Browse Month: March 2008

03/29/2008

An insightful post by Jim Hightower, which exactly mirrors my feelings about the “economic stimulus package” on its way to all of us:

Washington was excited. The media establishment applauded. Wall Street smiled. Somewhere, a bluebird of happiness chirped.

In a celebrated display of bipartisanship, both parties joined hands last month to pass a whopper of a stimulus package. Cash, they crowed, would soon be flowing. “We’re sending a $600 check to you, and $300 to you, and $1,200 to couples, and…well, almost everyone will get money! It’s manna straight from heaven to get our big ol’ economy high-ballin’ down Prosperity Highway,” they exulted.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with our economy,” they quickly added. “No, no,” said the self-congratulatory stimulators. “Everything’s fine. Really fine. Really.” In his State of the Union peroration, Bush insisted, “Americans can be confident about our economic growth.” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen chimed in, “The U.S. economy is fundamentally strong.” Buckshot Cheney came out of his bunker to assert that America has a “solid platform” for continued economic growth. And Condi Rice assured world leaders that our economy is “resilient, its structure sound, and its long-term economic fundamentals are healthy.”

Hmmm. If the basics of the economy are in such great shape, why would we need all this cheerleading by the wizards in charge? You don’t have to be in Who’s Who to know what’s what. They can whoop it up ’til they’re hoarse, but for most Americans, the kitchen-table fundamentals are nothing to cheer about.

Let’s say your check arrives and you drive straight to Wal-Mart to pick out some new clothes, an electronic gizmo you’ve been wanting, and a couple of toys for the kids. Pay your $300 to $600 and– listen!– you can almost hear the economic machinery kicking into gear, stimulated by your purchase of products.

But wait– we make very little of that stuff in America anymore. Those machinery noises are coming from China, where Wal-Mart and most other retailers have their goods made. Thus, our leaders are shipping billions of dollars from our public treasury to you and me, asking us to spend it in an economy that’s based on further enriching Wal-Mart’s wealthiest investors and further stimulating China’s massive export economy. How sound is that? Wal-Mart and China profit, but we don’t.

It’s amazing to me that stuff like this stimulus package even gets off the drawing board. But I guess it gives Congresspeople (who aren’t spending their own money here) something to point at when they’re up for re-election. “Look!” they can say, “I was one of the boneheads who voted to grab billions of dollars from our debt-ridden Treasury so you could have a little extra spending money!”

Sigh.

03/25/2008

Although I dislike John McCain almost as much as the Bush/Cheney duo, I like his stance on the current mortgage crisis:

It is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.

Amen! While Obama and Clinton are throwing around ideas about having the Gov pump $30 billion to help struggling homeowners faced with foreclosure or the banks who are regretting their hard-sell tactics of a few years ago, McCain is actually stepping up to say that those people (and companies) made some bad choices, and it’s not the job of the taxpayers to help them.

As someone who has paid his mortgage on time every month for the past twelve years, it irks me that others who are either irresponsible or just plain financial nincompoops might end up with a happy rainbow ending to their sad stories. They were suckered into something that sounded too good to be true or a house much bigger than they needed or whatever, and now they’re whining because they might have to face the music. Well, too bad, so sad. Although I empathize with them, if we don’t let them learn a hard lesson, what’s to stop them from doing it again? And again?

While politicians and bankers and Wall Street experts talk about different bailouts, I think it’s time someone stand up and say we need to let the market correct itself. If a business is too dumb to make good investments, then it should go under. That’s capitalism. Let the strong (and smart) survive, and let the weasels and incompetents fade away.

03/22/2008

Zack lost his first tooth today. He was so excited he insisted that I take a picture of it.

Of course he also had to make a little poster with the big announcement. Now he’s running upstairs to put it under his pillow and cash in.

03/19/2008

Laralee was shopping the other day and happened to find a bargain bin of calendars (they’re always cheap in March!). She picked up a few puppy and kitten calendars for the kids, and an awesome one for me:

It’s called “The Out of Office Countdown” and includes memorable quotes from our beloved President, as well as a countdown of the number of days we will continue to endure him.

As of today there are 307 days left.

03/19/2008

So Barack Obama gave an impassioned speech about race. People have mixed reactions about it (mostly positive, it seems) but the real news is that he wrote the entire thing himself.  No speechwriters, no campaign managers, no one but himself sitting up late at night putting the words together.  Apparently no sitting president or presidential candidate since Nixon has done such a thing.

I thought this was a great quote about it:

Here is a chair.  Regardless of who you support, or what you think of Obama, I want you to sit here, right here on this chair and consider something wonderful.  To wit: It is possible that we will have a President who not only will speak in full, complete sentences, but who will do so in a manner that is eloquent, and who will also be articulate and eloquent in delivering words he is intelligent enough to know, understand, and use in a speech he is capable of writing himself.

03/19/2008

Here’s a fun beach to visit.

03/17/2008

Zack shows off his latest schwag from my clients: this time it’s Annie’s Naturals, makers of those delicious little cheddar cheese bunny rabbits.

03/16/2008

Kyra and Hannah decided that Pumpkin’s gerbil cage was just too restrictive, so they grabbed a bunch of cardboard boxes from our crawlspace and built a huge “playland” for her. The finished product isn’t pretty, but it’s big and Pumpkin seems to enjoy running around it (probably desperately searching for a way out).

03/16/2008

“I know all technology is actually run by magic gerbils.”

— Steve Morrey

03/09/2008

After five years of living in Longmont, I decided that the Builder White paint in our house was pretty dully, so it was time to paint some rooms. Laralee was supportive of the idea but didn’t really have any suggestions, so it was more or less up to me to figure out what rooms, what colors, yada yada.

In the end I decided that our family room really needed to be green.

It looks pretty good– our barstools are green, and our ficus tree (barely visible here) goes well. The funny thing is I picked an “accent color” because that’s all the rage these days, but the colors are so close that it just looks like a trick of the light that one wall is darker. Dang paint swatches; it’s hard to tell when looking at a one-by-one inch square of color.

Blue seemed like a good color for the living room.

It’s really blue. Again, those paint swatches didn’t do justice to what an entire wall will look like. Thus, the living room reminds me of some aquatic adventure now. It’s a nice blue, but it’s a little overwhelming.

I suggested to Laralee that we get a huge plasma screen, hang it on the wall, and run a screensaver application of tropical fish. It’ll be like going to the city aquarium!

03/09/2008

The animal kingdom invaded suburbia today: Laralee spotted a hawk flying around the neighborhood, and the kids tracked it down. It had apparently killed a pigeon and was looking for a place to dine.

Eventually it managed to carry the pigeon from the rooftop to a neighbor’s fence, and it was dinner time!

The kids were pretty stoked because they were able to get within about ten feet of the hawk. Pretty cool.

03/09/2008

Pumpkin (Kyra’s little gerbil) certainly gets around these days. It seems like she’s involved with every aspect of our daily lives.

She sits on Alex’s shoulder while he does homework, probably whispering answers in his ear.

Today I found this shot– taken by one of the kids– of Pumpkin sitting in an empty baking powder can and surveying the room.

The good news is the little bugger is much easier to care for than a dog, and only occasionally manages to architect an escape and hide under the couch or dryer.

03/08/2008

I’m having some problems with a client’s Linux web server, and just can’t figure out the weird behavior. So I’m taking a page from the Windows playbook and rebooting it, on the off chance it’ll fix whatever ghosts are lurking in the machine.

I hate to reboot something that’s been running for 13 months straight, though… it seems such a shame.

[fixed: 11:08:12 up 386 days, 16:52, 2 users, load average: 0.01, 0.04, 0.01
USER TTY LOGIN@ IDLE JCPU PCPU WHAT
root ttyp0 11:08 0.00s 0.01s 0.00s w]

03/08/2008

So Bush exercised the tenth veto of his presidency to overturn legislation that would force the CIA and other covert agencies to adhere to the same standards of interrogation as the military. Thus those agencies can continue doing whatever the heck they want, including the oft-used phrase “enhanced interrogation”, without regard for law or even human decency.

In defending his veto, Bush used his standard rhetoric:

Because the danger remains, we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists.

Ahh, the terrorists. Those mythical shadowy figures that make it okay for our country to abandon its standards and sink to their level, if not below it.

The other tired line Bush used was this one:

The fact that we have not been attacked over the past six and a half years is not a matter of chance.

I call that the Elephant in My Backyard argument. I paid a billion dollars to install an anti-elephant defense system in my backyard, and in the five years it’s been in place, not a single elephant has been in my backyard. Thus, the billion dollars was well-spent and clearly the defense system is the reason there haven’t been any elephants. The Bush administration’s use of this argument is a non sequitur and proves only that they have no strong justification for their course of action.

I can only hope that when he leaves in ten months, some semblance of reason and humanity will return to this nation.

03/07/2008

I’m in the midst of a discussion with the Magnificent Seven about rights and freedoms. Dirk just wrote a missive beginning with this statement:

We have enough laws in this Country, that we have secured the highest level of Freedoms ever enjoyed in written history.

To which I gave a long-winded reply…

I disagree. I think we peaked at some earlier time (perhaps September 10, 2001, heh) and have been sliding downhill ever since. We have fewer freedoms today, March 7 2008, than we did a year ago. Do you disagree?

In the last five years I think our government has placed unprecedented restrictions on our rights… as have the governments of many other nations. Our world is becoming more of a surveillance society, aided in large part by advances in technology (video cameras, computer storage, massive data processing) but also by a growing fearmongering that the lawmakers use to justify their new restrictions. It’s all based on the mistaken assumption that increased surveillance leads to increased security.

You may contend that I, Jeff, personally enjoy a great deal of freedom. You would be right. Since I’m not on the TSA watchlist (yet) and haven’t attempted the crime of photographing a public building, I’m lucky enough to be able to sit here working and earning an honest wage rather than languishing in Gitmo or some other rendition-happy country. But that doesn’t change the fact that overall I am subject to more laws and restrictions than I was a year ago, and thus my freedoms are diminished.

I’m straying off topic, but I would say there are three categories of laws that curtail freedom:

1) Moral laws (no murder, no rape) which a reasonable human being would agree are necessary to protect the populace. It would be difficult to argue that these laws should be eliminated.

2) Compensatory laws (no stealing, no cheating) which make it possible for us to enjoy fair commerce with those around us. If we steal, we must pay back; if we cheat, we are thrown out of class (or whatever). Many of these laws are reasonable and necessary, although I feel that many more these days have gone too far into the realm of unfair compensation (e.g., the RIAA collecting $200k from a single mom who downloaded music– yes, she was wrong; yes, she should pay for her mistake; no, it’s not right that she pay that much).

3) Convenience laws (show me your photo ID, tell me your SSN, 75-year copyrights) which have been enacted by the legislature to satisfy the needs or wishes of some agency or corporation. I believe the vast majority of these are unnecessary limitations on our freedoms and serve only those who are in power rather than society as a whole. It is these laws against which I am most firmly opposed.

I think we’ve seen a huge increase in category 3 these last few years, and an expansion (in scope and penalty, if not sheer number) of category 2. Off the cuff I’d say category 1 was established even before this country, and remains fairly static.

So, off-topic musings aside, I long for a place where I have more freedoms than I have now. Call me selfish, call me a communist, call me a libertarian nanny-head, but I long for a day where the Government steps back and lets me live my life.

Harumph.