it would be an American act of war against the French. It's up to the government of the US to do something about the students, and if it does not, that's a sign of tacit approval. If the US government just shrugged its shoulders and said, "Well, sorry, there's not a lot we can do about it...." the French would have every right to declare war on the US. This principle has long been established in international relations. You just do not seize embassies. If you're going to war against a country, you can declare their personnel persona non grata and deport them; you may not arrest them or hold them hostage.

It used to be that you could hold embassy personnel hostage...with the proviso that they were not to be mistreated more than was strictly necessary, and that you had to ransom them to their home country when such became convenient. But that went out with the turn of the 20th Century. But even by those standards, what those terrorists students did was still an act of war--particularly with the death threats and such.

What ended the "hostage crisis"? The election of Ronald Reagan. The fundie Islamofascist goons students knew that Reagan was not the utter wuss Nobel Peace Prize winner that Jimmy Carter was; they knew that if the hostages were not released, there would be a war--and Iran would lose, and lose badly.

So today we have the same problem over and over and over again. The Islamic fundamentalists perpetrate an act of utter barbarism, and the western world shakes its head and shrugs its shoulders as if to say, "What can you do about other peoples' kids?" This kind of response led to 9/11; and that was finally enough to get our attention. Well, 3,000-odd people in a single attack, that's significant, and it's the most successful terror attack ever perpetrated against any nation in a single strike.

But this has only served to discourage attacks against the United States. Enhanced security measures and increased attentiveness have prevented a few other attacks, but those were planned against US targets. Besides, the war in Iraq has served to concentrate the attentions of international Islamic terrorists there, rather than here.

Israel has not been so lucky. Its consistent attempts to negotiate a settlement with Hamas and Hezbollah have led to the current crisis.

Anyone who wishes to negotiate with Islamic terrorists seems ignorant of the basic fact that, to an Islamic fundamentalist, there can be no negotiation with infidels. It's in the Koran; an infidel has a basic choice between conversion to Islam, or death. That's about it, and Jews don't even get that choice. There can be no "negotiated settlement", no "peace treaty", no "accord". The only way jihad can end is when there are no infidels left.

People who point to Christianity's bloody history (eg the Spanish Inquisition) don't seem to understand that the history of Islam is just as bad, if not worse...and the fundamentalist elements of Islam in the world today still practice a form of "the religion of peace" which is utterly barbaric. I know of no sect of Christianity which approves of the stoning of women for various crimes (eg failing to cover her face while out of her home, or for being raped). In fact, the entire notion of an "honor killing" is utterly foreign to Christianity--you don't murder your daughter for having sex out of wedlock!

But since the variety of Islam practiced by these people is a barbarian religion, they must be dealt with in similar fashion. I think Sean Connery said it best in The Untouchables:

You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.


That's the only language they understand; violence--brutal, unremitting violence. The Israeli military understands their enemy very well; but as in the US, their military is controlled by civilian politicians. This is a very good system but it can be a handicap in these kinds of situations.

Most (if not all) of the countries which allow terror attacks to proceed against Israel from within their borders could not withstand a concerted attack from Israeli forces. They allow the attacks because they tacitly agree with the terrorists' agenda (the elimination of Israel) and also because, as a liberal democracy, Israel is seen as the focal point of all these problems by the intelligentsia and cultureal elites of the world.

...well, in a way, it is: its continued existence is intolerable to the Muslims of the middle east, who are anti-Semites, virtually to a man. (Much the same way that the attacks of 9/11 on the US were ultimately the fault of the US, you see? Because Israel, like the US, deserves it, for being rich and prosperous when so many other countries are poor.) But they don't mean that; they mean Israel's foreign policy; they mean Israel's emphasis on maintaining a strong military. That strong military kept Israel on the map in 1967's Six Days War.

Like the US, Israel is never going to garner universal approval from Europe and elsewhere. They will always lay the blame for terror attacks at the feet of Israel's foreign policy. There is no point in Israel trying to curry favor with the international community, because the international community is not, and never will be, on Israel's side. Israel subscribes to the wrong political theories and refuses to listen to the rest of the world when it counsels the tiny nation to "go gently into that good night".

So what's my peace plan?

My peace plan is pretty simple. Israel's response to the hostage situation they faced was perfect:

Non-negotiable

...and it should be that way every time. Refuse to deal, refuse to dicker; go in shooting and kill as many of the bastards as you can. Find out who gave them their orders and shoot that bastard, too--don't arrest him or put him on trial, just kill the fucker. He ordered that an act of war be committed against you; if you try to make a deal with him, you're making him too important and you're showing him that you're too weak to respond to the attack.

If the country playing host to the terrorists objects, ask them why the hell the atrocity against you was allowed to proceed from within their borders. "Why didn't you find the bad guys and stop them before we had to go in? If you are so concerned about the sanctity of your territory, why are you allowing people to attack us from within your country?" Make it plain that you will not tolerate any attacks againt you, your citizens, or your soldiers, and that you consider such actions to be an act of war perpetrated by the country from which the attack came.

Make a foreign-based terror attack on your country end up being so costly that none of the countries that surround yours will let any terror group operate against your country from within their borders. If this is done properly, the terrorists ultimately will have two choices: either they will have to cease operations, or else they will have to operate within your country. Either alternative is a victory for you, because if they're operating within your country you can track them all down and squish them like the repulsive insects they are; and obviously if they just stop attacking, you've won.

You make it plain that you will not dicker, deal, or negotiate; anyone perpetrating any kind of terror attack against your country is signing his own death warrant and that of whoever ordered the attack. If your people die in the process, the terrorist corpses will be buried with pig corpses and the entire site of the terrorist atrocity will be spattered with pig's blood.

People in your country who publicly object to these tactics will be given the choice of shutting up, or immediately being drafted into service as grief counselors for the relatives of the victims of terror attacks.

Hey, I didn't say this plan would retain all civil liberties. This plan assumes that you're on a war footing to deal with the problem. The United States is at war, yet our civil liberties are intact; but then we don't have quite the problem that Israel has.

Eh? "Patriot Act"?
I've tried, time and time again, to get liberals to tell me which civil liberties Americans have lost as a result of the Patriot Act. Every time I've asked the question, they have changed the subject. I still don't know what freedoms the Patriot Act has cost me; as far as I can tell, I'm still as free as I was in 1999. Some of them mumble something about air travel, but having traveled by air since 9/11/2001, I can say with authority that my movement has been completely unrestricted. My baggage was examined and I was then allowed to board my flights without any trouble whatsoever. So? When has your baggage not been examined? How long has it been since you could walk into an airport and get on a plane without your baggage being x-rayed and checked in other ways? My first trip via airline was in 1985 and my carry-on baggage was x-rayed then.


I'm fairly certain that Israel does not have a "bill of rights" in its constitution. I could be wrong; I do not make a study of Israeli politics--but even if it does, are the people of Israel so stupid as not to understand what is at stake if terrorists are allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to Israeli citizens?

Islamic fundamentalists have declared jihad against Israel and the United States. They believe that death in this cause garners them a place in Paradise with 72 virgins. Ultimately they will not stop their war until they are all dead; so let's send them on to their 72 virgins.

It's the only way to be sure.