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User Journal

Journal Journal: Interesting statistics site

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has a great site for getting useful stats.

For instance, you can find a graph that shows you the ratio of working people to the population, charted over time, from 1995 to 2005. It is very interesting. It went from 63% to 64.5% from 1995 to 2000, then dropped precipitously. It's raised a bit in the past couple months, back up to 62.5%. If you go back even further, you can see it raise for Carter, drop in the beginning of Reagan then raise again, drop of Bush I, raise for Clinton, then drop for Bush II.

The interesting thing about this graph is that it gives you a useful number. The unemployment rate, which is the most commonly cited statistic, only counts those people looking for a job, and thus doesn't count those who have given up. The total number of jobs is a better number, because you can see if we're increasing of decreasing jobs. But, if the population increases by 100,000 people, and the total jobs increases by 50,000, we still have 50,000 more unemployed people than before. The ratio of employed people to total people tells you how the economy is doing much better.

No matter what the Republican party tells you, our economy has not improved since 9/11.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Need to Reform Social Security

This fight for Social Security has been raging for a few months. Bush proposed a plan, finally, that outlines privitization and a reduction in benefits for the middle class and rich. He claims that it's better than if no one acts, which, at this point, is probably true. The thing that no one is saying is that *George Bush created this crisis*!

Bill Clinton oversaw an incredible economic boom. We all remember it. With the surplus, he began paying down the national debt and putting money aside for Social Security. Al Gore called this the "lockbox". In the 2000 election, both he and President Bush promised to keep it locked. Mr. Gore said that we except in case of recession, war or national emergency. Pres. Bush said that he'd keep it sacrosanct, regardless of conditions.

Then, we had 9/11, a recession, and a tax cut. Within one year of his taking office, Pres. Bush had spent the Social Security lockbox. Some may say this was justified. No one could have seen 9/11 coming. Well, except for Clinton's national defense team, the authors of the PDB titled "Bin Laden determined to attack within the United States", Condoleeza Rice, and about hald the executive branch. But, that's a different rant. My point is that you may be able to justify spending Social Security's future. Except that we wouldn't have had to spend it if we didn't foolishly cut taxes.

Now, 4 years later, Pres. Bush tells us that there is a crisis, and that it's the Democrat's fault for not doing anything. I'm constantly amazed that no one points out that Pres. Clinton did something; the lockbox. Pres. Bush and the rest of the Republicans tell us that the Democrats have no solutions. Again; the lockbox. And, Pres. Bush the Republicans tell us that the Democrats are playing partisan games.

It's time for Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton to stand up and remind us who had a plan to save Social Security and who spent it on foolish tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy.

User Journal

Journal Journal: What to do about Iraq?

Okay, so Iraq is a mess. Everyone argues that we can't simply leave, and I agree. But, I don't agree that means we stay the (obviously broken) course. And, I don't believe that means we have to back the person who put us in this mess, the President. So, what is my solution? Well, here's something I don't think I've heard anyone suggest.

How about we rebuild Iraq?

Yes, yes, wacky solution. The next question is always "Okay, but how?" Here's how.

The role of Halliburton needs to be cut back greatly. This will be tough to do with the current regime in the White House, but if we vote the bums out we can do it. We keep only the managers and foremen. We get Halliburton to train Iraqis in how to maintain and rebuild roads, buildings, schools, etc. Then we pay the Iraqi people to rebuild their own nation. And, we have to pay them at least 10% better than they would have gotten previously. This will give the Iraqi people the pride in their own work that is absolutely essential to a stable country.

You hear a lot about how the US military and mercenaries are rebuilding Iraq. How they're building streets and hospitals and schools. You never hear about how the Iraqis, after decades of repression, are learning basic skills for maintaining their own country. The US may not be there after June, but Halliburton will have to if we don't allow the Iraqis to rebuild Iraq.

Next, we open schools for entrepreneurship. We teach them basic business skills, create low-interest loans for small businesses, and do everything we do in the US to encourage new businesses. When Iran has a horde of sharp-dressed rich business men right next door, it will have to reform. This is the foundation of a stable democracy in the mid-east.

People will ask how this will affect the US. Of course, actually completing the goal is pretty important to the US. And, not blowing $4billion a month, like we have been for over a year, will probably help. We will end up in competition with the mid-east, just like happened with the far east after world war two. But, like with the far east, this competition will make us stronger and all participants will succeed.

With the desert and general lack of any natural resources outside of oil, we can expect to see advancements that don't rely on natural resources, like we see in Japan and Korea. You don't need lumber or farming space to make televisions. I would predict, but please don't hold me to this, that the mid-east will succeed best in trading of both manufactured goods and non-physical goods like stocks.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Deprecate the Home button!

I use Mozilla when I'm at work and using Windows, Galeon at home. Both have "Personal Toolbars", which basically means a toolbar below the menu which can contain links or hierarchical menus of links. In this toolbar, I also have a hard-coded button labeled "Home" with a nice picture of a poorly built house. I understand why we had the home button way back when, but I think it's time to get rid of it now.

The personal toolbar makes the home button totally unnecessary. I can click on home, and then navigate from there, or I can click on any of the other buttons in my toolbar. I have google and Then, I have menus containing Linux sites, work sites, documentation, Java sites, and news. It's actually slightly easier for me to hit the google button than to hit the home button.

So, why is it there? I think it's there for the legacy.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Legislating Health?

Sometimes I'm embarrased to call myself a liberal. The latest scheme is to solve the country's obesity problems by forcing restaurants to put calorie counts on the menu. Even ignoring the cost, the loss of esthetics of the menu, and the fact that calorie counts are only a small part of the equation, this is a stupid idea.

It used to be that school kids played outside a lot. That was all good excercise. People now point to video games, TV and computers as the cause of couch potato syndrom. I disagree. I think that we have stopped emphasizing how much fun it is to play outside. When I was a kid (I was born in 1972), I played outside a lot. I was part of the cub scouts, and later the boy scouts. I rode my bike. I went hiking, camping and boating.

I was not into sports. My folks signed me up for little league baseball and football. I quit it as soon as they gave me the choice. But, I still found plenty of outside activities.

None of these activities are available to kids today. Parents don't let their kids outside alone, due to fear of abduction or other crime. Parents don't have the time to spend outside with their kids. So, kids are forced to sit inside all day. At that point, what do they have but video games and TV?

So, you can't excercise, you can't watch TV, you have to watch your calories so you can't eat tasty food. This is nuts. Kids have no outlet for fun excercise, and then can't eat the foods kids love. It is the worst of all possible options.

My proposal is to fund, via our taxes, outside programs, guards for the schools and parks, afterschool programs, and yes, even a boy scouts kind of organization (not actually the boy scouts, though). Let kids run around and play. If they do that enough, they will be able to eat anything they want without getting fat.

The Courts

Journal Journal: California Recall Election

Here are my thoughts on the California recall election.

I think the recall is a bad idea. Yeah, it's legal. That doesn't make it a good idea. For a state that's in a budget crises, spending millions of dollars on this election makes no sense. The voting booths are still being replaced, after the 2000 Florida debacle, so 40,000 voters won't have their votes counted. Finally, I don't think Grey Davis is really doing that bad a job.

Let me first state that I didn't vote for him. And, in a fair, normal election, I wouldn't. I voted for Camejo and would proudly vote Green again. But, I don't think he's done such a bad job to justify trampling on the votes of the electorate.

Okay, the energy crises was bungled. If you count how much we lost on that issue and how far in debt we are, the numbers almost match. So, if he hadn't screwed up the energy crises, there would be practically no debt.

That whole Oracle scam was bad. Medicare and workman's comp seems pretty screwed up. There are a bunch of little issues. If you look at any politician, you'll find these. Does it mean that he's dishonest or inept? I don't think so.

Everyone's pointing to the economy. The economy's bad for everyone. Republican tax breaks for the rich and insane deregulation got us into this. The solution that everyone's seeking? More of the same.

Let me go off on a tangent here. The republicans are saying that companies are leaving California because of the high taxes. But, companies in California have some of the lowest taxes ever. I find working in Silicon Valley (I can't speak for the South) tough because:
        * There is no mass transit to speak of.
        * Housing prices are too high
        * Most of the skilled work force is brought in at slave-labor conditions.

What are my solutions:
      * Raise corporate taxes and invest in BART, CalTrain and Muni
      * Encourage new housing growth by raising local property taxes, funding low-income housing, and giving more income tax breaks to first-time home owners
      * Revise H1B1 visa laws to reflect their original intent, hiring extremely skilled workers. My top priority there is to make it much harder to fire workers and to give large penalties to companies whose H1B1 workers quit. If companies can't treat H1's as slave labor, they will be more reluctant to replace expensive local workers with cheap immigrants.

So, who is saying this in the recall election? Certainly not Grey Davis. Arnold and McClintock want to lower corporate taxes, reduce funding to mass transit, and increase the number of H1B1s. Bustamonte doesn't address these issues. Camejo comes the closest to my views. Makes me proud that I voted for him in the real election.

So, I'll vote for Camejo. Again. Maybe this time he'll win.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Marriage as a corporate liability?

So, my company competes with plumtree software. Just for shits and giggles, I've been following their crooked path towards IPO. 8 S1 filings :)

Sometime between the second to last and last S1 addendums, a section was added covering the stock owned by the CEO's ex-wife. Apparently, they just got divorced. In the divorce settlement, she got about 6 2/3% of the company's stock.

So, now there's this woman who most likely hates the CEO with a significant chunk of the company's stock. Bad situation. Really, really bad situation. I mean...this is pretty fucked up right here. Couldn't their investors (Sequoia Partners primarly) have gone to court to protest?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Original Sin

My in-laws are Catholic, I'm Jewish. For the most part, this hasn't caused many problems. My folks are vey liberal Jews. The religion of my wife and child don't really affect them. My wife has always been critical of the church, so her folks don't expect us to raise our child Catholic.

Except they want us to baptize our child.

Their arguments are strange. On one side, they give us Pascal's argument. We're promised infinite happiness if we argree, but infinite pain if we don't. If the chances of the Catholics being right are tiny, but finitely small, then Pascal argues that it still comes out to be infinitely worth it. My argument against this is that it means I should start worshipping Allah, the Sun and performing human sacrifices because the chances of those other religions being right are also finitely small.

Their other argument is that baptizing my baby would make my wife's grandparents happy. It's a small thing to do to give so much happiness to someone. A half-hour out of my life is a small thing to pay to give them such happiness. My wife's grandparents are really nice people, so it seems worth it.

But, I gotta say, the doctrine of original sin really burns me. For one, the Catholics would have my baby as a sinner, although she didn't do anything. She is a sinner, because Eve did something bad (and not even that bad). Euripides said "the gods visit the sins of the father upon the children". In general, Judeo-Christian thought rejects this. In general, except for original sin.

Original sin is really nothing but a way of keeping a meek populace in thrall of a church gone wild. The bible meant to give a reason to why mankind continually screws things up. It never meant to punish babys. Like so many other things (in both Judaism and Christianity), religion has twisted a basic idea into something that makes no sense.

I'm not baptized. So, by insisting our daughter is baptized they are saying that I'm a sinner. Instead of embracing me as the father of their great-granddaughter, they are turning religion into an issue. At a time when I really don't need extra hassles, here's a completely unnecessary one.

Then there's the issue of religious choice. Baptism, like circumcision, is the primary entrance into the Catholic religion. Both my wife and I agree that Catholicism is NOT how we want to raise our children. But, although we've made this clear, we're still getting pressured into it. And the mere fact of her being baptized means that she can never be Jewish.

So, I'm stuck. I don't know whether to be pissed off or simply accept it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: User Friendly vs Security

Today my company was introduced to the new online portal for our medical benefits. I was shocked to find some of the most shoddy security I've seen. When I questioned the presenter about it, his response was "we wanted to make the system user friendly".

Okay, I understand that sometimes security measures can make a site more difficult to use. Password restrictions, automatic logouts, extra confirmations, etc. all make the site flow less easily. But, I have to question if that is the end-all of friendliness.

I, personally, wouldn't consider a system that spews my medical and payroll information to any hacker who cares to try friendly. How friendly is it to find out that I have no health insurance because someone turned it off without my permission? How friendly is it if I start getting calls from pushy brokers and TrendWest because they found out I make more than I spend?

I'd say this guy misunderstood both words in "user friendly". I think he meant "easy for us to develop" or maybe "appears easy to use" rather than "does what the user wants". He mistakes a couple of marketing people as representing his users. He mistakes friendly for easy. He doesn't recognize the bigger issues.

So, I wrote them. I got back a response that says things like "that's not an issue" and "we've determined this isn't a security problem".
User Journal

Journal Journal: My breath smells like fish

Just had a very nice salmon lunch and now my breath smells. I went to the dentist this morning, and I can't chew gum for another couple hours. Won't be home for a while. Cube-mates will just have to deal.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Baby on the Way - New toys

Well, I have my 1st child on the way. Alora Hope Rudder is expected on around May 4th, 2002. And, as a good member of the /. community, I am getting a few really cool toys.

I'm looking at picking up a Sony TRV140 from the Circuit City near my place. It has ieee 1394, USB, etc. Basically, it's the cheapest digital camcorder. I also like Sony products (I'm the proud owner of a Sony still camera, which is excellent except under poor lighting).

I've done some video editing under Linux before. Check the sonogram mpg at I used Broadcast 2k and the GNU VCD programs. It wasn't exactly easy or quick, but it worked reasonably well and is very flexible. I'm hoping that the import is easier with firewire.

We're also getting some baby monitors which are pretty cool. 900Mhz. I'm a little worried about privacy, but I haven't found any spread-spectrum monitors. And, seriously, if someone wants to listen to Alora cry, let them. I don't plan on hatching schemes to control the world within earshot of my baby. Still, it's the principle of the thing.

And the tech that goes into these supposedly simple items is amazing! The stroller folds up with a flick of the wrist. The rocker has a dozen points where it is specifically designed for breast feeding (I know...I can't breast feed...but, some of the features apply to a tired dad feeding with a bottle).

User Journal

Journal Journal: Stupid White Men

I just finished "Stupid White Men", by Michael Moore. It's a political commentary book. He's about as liberal as it gets, which is nice these days. It was an interesting read.

It brought me to thinking about my place in the ranks of stupid white men. My skin is white. But, Joel Fleishman from Northern Exposure would say that I'm not white because I'm Jewish. I'm certainly not looking to join the ranks of people like Kenneth Lay, George W or Adolph Hitler.

But, I feel it is disingenuous to protest my being white. I've certainly had a lot of the benefits of white folk. It's easier to get an apartment, people talk to me on the bus, old ladies don't cross the street to avoid me. I don't experience the bigotry that people of color (yes, this includes Asians) feel. I've had the higher education, the indoctrination into the culture of European white folk. It's been pretty good to me, especially since I didn't earn it or ask for it.

But, what do I do about it? I certainly didn't ask for Enron and Ken Lay. I didn't vote for W (who did?). I've taken advantage of some of my unearned benefits, but only a chump would turn them down. I used to vote democratic, but I've been voting green since the 2000 election. I contribute to charitable causes, occasionally.

So, do I console myself with the (false) knowledge that I didn't cause the suffering in the world? Do I recognize my role in the world as one who drinks Pepsi, drives a car and is adding to the misery? If so, what do I do about it? Stop drinking Pepsi? How do I come to terms with being a rich white guy, even if I'm really only a middle class Jewish dude?

*sigh* Maybe I should just quite whining.


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