Presidential Campaigns… OVER

2 12 2008

In retrospect, it was probably a really smart decision not to touch the entire on the Presidential Race.  That probably would have just caused a colossal mess with lots of blood and tears.  Heck, I don’t want to be the one that has to clean up to the dead bodies and disconnected appendages that are always lying around in the wake of a political argument.

Suffice it to say that I was an Obama supporter, I had good opinions of both Biden and McCain, and everyone on McCain’s Campaign staff should quit politics because they made clear at every chance possible that they had no clue what they were doing.  Apparently they thought taking Bush’s strategy and going more conservative with a less conservative candidate in a leftward-shifting country was the right way to go.  No comment on Sarah Palin.





Sue the sun for global warming: Part Two

11 03 2008

NewsRecently I posted Sue the sun for global warming, in which I observed the growing trend of people suing for damages caused by things completely out of their control (like the Sun). In just a few weeks, however, things have worsened much more quickly than I expected. Three conservation groups are now suing the U.S. Government (specifically the Department of the Interior) for not deciding whether polar bears should be listed as endangered or not quickly enough.

polar

They aren’t suing because the Government promised to help an endangered species and have failed to do so; The Department of the Interior is literally being sued for not deciding whether an animal is, in fact, endangered, thus (I suppose) endangering it. “Doing nothing means extinction for the polar bear,” the groups have said, backing their actions. Likewise, if a doctor initially said he would know whether a patient has cancer or not in a week, and if when that date arrives, he says he needs one more day, he’d better just give up now, because the patient will die of cancer.

Speaking of patients, what about patience? Putting polar bears on an endangered species list won’t automatically cause them to survive longer. Research must be done anyway, and research takes time. Deadline dates for decisions to either put or not put an animal on an endangered species list seem trivial.

Most important of all, suing? They are suing the government for money? “You told me that you would know whether one of the millions of animal species was endangered by today! But you still don’t know. Give me a million bucks to cope with the trauma you have caused.” Yes, I admit conservation is expensive, but this just seems like a scheme to steal from the government when they slip up a little. Give the government a break and let them decide if any of your efforts to save an animal from extinction are even necessary (and in effect, if your suing is necessary). That is, after all, what you asked them to do.





The Antichrist for President?

4 03 2008

ArticlesThere is an odd little buzz going around drawing attention the Barack Obama’s similarities to the Biblical Antichrist. There are even blogs being created for the sake of pondering this question. It struck me as odd because I was under the impression that Hillary Clinton was supposed to be the butt of all jokes Satan-related. Now I’m supposed to believe both Democratic candidates are apostles of evil?

obama

This worries me only because I’m still confident of my assertion that a Democrat will be the next President of the United States. George W. Bush’s approval ratings are still pushing for new lows, so I don’t see how the percentage for his Republican successor, John McCain, could go above 50%. Then again, unforeseen events always have the potential to completely change the direction of anyone’s campaign.

I maintain that if nothing substantial happens in the U.S. or the world between now and the Fall, the Democratic candidate will win the Presidency. Therefore, it’s extremely important what happens in the Democratic Primaries today, primarily in Ohio and Texas. We could be choosing quite literally the lesser of two evils, either Satan or the Antichrist. We’ve been faced with campaigns that deliberate non-issues like Health Care, Iraq, and immigration. It’s time we look at the real issue.

Teachings suggest that the Antichrist will rise to power via the same path as the true Chris, with great charisma and messages of peace and hope. He will be given spiritual powers by dark forces as well as by people who see him as a modern messiah. Finally, he will obtain authority over the entire Earth and become untouchable by all mortals who oppose him.

Satan, on the other hand, has had a much broader spectrum of meanings for people. Generally, it is used to describe either Lucifer, the Fallen Angel, or to any of many embodiments of evil and temptation. Many believe we are dealing with the works of Satan on a daily basis.

Between the two, one path is obviously much more bleak than the other. However, when people rally so fervently for “change,” change will come, whether it be good or bad. We have dealt with Hillary’s kind before, but are we really prepared for what change may come with Barack?





Look before you hack

28 02 2008

NewsA new and horrible past time known as SWATting has recently increased in popularity. A step above normal prank calls, SWATting involves informing the police of a volatile hostage situation at random residences. As a result, hundreds of people have been confronted by SWAT teams charging into houses yelling and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

However, a recently arrested gang of SWATters has labeled a mastermind 17-year-old hacker as one of the co-conspirators. The catch: he’s blind. Often in the cases of people born without the ability to see, other senses become much more acute, and memory becomes much more important. As a result, Li’l Hacker, as he is popularly called, can identify types of computer modems on the phone by ear as well as dial-tones and other sounds, and has had a great interest in telecommunications for years. He also owns a screen reader, a newer technology spreading in popularity that can convert text into either braille or speech.

Reader

He also asserts that he was not involved with the calls. Li’l Hacker claims that he helped turn the men responsible in to the authorities and would never help them due to personal conflicts in the past. Friends of his family are worried, because he turns eighteen soon and could potentially be tried as an adult for the crimes. Personally I hope he gets off the hook. I do not see how a blind teenager still in school would ever make such a ridiculous choice unless he was somehow blackmailed, which is not yet out of the question.

I also fail to see how a blind teenager could be so adept at hacking, so there is plenty of potential for this case to only get weirder and more convoluted.





Sue the sun for global warming

27 02 2008

NewsThe native Alaskan village of Kivalina has slowly been eroding into the Chukchi Sea is recent decades. Formerly, the village was protected from storms by sea ice, but global warming and the melting of Arctic Ice has threatened their village’s existence. Though it could be considered a questionable choice to have located their village in between a lagoon, the Kivalina River, and the Chukchi Sea, they have have thrived mostly due to the hunting of salmon and other sea animals.

Kivalina
A retaining wall under construction can be seen clearly. Credit: Jim Kulas

The Kivalina Relocation Planning Committee (KRPC) was formed to address the problem and find solutions. However, estimates say that relocation could cost as much as $400,000,000. As a result, with the help of two non-profit legal firms and six law firms, they decided to sue just about as many power and oil companies as possible. The grounds on which they are basing the lawsuit, of course, is that the contribution to global warming by those companies are the greatest, and they, therefore, are most responsible for the demise of the village.

While it is fairly certain that they won’t win the lawsuit – unfortunately, there is still not enough evidence to suggest power and oil companies have directly caused arctic ice to melt – the plight of the Alaskans is sure to bring a considerable amount of attention to the future effects rising ocean waters could have. It’s extremely expensive for everyone involved.

I don’t want to suggest that the KRPC doesn’t deserve to get aid – on the contrary, I think they should receive a lot of help – but I daresay the success of this lawsuit in any way would spell disaster for the economy as we know it. Suing has already gotten out of control in this country, and the last thing we need is the ability to sue for climate change. If Florida loses a hundred yards off its beaches, the government should be the one obligated to help, not businesses that disputably have nothing to do with their plight.

People need to realize that they can’t sue the world for their every misfortune. When everyone’s just trying to survive, sometimes people get stepped on unintentionally. That’s no reason to make others’ lives more difficult just for the sake of your own.





The downfall of social networking

24 02 2008

FeaturesWhen I first joined Facebook, it was being hailed as the “anti-MySpace,” a social networking site without all the controversy, gaudiness, and induced obsession. At the time, the site had only just been opened to people other than college students, and the administrators were wary of keeping people in their respective realms. The site was meant to connect people within individual schools and businesses easily and securely. Then something happened.

People migrated en masse to Facebook from other websites. These same people cried that, while Facebook was sleeker and easier to use, it was too simple and boring. They wanted more interaction, more of a reason to spend hours on a site that wasn’t created with the purpose of entertaining. As a result, applications and widgets were added. Voila, Facebook became MySpace 2.0.

facebook

How did Facebook go so quickly from being the greatest new site on the web, the anti-MySpace, to a MySpace equivalent? The greatest irony of all lies in the article itself, which boasts of millions of dollars being invested in the many new features of the site. The features in question, though, are the destroyers of the sleek and secure design Facebook once had. Suddenly hundreds of outside businesses have access to millions of people via Facebook. Every application on the site asks to access your profile information before you can use it. That in itself should be a hint that everything is not quite as it seems. Advertisements now appear literally everywhere.

Even worse, Facebook is now getting the negative vibe previously only associated with MySpace. Millions of users in the U.K. have fled the site after a rash of criminal trials used Facebook profile items as courtroom evidence. People had accepted that MySpace was open to the public, but Facebook was supposed to be the more private of the two, only for the your own eyes and the eyes of those you allowed access to your profile. Instead, it turns out Facebook is just another risky, potentially life-changing network.

Big news right now is the Moroccan Fouad Mourtada facing three years in prison for creating a profile of the younger brother of the Moroccan king. Creating profiles of stars and celebrities is already a common practice around the world. As a result, prominent Moroccan bloggers are showing solidarity by posting the following text on the blogs:

Today, Tuesday, February 19, is the fourteenth day of Fouad Mourtada’s imprisonment. He committed the error, but not the crime, of creating a Facebook account in the name of Prince Moulay Rachid. This account contained no insults against the Prince nor was it the instrument of any swindling attempts. His name was immediately given wide publicity by the authorities, in breach of the presumption of innocence he’s supposed to enjoy, and he alleges having been beaten and mishandled during his arrest. He initially had trouble finding a lawyer willing to defend him. The trial, due to begin on February 15, has been postponed to February 22, while his habeas corpus application has been rejected.

(…)

For this reason, this blog will be on strike on Tuesday, 19 February as a gesture of solidarity with Fouad Mourtada and the other prisoners of opinion currently jailed in Morocco.





I wish to patent the patenting process

23 02 2008

NewsApple has filed over 200 patent applications for the iPhone, raising questions about how much control the biggest industries in the U.S. should be given. Most of them involved the touch screen, interface, and many gestures involved with interface manipulation. If these patents were to go through, Apple would be nearly home free in creating a monopoly of the business. The patents would not just affect similar phones, either. Many of them would affect all user interfaces on machines and computers for years to come, forcing other companies to try and work around ridiculous obstacles.

iPhone

For example, they wish to patent the gesture of pinching for zooming in and out. Double tapping causes a “smart zoom” that zooms in to a particular part of the screen. Doesn’t it seem just a little ridiculous that a company would try to patent double-tapping to zoom? Unfortunately, the business of patents is out of public hands and has been for years, causing controversy more often than not. All we can do is pray that the ridiculous patent claims fall through and Apple is left to do business like the rest of world, without a crown and throne.

Bad patents are nothing new as the technology industry continues to grow. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun the Patent Busting Project to bring attention to injustices occurring among businesses. Here is a list of what the Electronic Frontier Foundation considers the top ten worst businesses with patents. All have threatened or sued small businesses, individuals, or non-profit organizations.

  • Acacia Technologies – for patents covering a widely used process of streaming audio or video files over the internet, cable and satellite.
  • Clear Channel – for patents covering the recording and burning of after-concert CDs.
  • Acceris Communications – for patents covering telephone calls over the internet.
  • Sheldon F Goldberg – for a patent covering the playing of games, such as card games, upon a network.
  • Ideaflood – over a business method patent for managing sub-domains.
  • NeoMedia Technologies – for a patent covering the “automatic access of a remote computer over a network”.
  • Test.com – for a patent for a method of taking and scoring tests on-line.
  • Nintendo – for a patent covering Gameboy emulation.
  • Firepond – for a patent “covering the use of natural language processing to respond to customers’ on-line inquiries by e-mail”.
  • Seer Systems – for a patent for the creation, storage, distribution and performance of musical work files.

“Patents are meant to protect companies against giant competitors, not to help them prey on folks who can barely afford a lawyer,” said Schultz, who leads the Patent Busting Project. “We hope our project will not only assist the victims of these abusive patents but also help make the case for global reform of the patent system.”

For more information on the Patent Busting Project, visit their website.





The Race Card

17 02 2008

FeaturesI first saw Richard Thompson on The Colbert Report of all places. He was interviewed recently for his latest book, The Race Card, which deals with accusations of racism where there either is none or is not reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that racism is involved. For more information on the book, visit the New York Times book review.

The ideas offered by Richard Thompson reminded me of an incident several months ago that provoked a similar response from me. At Miami University in Ohio, an art student placed seven nooses in a tree above a tire swing in such a way that the nooses could only be clearly seen from the swing. It was meant to juxtapose life and death. It had been previously accepted by the art department and was to be on display for less than twenty four hours very near the art department’s building. However, by the end of the day, police had turned the area into a crime scene, the officials at the university were considering what penalties should be handed to the students involved, and the news across the U.S. was depicting the completely innocent students as racially insensitive.

noose

Interviews with students yielded commentaries on the events:

“I feel really disappointed because I’m a minority here, also, and this action shouldn’t be on campus,” said Weiying Wang, who is from China.

“Especially on a campus that’s dominated by white people and it’s only a few black people,” said Nick Winbush. “It’s probably only three-percent black people. I don’t think it’s acceptable.”

“Anytime you see something like that, you think of all the lynchings that were done,” said Towns, who saw the display before it was removed. “For anyone who is black, it depicts a time that you don’t want to relive.”

I argue that all these people are being completely unfair, if not absurd. First of all, this was done only days after Halloween; the atmosphere of Halloween should have been enough to take the ropes seriously.

Second, we know that the project was not racially motivated. If it was racially insensitive, and I insist that it wasn’t, it still was not a hate crime. The students should not be punished for society’s faults, for seeing too much good in people. I can’t imagine how I would feel to have to stop and consider the racial consequences of my every action. That isn’t to say I don’t try to act in a most respectful manner toward all people. I just don’t make an extra effort for some people based on the color of their skin or the nation of their heritage.

Third, nooses do not symbolize lynchings of black people. They symbolize death (as was their purpose in the art project). They have been used for thousands of years on people of every race in most every country. They have been used on people of every race and nationality within the U.S. itself. Furthermore, they have not been used in the recent past in the U.S. for much other than suicides. Minorities who suggest that nooses are racially insensitive are being racially insensitive. They are thrusting aside the deaths of millions of people and telling the world to focus solely on their struggles, and if not theirs, then their parents’ or grandparents’ struggles.

Many minorities cry that racism hasn’t gone away. Perhaps at some point they should look at themselves and ask why they aren’t letting it go away.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t many real racism problems in the U.S. On the contrary, there is still a lot of work to be done. I’m simply suggesting that as long as minorities insist on others’ racist motives when there simply is no evidence to suggest them, racism can’t and won’t go away.

If I saw a noose hanging from a tree on campus, I would be probably be a bit concerned. I might wonder what is going on and what its reason for being there could possibly be. However, I would not immediately consider the possibility that it was created as an insult to minorities. There simply isn’t enough evidence to suggest that. If death by the noose is racially insensitive, then why the heck am I just as scared by the thought of be hanged as anyone else? Death is not simply black or white.

For further reading on this issue, please visit the following sites:
Everything isn’t about race
Academics’ artistic freedom only protects left wing provocateurs





Over before it begins

5 02 2008

NewsAs much as we wouldn’t want to admit it, Super Tuesday may be the end of the Presidential Race. There has been a lot of news about which Democrat is ahead among the Democrats and which Republican is ahead among the Republicans, but there has been little news on who’s ahead between the Democrats and Republicans. If elections and Iraq War’s approval ratings are any indication, the country may be swinging Democrat plenty enough to make the final election merely symbolic.

It’s rather unfortunate that this is the case. Our two-party system and the clear similarities between John McCain and George W. Bush nearly preclude him from being considerable. Assuming he wins the nomination over Mitt Romney, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. as it is now voting a majority for him.

This leaves us with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the remaining Democratic candidates. Depending on how Super Tuesday goes, either candidate could have nearly enough delegates to secure the nomination. If previous primaries are any indication, though, it could also be an extremely tight race simply for the Democratic nomination. People say they’re not getting involved in the presidential race yet because it’s too early. Any longer and it might be too late.





Writer’s block finally ending

3 02 2008

NewsIt seems that the national writer’s block may finally be lifting. The Writer’s Guild of America and their employers have both finally realized how difficult it is to make money when neither are working. Negotiations are considerable progress according to a variety of sources and the writers we so rely on should finally get back to work by the end of this week.

Strike

In another area of society, almost all pundits have declared President George W. Bush a lame duck. His State of the Union address sounded so familiar, citizens may have thought it was simply a rerun, just like every nearly other show on TV. Network TV, Washington D.C.: both seemed to be stuck on repeat as the country experienced an unusual shortage of new ideas. After centuries of being at the forefront of change and progress, people were getting nervous. A supposed economic recession hinted that the U.S. might be stalling.

Ending the writer’s strike is the first step toward a new hopeful future. The second step is the impending change of president. While I am neither supporting nor opposing George W. Bush’s many controversial decisions as President, the possibility that someone else may get their shot at fixing the state of the union certainly is tempting for anyone. While the writers may be happy that they get a couple hundred more dollars per year than before, the rest of us are just happy more Americans are thinking again.