Friday, February 28, 2003

I'm not creative enough for a good title at this point

Working my way through my C book is going well. I can program all sorts of nifty little things. Three chapters of C stuff left, 2 more chapters of other useful info, than I move onto my C++ book. I wouldn't have gotten this far without my buddy Q, who's a programmer, and also really good at Unreal Tournament 2003.

I went to the Celtics - Rockets game this past Monday with my brother. It was a zoo...I dunno how much the Chinese people in Boston care about basketball, but they love Yao Ming. The place exploded every time he touched the ball.

In a fit of boredom, I gave match.com a look (it was a banner on dilbert.com). I found some interesting matches, and decided to give it a shot. What do I have to lose, right? I've emailed 4 girls now, and gotten exactly zero replies. I don't get it. You'd think I'd get at least one. I generally don't write anything that would make me seem insane, or like a giant loser. Ah well. Why should my love life stop sucking now? Being nice is no way to get a girl, it would seem, at least not when they're young.

Sometimes I wish I could pull off being an asshole. I've watched enough great girls fall for guys that didn't respect them that I'm fairly certain it'd work, I just can't do it. I blame my parents for teaching me to respect everyone. Maybe I'll sue.

Yes, I'm being goofy. 4 am will do that to you, and it's just about 4 am. Bed time.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Argh

Blogger ate my last post. Bastards! Guess I get to try and rewrite it from memory.

Let's see. I started out by saying that I hadn't posted in a while. I blame it on the weekend....not much noteworthy seems to happen on weekends. This weekend, mostly it was tragic stuff....the fire in Rhode Island, the fire on Staten Island, the girl with the wrong organs transplanted to her, then the right ones found in a hurry and transplanted died. The one in Rhode Island is an interesting case. The band's rider didn't have any mention of pyrotechnics in it (check it out here at The Smoking Gun). But both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald are reporting that other bands say they have played the club many times using the same type of pyro, and the club's management had agreed to it, verbally. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

If you've never checked out The Smoking Gun before, you should. They have all sorts of interesting stuff. No tabloid or shock journalism, just hard documents and paper trails. Plus a great collection of celebrity mug shots.

Also worth checking out is Molly Ivins' latest column, which can be found here. Ivins is one of the best progressive op/ed writers out there, and worth reading regularly.

Having quite a bit of free time, I've taken to teaching myself C. Mainly because I have a book that came highly recommended, and I've never really touched it before. The book is 15 chapters, and I worked through two yesterday, and plan on doing the next two today. So far, so good.

That's about it. Get your Re-Freak on! (Link leads to post on Lisa Rein's blog, which I found on BoingBoing.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Finally

Blogger.com was down for a while, so that's why this post didn't come this morning.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." - Teddy Roosevelt

Good advice these days. A WWII veteran marching in New York City this past Saturday stated "It can't be 'My country, right or wrong.' - it has to be 'My country, supporting it when it's right and correcting it when it's wrong'. The feeling in New York was that the people there are angry that Bush has co-opted their suffering and used it to push his agenda. Unlike rallies that had happened earlier in DC and San Francisco, the rallies in New York and San Fran this past Saturday were not large meetings of smaller left wing groups, protesting everything from capitalism to the anti-abortion stance of many republican leaders. Instead, these rallies were groups of Americans, every type of American, meeting in large groups to tell Bush that his war was not right. He hasn't justified them. I don't think Saddam should remain in power, but reports show that the US plan for after the war is to install a US military dictator, and to basically leave Saddam's party in power in most places. This isn't a fight for democracy. It's a fight to show the US that the "war on terror" is getting something done (cause it sure isn't capturing any major Al Qeada leaders, or any Taliban leaders, for that matter), and also to secure US access to the oil this country refuses to slow it's consumption of.

The federal government has done everything in it's power to prevent higher standards from hitting the road. California, back in the 70s, had a smog problem that was growing so bad that the feds gave them permission to set their own standards, which before that wasn't allowed (since having as many as 50 different state standards wouldn't be a good thing). Other states were given the option of using Federal standards, or California standards. A few months back, as California’s state government pushed for higher standards, Bush tried to strike their efforts down, saying they weren't allowed under federal law. Which was, we'll assume, a misunderstanding on his part, and not a lie. He gave up on that fight. California also got screwed in the energy crisis they faced in 2001. Several companies had worked to fix prices and limit the supply of energy they were giving to California. Among these were Enron, Williams Energy (who held back more electricity than any other company), Duke Power, PG&E, and others. Williams reportedly left generators offline while people in California sat in the dark. And the Feds knew about it, but didn't report it to anyone or do anything about it for over a year...a Freedom of Information Act suit had to be filed to get the reports. From CBS.com's reporting: "The government sealed the tapes in a secret settlement and still refuses to release them." While the government knew, Dick Cheney went on Frontline and stated that the problem was with how California deregulated. If they'd deregulated all the way, and not just part way, it wouldn't have happened. When in reality, the problem wasn't the deregulation scheme, but some companies wanting to make extra money by faking a crisis. And it worked great for them. And the consumers got screwed.

Cheney also suggested in that interview that other places where deregulation has done good is in phone and airline services. As for phone service, I'd agree, if it weren't for the fact that so much of the country is still without access to high speed internet access. The companies that control the phone lines these days refuse to spend the money to upgrade the lines, because they won't be the ones to profit from them..at least not the only ones. And the airlines..well, just look. US Air and American Airlines are both bankrupt, or on the verge. This isn't a post-sept 11th thing..they were on the way there before hand. The feds gave them billions, and they couldn't get solvent. They are hemorrhaging money. Discount shuttle carriers, like American Eagle, start their pilots at a yearly salary roughly equivalent of someone working full time at McDonalds or the local mall...$13,000 a year. That type of money is going to attract the best qualified pilots?

Deregulation generally doesn't work. In the radio industry, it's created Clear Channel, a company owning well over one thousand stations, pumping out the same formula on station after station. They banned Tom Petty's The Last DJ just because it attacked corporate radio. No vulgarity at all in the song, just lines like "as we celebrate mediocrity/all the boys upstairs want to see/how much you'll pay for/what you used to get for free".

Check out Salon.com's article on Clear Channel and the attempts to further deregulate the media here. It's a good read.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

White, Discussion

The post title is a song by the band Live, and the title seems fitting, for I have two subjects for this post. The link goes to the song's lyrics.

First, White. Snow. I'm completely sick of it. The plow guy showed up as I was putting my boots on, and plowed out half the driveway. (my driveway holds 6 cars; 3 deep, 2 wide. We put the 3 cars on one side, so everyone can pull out to the other side. He plowed the empty side). It still took me an hour and a half to clear the 2 cars left, plus clear the snow around the cars, and then clear the walkway. We've had WAY too much snow this year, and there's still a month to 2 months of the season left. On the plus side, it's going to be in the 40s the rest of the week, and rain's expected on Friday. Should clear away some of the snow-mountains building up.

Second, Discussion. George W Bush claimed that the rallies seen world wide would not slow his push for war with Iraq. (The Washington Post). "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security — in this case — security of the people." Other than the fact that his english continues to be poor, the fact remains that these protests were not minor in any way. The polls show anti-war majorities in many of America's allies....Turkey (something like 93% of the population is against the war in a recent poll there), England (52% in the last poll, with 29% supporting war) and in Australia, the 600,000+ protesters that marched all over the country Saturday were referred too by the Prime Minister as "the mob". That 600,000 represents about 3% of the population of the country (compared to the less than 1% that marched all over the US). The people in charge of the preeminent english speaking democracies are asleep at the wheel...ignoring the will of their constituents in a race for the US to grab the oil in Iraq and to show that the US is scoring victories in this manufactured front of the war on terror, and for the US's allies, to maintain a favored position in the eye of the US leadership, who control a huge percentage of the world's economy.

Speaking of the economy, Bush is still pushing for another tax cut..one that could cost trillions in the long run. Why? Because he wants his rich friends to get more money. I can not see any other reason...he's stopped trying to pass it off as an "economic stimulus". The cut would give more money to people who have more money than they can spend anyway. The top 5% would get an overwhelming majority of the savings of this cut - 75% of it in the first year, with the ratios getting worse after that, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. What do we, the bottom 90% get? We get things like federal funding for Head Start and Superfund cleanup passed onto states that can't afford the programs they have to run currently. The wealthy in this country think that their money should buffer them from paying taxes. You want to see how bad things are? Pick up Wealth and Democracy. It's a bit dry in parts, but if you're interested in economics, it's a good read. And the numbers are not good. Corporations pay for as much of the federal budget as payroll taxes do.

My economic plan would be simple....make corporations pay taxes on their profits. Don't let them use tax havens to make it look like they lost money, so they can get a refund (see: Enron, Halliburton, etc). And pass laws that make things hard on companies that set up a post office box in an off sea tax haven to protect themselves from federal taxes. Then, add a few more tax brackets, and put larger taxes on the highest groups (right now, someone who makes $300,000 pays the same percentage in taxes as someone who makes $10 million). In the 40s and 50s, when the middle class was better off than it's been at any point in the last 100+ years, the tax rate for the highest bracket was well over 75% (including FICA). For the median family, the rate was under 13%. In 1989, the last year statistics were available, the median family paid just over 24% of it's income to the federal government. Millionaires paid 26.7% that year. Median families are paying twice as much of their income, while millionaires are paying a third. And Bush wants to get rid of one more tax that affects the rich more than the poor. Good plan.

One last thing. Screw the stock market...buy a congressperson.
Snow Daze

It snowed about 15 inches yesterday/last night. I get to go dig out my mom and sister's car now. Our lease says we're supposed to get plow service, but they haven't shown up so far. This is the 2nd storm to drop more than a foot on us just this month...the 3rd this season. Plus we've had at least a half dozen storms that dropped 5-8 inches. We've gotten at least 7 feet of snow this winter. It's really not fun. Last winter I think we got a total of about 3 feet.

Anyway, off to shovel. Maybe I'll get lucky and the plow will come soon and save me a bunch of work...I'll still have to dig the cars out, and clear the walkway tho.
Comics are good!

Quick post before bed...more in the morning, on the off chance that anyone's reading.

The Boondocks. Great comic, highly recomended.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Post, the second.

Yesterday the world saw something, the likes of which it has never seen. Peace rallies in the capitals of just about every major nation, lots of minor nations, and lots of other cities. Over 600 in all. Over a million in London. As many as 2 million in Rome. 100,000 or more in Paris. As many as a half million in Berlin and Amsterdam. Madrid saw crowds that closed in on 1 million. And in New York City, home of the UN, a crowd that has been estimated as small as 100,000 (according to a report on CNN) and over a million (according to the rally's organizers. My guess would be over a half million, at least, judging by how it compared to other protests world wide.

All in all, over 10 million people protested the coming war.

I had planned on going to New York, but I couldn't afford the bus fair, and the local ride drives had all filled up. So I watched on tv, I listened to it on WBAI's web cast when I could get onto their servers. I wish I'd gone.

Many people who support the war make claims that need to be examined. The first is that this war is going to help fight terrorism. This could not be farther from the truth. There is no evidence of Iraq supporting Al Qeada. In fact, Iraq is an enemy of Al Qeada, because Saddam Hussein's government is secular, and not Islamic. And Hussein fears the Islamic fundamentalists, because they could give the people of Iraq a means to unite and rally against him. In fact, the odds are that this war will create more terrorists than it will stop. Muslims all over the world will see how we bomb and kill their brethren, and will hate us more for it. Many will finally give up, and fight back. There are over 1 billion Muslim people in the world, and it's the fastest growing religion. In 20 years, that number is expected to top 2 billion. We can not fight these people to the death...morally, that's entirely unacceptable, and besides that, the odds are that we would lose.

The second claim is that we are "peace loving hippies" or something similar. They spit out "peace loving" like it's a curse. This is what happens when the people in this country have spent almost 30 years protected from war, both the threat of it here, and the losses it causes when we fight it. Since Vietnam, the US has done everything it can to prevent American deaths, and they have done spectacularly. But we have been involved in conflicts almost constantly since the 80s...20 years now. And they are all shown on CNN and Fox News and all the other news outlets like they were the latest baseball highlights. Flashy graphics, victories for the home team, and little hint of the real damage we are doing to the people we fight.

Yes, Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. But there are lots of dictators in the world, and we aren't fighting any of them. Genocide and government sponsored murder are a fact of life all over Africa. And as for the threat of weapons of mass destruction, North Korea is building missiles that can reach California, and working on developing nuclear weapons of their own. Pakistan and India have been on the brink of all out war for over a decade, and both sides have nukes. Israel has over 400 nuclear warheads (supplied by the US), and has never submitted to inspections. Iraq's supply of Anthrax was supplied by the US (in fact, after the anthrax mailings, the US ruled out Iraqi involvement because the anthrax used was a US designed variant, but not the variant we sold to Iraq in the 80s). And the US itself is still developing chemical and biological weapons (which they plan on using in Iraq), despite having signed treaties banning both. And let's not forget depleted uranium. Depleted uranium is a radioactive material that the US uses in cannon shells, because it is incredibly dense, so it has more mass, and therefore has more power to pierce armor. The US left as many as 80,000 pounds of depleted uranium in Iraq after the first gulf war. Between 1991 and 1994, the rate of birth defects in Iraq has gone up 700%, according to the UN.

And what about after the war? We have all but abandoned Afghanistan. Warlords rule much of the country. Of course, they're our warlords, so the US doesn't have to worry about traveling around to continue their hunt for the Taliban. In some places, the people long for the days of the Taliban. Democracy has not happened, and will not. We are not supporting the government we helped put in place in any serious way...no military support, no monetary support.

Would we do better in Iraq? Sure, Iraq has oil, so I'm certain we'd be more concerned with the stability of the country. But could we even expect the US companies (that would steal the oil contracts from the French and Russian corporations that hold them now) to even pay their taxes? Or even consider themselves to be US corporations? Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old company, and one of the leading candidates in the "who gets to rebuild the oil fields" contract bonanza, filed taxes in 1999 that netted them an 89 million dollar refund, despite having garnered billions in government contracts. George W Bush's old company, Harken Energy, has a similar record, with a majority of their business run through off shore tax havens in the Cayman Islands. So we'd be paying to defend the companies that would be exploiting Iraq's resources, and then we'd also be paying those companies tax refunds. Very nice of us taxpayers, isn't it?

So, my point of view:
Iraq's dictator is an awful man. But he's not even close to the only one out there, nor the most dangerous. And the reasons we've given for going to war don't make sense...if we were worried about weapons of mass destruction, we'd also have to begin threatening North Korea over inspections and whatnot, but we aren't. If we wanted to go after brutal dictators, well, there's a whole bunch of them out there, but we aren't doing anything about them.

I leave you with the words of the Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd.

Oh, and a note: Bush has left two big items out of his budget for 2003. First, there is no hint of the money he promised to help Africa deal with it's monumental AIDS crisis. And second, there's no money being put aside to fight the war in Iraq. His reasoning for that? Reportedly, if we put the war in the budget, well then we'd have to go to war. The war could cost $200 billion or more. The budget is already $300 billion or so in the red, according to CNN. Remember when being conservative meant that you wanted to balance the budget?

That's all for now. Feel free to let me know what you think.
I always wanted my own Blog...

Hey. My name is Joe, and I need a place to rant. So ta-da. I have no idea if anyone will read this, but I figure what the heck, right?

My inaugural rant, or how I came up with a blog name.

I'm 23. I'm single. Right now, I have no job. And, as the blog suggests, apathy got me here. Well, apathy and a lack of self confidence. But mostly apathy. I'm generally someone you'd describe as mellow, if you knew me. But under the surface, I'm generally a torrent of emotions. I just hide them. Why? Because I had to when I was young. I was always one of the smallest kids, and showing emotions just got me beat up or picked on or what not. So I learned to hide my emotions, as a defense mechanism. Problem is, now it's easier to hide my emotions than it is to show them. It's easier for me to turn an apathetic glance at the world than it is for me to go out and do what I want. And it's hard to change your ways once you're an adult, even if it's just 23. But I'm going to try, because I really can't deal with it any more. I hate raging at things in my head while, externally, I barely seem to notice. These rants should help, I think. Apathy isn't my only problem, of course. I'm shy, especially when it comes to a situation where I risk rejection or something similar. I'm not good at confrontation. But they all stem from roughly the same place. And it's time I conquer these problems, so I can be happy with my life, and not just constantly frustrated with things I could control if I would only try.

It may sound simple, but after 15 or so years of not trying, it's hard to start.

Anyway, that's it, for this edition. Who knows how often I'll update. I tend to be inspired to rant fairly often. Don't expect most of these to be introspective, as I'm fairly unhappy with the current situation politically in the US, and I'm also a huge tech geek. So I'll cover lots of odd stuff.