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Meditations - ta eis heauton

Location: Austin, Texas, United States

I'm a software engineer / partner working for a young company in Austin, Texas, USA. I spend most of my free time hanging out with friends and family, eating out, and partying in the Warehouse District. I should spend more time working on my house....

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

World perspective

I was looking at my customized Google News site tonight and noticed something bizarre. At the top of my Austin Texas Section was a link entitled "Texas at war over state bread". I thought, interesting so now there is a war over who's Texas Toast is the REAL Texas toast? But no, the article is about state Reps introducing bills to make either pan de campo or sourdough biscuits the official state bread. None of that was very interesting though once I realized that the link was to newkerala.com. What is newkerala.com? Well it is a daily new site in Kerala, India! That was the bizarre part. Somebody in Kerala, India thought that the story about controversy over the state bread in Texas was worth picking up off the UPI wire. It is amazing to me to think about how connected our world has become over my lifetime.

Of course the local paper put the legislative item of real importance on their front page. A bill that would bar Texas colleges from participating in the BCS bowls unless there was a playoff. In reality this just effects UT since none of the other Texas schools have a chance of being BCS schools anytime soon (sorry Ags).

As a final note, when will someone speak out for Texas Toast?!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Paying the kidnappers

I had a disagreement last week with my future sister-in-law (FSIL) about paying kidnappers to release hostages. We had been talking about the release of the Italian journalist from capture and subsequent near death experience at the hands of US soldiers. I mentioned that her captors had actually told her that she needed to watch out for the Americans because they didn't want her released.

Why didn't the Americans want her released?

Because in order to get her released the Italian government supposedly paid $10 million. I don't know whether that is true or not, but I believe it. This journalist is not the first kidnap victim to be released after a ransom is paid and she won't be the last.

I mentioned that I thought paying the ransom was wrong. My FSIL disagreed vehemently. She felt very strongly that you should pay a ransom, do whatever was necessary to get your loved one released. I don't think people should pay kidnappers. Ever.
  • Paying a kidnapper rewards them for very bad behavior.
  • It shows them that there is a benefit to kidnapping and provides incentive to kidnap more people in the future.
  • It also provides funds to pursue additional kidnapping or other criminal(terrorist?) activities.
For those reasons alone I wouldn't want to pay off kidnappers. If I were kidnapped I would rather die than see them win the lottery for kidnapping me. It makes me sick to think that my being released might provide the funds for criminals to hold another 100 people hostage. Ten million dollars could certainly fund a brand new 9/11 style attack if the right group received the funds. I wouldn't want that on my head. I would rather die. Having said that, if, hypothetically, my pregnant wife were taken hostage I would have a very hard time sticking to my principles. I don't pretend to know how I would react if I were actually presented with that situation, but I truly believe it is wrong to pay off kidnappers. Needless to say my FSIL and I never came to agreement on the issue.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More information on the Bankruptcy bill

Noted Economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman has an op-ed about the bill. Read it.

Morally bankrupt bill

At present the US Senate is considering a bill that would radically undermine the bankruptcy protections that citizens in the US have. Its proponents suggest that this bill is designed to fight fraud but this law goes far beyond fighting fraud. For more information on the bill look here and here. I highly recommend you contact your federal representatives concerning this bill. The letter I sent to my Senators is below:
Dear Honorable Senator:

I am writing you today because I am very concerned about the Bankruptcy reform bill. Everything I have read about the bill tells me that this bill is bad for the average American and good for the large Credit Card companies. I certainly don't think that someone should be allowed to ignore their debts, but certain reasonable exceptions should be made. This bill does not allow for any subjective consideration of the circumstances that caused an individual to go into bankruptcy. It doesn't respect the fact that two thirds of the individuals filing for bankruptcy are filing due to medical expenses, not fraud or wild weekends on Rodeo drive. Additionally a major flaw in this bill is that it does not allow any exemption for homes of even modest value. If this bill were to become law an individual forced into bankruptcy due to being injured while protecting America from terrorists could loose their home and be forced to live on the streets. That is unacceptable. For these and many reasons I ask that the good Senator work to defeat this bill and ensure that nothing like it ever reaches the floor of the senate again.

Thank you for your time and attention.



To contact your senator go to the Senate Website. For those of you in Texas contact John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Update: See today's NY Times op-ed by Paul Krugman

Monday, March 07, 2005

Even our Highway exits tell you Texas is BIG

Say you are driving northbound on I-35 in south Austin and are planning on exiting on Ben White going West (H-71 for you foreigners). The highway exit sign should help you by telling you nearby cities that you would be heading toward if you take that exit. It might suggest that if you exit there you would be headed toward Llano (73 miles away) or even San Angelo (225 miles away), but no the sign mentions El Paso (over 600! miles away). Holy Crap! That is just crazy. But true. Of course, as John Kelso of the Austin American Statesman tells us, they figured out that this was a bit odd and are going to fix it. Too bad for all those folks who were hoping to make that day trip to El Paso from San Marcos. ;-)

Greenspan is a Hack

Atrios wrote about this article in the LA Times. In the article Ron Brownstein explains why the once highly esteemed Fed Reserve Chairman has shown himself to be a hypocritical partisan hack. It is sad to see this respected purportedly independent government official ruin his legacy. What does the Bush family have on these people? (...paging Colin Powell... Colin Powell please come to the nearest courtesy phone)

The Great Helen Thomas

After reading this post on First Draft I went and read the article in the Troy Record. Holden of First Draft thought the most interesting part of the interview was about the fake White House reporter J.D. Gunkert (aka Jeff Gannon), but I thought the most interesting comments were her thoughts about the Iraq war and Bush generally:
She dubbed the war in Iraq "spreading democracy at gunpoint," calls Bush "the worst" president in American history, and blames Congress for not standing up to Bush on many issues along with the media for failing to ask the tough questions she never shied away from.

Helen Thomas is one of my personal heroes. She has been a White House reporter for 57 years and at 83 has real perspective on the Presidency. She asks tough questions and fights for real answers. I think her comments on the Bush Presidency give us some idea how history will view him.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Very interesting speech

While listening to NPR on the way home from work on Thursday I heard some interesting sections of a speech by novelist and former Peruvian Presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa. Llosa was giving an acceptance speech entitled "Confessions of a liberal" for an award at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. In particular I enjoyed the way he described and framed what he felt being a "liberal" meant. I haven't read any of his novels, but I thought the speech was insightful.

The only significant negative I would give the speech was his dismissal of American liberals opposition to the Bush administration's Social Security privatization plans:
Even the left has been reluctant to renege on the privatization of pensions--which has occurred in eleven Latin American countries to date--whereas the more backward left in the United States opposes the privatization of Social Security.
The American media has done a poor job of explaining the fact that liberals (i.e. Democrats), are not opposed to Social Security privatization generally, but rather Bush's specific proposals. Bush has done nothing if not prove that his administration is incompetent, or even malignant to the US budget and economy. Everything from tax proposals, the Medicare Drug program, trade policy and budget policies this administration has yet to have a single success on the economic front. Nothing in the existing Social Secuirity proposals looks to challenge that legacy.