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politics

Earth to Bush!

It seems that President Bush is really out of touch with the American people right now. I woke up this morning to the headline on Yahoo!, Bush Defends India Job Outsourcing. Now let me get this straight, we can’t have American companies or our own government control seaports on American soil, and we can’t have Americans here at home get good tech jobs either. It seems that if you’re American these days you’re just screwed. Of course, if you’re not American and we don’t like your government, we’ll invade you and kill tens of thousands of people for no good reason. Sigh… I don’t have anything against the Indians in particular. They’re just taking advantage of the opportunities coming their way, which is smart. But I would like a more pro-American president whose policies don’t have to involve starting wars on trumped up “evidence” and then calling it patriotism.

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politics

Outsourcing National Security

In a not too surprising example of how Homeland Security seems anything but secure, control of six major U.S. ports is about to be turned over to a company in the UAE. Now even if 9/11 had not happened, turning over control of your major ports to a foreign company/country is just plain stupid. Why don’t we just outsource our southwestern border patrols to Mexico while we’re at it. I’m sure they could do it for less money!

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politics

Addicted To Oil

Might as well face it, we’re addicted to oil… It’s nice that President Bush at least in words is acknowledging the need to break U.S. dependency on foreign oil, but he didn’t lay out anything new or detailed on how to get there. Indeed, he took the politically safe route that pushes the goal far into the future to 2025 and seems to favor the popular, but inefficient, ethanol to the front. Oh well, it isn’t fair to expect a lot from a state of the union address, still one always hopes.

All in all, the president’s address seemed to be more of the same. So along those lines, America leadership and resisting isolationism would seem to mean that we will be invading Iran pretty soon and won’t be out of Iraq any time soon. Our need to be competitive with India and China actually means that U.S. companies will remain free to export more jobs to those countries not because they are better educated than Americans, but because they are cheaper. And the endless war on terrorism means that the illegal domestic spying will continue. Oh well, I guess there is some comfort in consistency…

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politics

Boondocks MLK Dream, Get Angry!

Ah the bliss that is cable…If last night’s episode of the Boondocks in which Martin Luther King Jr. awakens from a 3 decade coma, had been on one of the broadcast networks, angry people would be out in the streets. But safely buried on cable in Cartoon Network’s late night Adult Swim block, I guess it can be safely forgotten. Well, I hope I’m wrong about that.

Besides, I have the feeling that the angry people in the streets would be black people calling for Aaron McGruder’s head in the same that many have been angered by Bill Cosby’s recent remarks. Why? Because he’s saying things that no one really wants to hear and pisses them off. In the episode, Dr. King awakens to an African America that has squandered the gains that he and others worked and suffered so much to obtain. Ultimately Dr. King makes a stinging, indicting speech that angers everyone, then leaves for Canada in disgust.

At no time in U.S. history have African Americans had so many opportunities, still many of us live in poverty or prison! And perhaps worst of all (on a personal level) many of us still refer to each other using what McGruder’s MLK referred to as the most detestable and hurtful word in the English language. Yes, there is still racism in the United States, but we simply cannot blame that anymore! We all know the formula for success consists of hard work, education, and working together. Sadly, I think my people are failing all three of these things.

So what is the solution? The solution is change. People have to decide for themselves that they want to change and the rest of us have to be willing to help them do it. But ultimately it begins with individual people deciding that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

After King’s stinging speech, people are shocked and angry, angry enough that they begin to change. In this fantasy, the people rise up and the revolution comes. It’s nice to dream, but it’s even more fun to build reality into what it should be.

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politics

Harriet Miers: It’s Who You Know

With all due respect to Harriet Miers, who is probably a wonderful person, I’m a bit insulted by her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The old adage that it’s not what you know, but who you know is playing out right before our eyes to the detriment of hard working American women and minorities. Ms. Miers who has never served as a judge has been nominated to a lifelong postion on the highest court in the land. Now arguments about late Justice Rehnquist, who also had not served as a judge, aside, I think this is a slap in the face to all of those who have worked hard working their way up the judicial ladder and actually aspired to sitting on the Supreme Court someday. This tells those people that all of that just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how well connected you are and that you haven’t done enough to leave a significant paper trail on your judicial philosophy. Indeed, this makes it even more difficult for the highly qualified to even gain notice for the job. If they must choose a conservative women (in the best traditions of tokenism) surely they could have found someone in the mold of the recently sworn in Justice Roberts. There must be hundreds of Federal judges whose experience make them far more qualified than Ms. Miers.

Heh, on a slightly lighter note, I supose that Justice Scalia will be doubly pissed now. First he was aced out of the Chief Justice job and now he is going to have to serve with someone whose path to the court was paved by Executive branch affirmative action. Annoying Scalia is good sport I suppose!

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politics

Thanks For The Gas Mr. Cheney!

Prior to the landfall of Hurricane Rita, I filled my gas tank because I just knew that gasoline prices were going to soar once the hurricane hit Texas. The analysts on TV were talking about $4/gallon or more! Then the hurricane hit and guess what? No price increases yet, regular in Chicago is still about $2.99/gallon.

This just didn’t seem natural at all because the oil companies have in the past seized upon any excuse to raise prices sharply. So assuming this is true, I would like to take a moment to thank Vice President Cheney for the gas in my tank. Why? Because I’m sure that Dick got on the phone and told his oil buddies to put on lid on price hikes. The Bush administration has been pretty good to the oil industry, but the rising prices have become an increasing weight on the economy and more importantly, those Red Staters that put Bush back into the the White House are starting to get pissed. Not only that, they stopped buying those ginormous gas guzzling SUVs which is now putting a serious crimp in the profits of Bush and Cheney’s other friends in the auto industry. President Bush’s popularity is at an all time low and while he himself does not face reelection, many Republicans do.

So thanks again Mr. Cheney! Heck, President Bush is even telling people to drive less now! What strange times these are indeed.

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politics

Oakland Sideshows: They Just Don’t Get It

After watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. win the NASCAR race this afternoon, I decided to watch Dateline to see a story about street racing activity in Oakland CA. The Dateline show was about what are called Side Shows which feature drivers doing donuts and other loud smoky maneuvers on city streets. Basically a crowd of people late at night will essentially take over an intersection and perform the automotive equivalent of break-dancing.

Naturally, the Oakland authorities are up in arms about this. Having only 29 officers to cover all of Oakland, they are severely outmanned. But what really bothered me was the fact that the government authorities (mostly white) completely dismissed the notion that one of the reasons that the young and mostly black crowds were doing the side shows was because there was nothing else to do at night in East Oakland. Their only solution to the problem was more cops, fines, and jail time for drivers and spectators. With all of the closed shops in Oakland would it be so hard to actually provide a safe venue for events like side shows to take place? Young people everwhere need something fun to do. Either our society will take steps to provide for this, or the young people will make their own fun without the benefit of mature guidance. The police already have enough excuses to arrest young black and latino people, do we need to give them any more?

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politics

Gay Rights: What Is Microsoft Really Afraid Of?

There’s been a lot of empassioned discussion over Microsoft’s withdrawal of support for a gay rights bill in the state of Washingtion. Many speculate that pressure from a nearby evangelical church is responsible for the reversal, but I wonder what Microsoft is really afraid of.

Seriously, it is widely acknowledged that Microsoft has a monopoly on desktop operating systems. Windows is the operating system on well over 90% of all PCs and while unix clone Linux has made tremendous inroads on the desktop, Windows isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Furthermore, Microsoft Office is the defacto standard for office suites. Indeed, the fact that Office only runs under Windows is the reason that once Windows is on a PC, it tends to stay there. So why should Microsoft fear any threat of boycott? To put it bluntly, the sort of people likely to follow an anti-gay boycott of Microsoft products are not the most technically saavy people. They would have a really hard time replacing the Microsoft products that most of them probably got when they bought their PCs. Most average users just use what came with the PC, which means Microsoft products in most cases. So a boycott would probably just bring bad publicity (which MS is used too!), but little effect to the bottom line, unless MS has been lying about their earnings and things are much worse than they appear. But I think this is highly unlikely for such a high profile company.

So if fear of boycott is not the reason, then what is left? While MS said that their decision was based on a desire to address issues directly related to their core business, the NYT article implies than there may have been pressure from Christian employees at Microsoft. This makes me wonder what kind of internal strife may be occuring at MS over this and other issues where conservative religious types are at odds with those who are more liberal. If this is a big problem at Microsoft, then it can only be a portent of major changes to come at the company. While Microsoft is clearly a dominant (if not the dominant) player in the PC market today, the era of the PC may be passing as other often simpler to use devices take on more PC-like functionality, like cell phones, iPods, and video game consoles. This puts pressure on MS to not only produce better products, but to reduce costs. One common way to reduce costs is to outsource work overseas to countries where workers can be paid much less than their U.S. counterparts. Thousands of tech jobs have already been lost to India and China over the last few years and that isn’t likely to end anytime soon. While Microsoft itself has not outsourced work on a large scale, they have invested heavily in facilities in India and China. If internal strife is rising at Microsoft, then that can only be one more incentive to shift a major portion of their operations overseas.

So what is Microsoft really afraid of? Maybe they were afraid of hundreds or even thousands of their Christian employees walking out and picketing the Redmond campus. If that’s true, and that kind of threat was made, then I think those people have just shortened their tenure at Microsoft all in the name of oppressing people who have done them no harm.

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politics

China’s Anti Japanese Protests and Return of the Archons

My wife and I have been following the anti-Japanese protests going on in China with a great deal of interest. My wife, who is Chinese and was born in Hong Kong, certainly has very strong feelings with regard to the atrocities committed by the Japanese army during World War II and because of this, by her own admission, cannot share the enthusiasm I have for various aspects of Japanese pop culture. I can understand that. Whenever I see films about the horrors of the enslavement my ancestors suffered in the American south, I get very angry and upset. But at some point people have to decide to move on and live in the present rather than the past. This takes time, a lot of it. The Japanese war crimes are still fresh in the mind of Asia, in part because a frank and open airing of the matter has not been done. Right now, I would say that much of the burden for making a start at this is on the Japanese government and people. This will not be easy for them, as it will require a great national loss of face and many in Japan are not ready for that. Indeed, what Asian nation would willingly face such a shame? Ironically, China talks about owning up to history but conveniently forgets about the June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square. During anti-Japanese protests in Hong Kong recently, some protesters made mention of June 4th only to be violently shouted down and attacked by other protesters.

Everyone knows that the protests in China are not completely free but are being allowed and orchestrated by the Beijing government. I can’t help but make a comparison of this to the Star Trek episode, "The Return of the Archons". In this episode, Kirk and the crew are on a planet where the people are being controlled by a computer and forced to behave in a peaceful, tranquil, and souless manner. But every year, for one night during Festival, the computer turns off the controls and lets everyone run amuck. By the next morning, the control turns back on and everyone is peaceful again. Maybe this was done to let the people blow off all of their repressed emotional energy. Maybe this is what the Chinese government is doing right now.

Right now neither side seems interested in really dealing with the unhealed wounds from the war. Indeed, I would guess there are elements on both the Chinese and Japanese sides who are using it for political advantage.

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politics

We’re Number 17!

Awww right! Break out the champagne! Cnet news reports that the University of Illinois tied for 17th place in the world finals of the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest. The article then goes on to bemoan the fact that this is the worst showing ever for a U.S. team and that this means that the U.S. is slipping as a leader in technology, blah, blah, blah…

Well duh! Why should the best and brightest in the U.S. bother with careers in technology when those jobs are being shipped overseas in the name of cost cutting? Ironically, the article suggests that higher pay would entice more Americans to seek tech careers! Hellooooo! The jobs are going away because U.S. companies don’t want to pay higher salaries when they can throw rooms full of Indian, Russian, or Chinese programmers at the problem for a fraction of the cost. So is it any surprise that Americans are not interested?

As usual, the education system is also blamed for the slide. Yes the education system needs a serious overhaul, but that is not going to affect the interest of Americans in technology careers. Not only are the jobs going away to cheaper shores, but generally Americans revile those who are most interested in science and technology. On the one hand geeks and nerds are endlessly harassed in school, which is basically expected. And on the other hand the current social climate is more interested in divine revelation than research as the basis of government policy.

If we really want to reverse the trend we need to teach our people how to be entrepreneurs! Techies shouldn’t expect or be trained just to be cogs at HP, Microsoft, or IBM. The real action is going to happen in the startups where bright people will lay it all on the line and really push the envelope. I think the U.S. is still one of the best environments for this to happen, but we don’t really teach our people how to do this and indeed to expect to do this rather than being wage slaves for a lifetime. If we’re such a great capitalistic country, then let’s get serious and teach our people to be real capitalists!

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politics

Violent Video Games: et tu Hillary?

Well it looks like Senator, and prospective 2008 Presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton has jumped on the anti-violent video games bandwagon. She’s slamming Grand Theft Auto for its violence against women and minorities and wants to spend $90M to study the threat that these games pose to children. So this makes it official, as I’ve mused before, there is no political downside to slamming violent and so called mature video games even if it means proposing laws that are clearly unconstitutional. You score points with the political right and conservatives without the danger that the bans and restrictions will stand the test of the courts. Then score more points complaining about the judges who strike the laws down. Since the democrats are on the out right now, watch for more dems to jump on the bandwagon. This is a no brainer!

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politics

Whatcha Readin?

Here is a bit of humor that I just got from a friend. I don’t know the original source, but you will say "Ouch!" at the end. Thanks John!

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand The New York Times.

They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country — if they could find the time –and if they didn’t have to leave Southern California.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who’s running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure there is a country … or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. None of these is read by the guy who is running the country into the ground.

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politics

Illinois Gov: Guns for Teens Okay But Narc Bad

In a strange twist I found a story in which Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich blasts Narc for its drug use onĀ  the same page as a link to a story in which the very same governor supports lowering the gun ownership age in Illinois from 21 to 18!

Now let me get this straight, simulated violence and mayhem is so bad for young people that we must usurp parental authority and trample all over the U.S. Constitution in order to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors, but it is okay to arm teenagers with real weapons. Now admittedly, the story about lowering the gun ownership age is nearly a year old, so I wonder why it would still be a related link. Nevertheless, I can smell some serious political pandering going on as the governor seems to be trying to appeal to conservative voters and the gun lobby as his reelection campaign begins. In light of the recent teenage shooting rampage in Minnesota, I wonder if the governor is still so gung-ho to put weapons into the hands of teens.

As for Narc, I guess the governor and the game stand to gain handsomely from all of the free publicity even if both of them are full of crap. Okay, okay, that was a little harsh. Only one of them is full of crap, but I’m not saying which one!

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politics

15 Years Of Hell For Terri Schiavo

The irony of the Terri Schiavo right to die (or right to live depending on your take) case is almost too much to take. It’s ironic that the condition that resulted in her vegetative state was an eating disorder and now for 15 long years what’s left of her has had to endure being fed via a plastic tube down her throat. Now with the, hopefully, final removal of the tube, the death watch has begun or is it perhaps about to end? If indeed our immortal souls are somehow tied to this plane of existence until the physical body ceases to function, then I can only imagine the 15 years of hell Terri has had to endure. I hope that God and the prayers of her friends and family have been of some comfort to that soul, but there’s no way to know. The final irony is that because many of us don’t really know what life is and fear death so much, Terri’s body must slowly starve to death.

There’s no room in our hearts for a merciful end that even the most vile murderers are entitled to. Starvation is a cruel and painful way to die. We put people in jail for starving animals, why can’t we give Terri a dignified send off to the next world? In the same situation, I think I would want my body put down in a gentle and dignified manner rather than be at the center of self serving politicians and misguided do-gooders both causing pain to the ones I love. One could argue that such euthanasia usurps God’s role as master of our lives, and is driven by the selfish urge to escape the physical pain of death. But I would argue that we must also consider the pain of those around us, in which case a dignified death becomes a sacrifice for the sake of those we love. Which is better?

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politics

Illinois Violent Video Games And Wasted Tax Dollars

Once again our lawmakers are wasting our tax money rather than trying to solve real problems. Illinois lawmakers are pressing on with a bill that will restrict the sale of violent video games to minors. They are doing this depite the fact that in several states similar bills have all been ruled unconstitutional because video games are a protected form of speech in the same way as other media such as movies or music.

Our state has some serious problems, so why is Governor Blagojevich, who authored the bill, wasting time and money on this? The law, if passed, will be challenged and most likely found to be unconstitutional at the cost of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars. In a state that is struggling with budget short falls, wasting money like this makes no sense. This is just politics as usual. Politician A proposes a law that he/she knows is probably unconstitutional, but which will score some points with the local crowd. Politicians B through N go along with it and use their support to make the usual deals, again knowing that there’s no cost because the Judiciary will strike it down. When it is found to be unconstitutional, everyone gets bonus points by railing against the evil Judicial branch.

If they must waste time and money, why not propose a law that would impose fines and jail time on lawmakers who pass stupid or unconstitutional laws? Ironically, such a law would probably be unconstitutional. Damn Judicial branch! Bonus!