Halffull.org

Free Parking, Or: Your rant here

by hulk

This site runs a huge risk of groupthink. The problem is izzat has moved away and it is unknown when or if she will post again. She was our sole liberal voice. That leaves us in the dangerous cycle of me ranting, some random person writing a one-sentence “You’re wrong!” type comment, and before you know it I get lazy in my ranting and I write stuff like, “I don’t like liberals. Therefore I’m right.” or “Cheese is good. Vote for Bush.” However true it may be that cheese is good, I don’t wanna end up like that. Therefore I am extending an offer. For whichever liberal reader of this site has the courage, I am offering you three free rants. What I mean by that is that I will make no refutation of your arguments, as long or short or offensive to me as they may be. It’s open season – for three rants. After that hopefully we can engage in stimulating debate through rants and comments. I will also promise no backsies – I will not attempt to refute an earlier post while on a later topic. Your rants will remain unrefuted – by me – for all time. I cannot speak for redshift or anyone else, but I think you can clearly see on this site that you don’t have much to worry about when it comes to political debate.

My invitation is open, the line in the sand is drawn. Please step forward. I desperately need a sparring partner.

Cindy Sheehan, or: WAHHH! WAHHH!!

by hulk

I’ve been trying to avoid politics lately. I’ve mostly stopped watching cable news, I’ve been sticking to only reading the local section of the newspaper and reading less of the international news. I’ve said to myself, “There’s better things to be doing. I could be bettering myself by reading, or watching more of the Food Network.” But I couldn’t avoid the multiple stories about Cindy Sheehan, or Queen Obnoxious.

Yes let’s all weep for her dead son. No seriously, it sucks. He died killing bastards in Iraq and it sucks. I feel mostly sorry for terrorists. They’re honestly convinced that America is evil, and that it makes a ton of sense to blow themselves up near hordes of children in order to kill so much as a few soldiers. Hordes of young Arabs rushing to die for a reason. They’re not being knowingly lied to, either. The idiot clerics riling them up and the idiot leaders strapping bombs to their chests actually think they’re doing God’s work. It’s deluded and insane and evil, but ultimately you feel sorry for them that their minds have become so twisted. That little bit about feeling sorry for them being said, they should be killed as fast as they can strap bombs to their chest and people over there need some leaders who, rather than use religion and fear to gain power, actually try to do something good for their people and push for democracy and all that good stuff.

If you read that part about religion and fear and snicker, please smack yourself across the face. Because the democrats use fear too. And this brings us back to politics. The massive cry-fest going on outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford being led by the world’s most obnoxious mother. She wants Bush to drop the minor business of running the country and most of the world and A: Issue a full apology to her in particular and other mothers in general, and B: pull our troops out of Iraq. Let’s address these.

Apologizing to mothers for their sons deaths in Iraq. Hm. I can see an expression of sympathies, that should be expected. But an apology? That would imply that Bush was directly responsible for their deaths. Bush ordered the troops into Iraq and they were either killed by accidental friendly fire or terrorists. I should point out here that this is one of the best fought wars ever, despite news coverage that can’t stop referring to it as “Vietnam”. We’re slowly but surely making progress in a hellhole where the willfully ignorant have decided to force their neighbors to buy into their sham vision of a grand Islamic empire. Most people, even in Iraq and the other Arab countries, honestly want to live in peace. But there’s enough ignorant young people who will gladly arm themselves just so they can say they stood for something. We see this problem in the US: young whiny spoiled liberal elitist brats. They know oh-so-much about the evils of corporations and religion and the rest and you just don’t know, man. If you only liberated yourself and enjoyed weed then you’d know, dude, that it’s like, you’re being fooled, by these evil Jesus-freaks, right? I mean open your eyes and vote for Kerry, or else America deserves more bombings. If I said I wanted to hurt hippies I’d be just as bad as them, such as when they riot at G-8 conferences.

I’ve diverted myself. Bush sent the troops abroad, like many other presidents, and some died. Much less than Vietnam, I might add, despite all the dangers over there. So the mothers of the dead should get a letter of sympathy and the thanks of a greatful nation. Different from an apology.

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The Secret Garden, Or: Get Out of my Azalea Bushes

by hulk

When I was a teenager I went through this phase for a few years during which I was obsessed with Zen and Daoism. I bought all these comic books which weren’t funny but were in fact little cartoons illustrating Zen teachings. In one of them, a master asked a student which mind he wished to refresh, the mind of the past, the mind of the present, or the mind of the future. The cartoon went on to talk about an entirely different matter and left me hanging. I’m sure part of the problem is that the question simply hadn’t translated well (given the huge differences between our language and those of asian cultures). I’ve asked myself this question a lot, which mind do I refresh? I suppose my answer at this point would be that I would refresh the mind of the present. Allow me to explain.

About a month ago I had to attend some courses for Six Sigma. One of the exercises was to make the shots from a small catapault hit a target with less variability. There were seven people in my group (including me), including two who were supposed to be experts in Six Sigma (they were only in the class to “find out what was being taught”). I watched as six engineers fussed over this catapault, ignoring each other and each concentrating on some aspect of the catapault. They argued over whether to tape it down or clamp it down and whether to put a mark here or there and I just kept watching. One of them remarked how I had “shut down,” thinking I couldn’t hear. I continued watching. I felt disappointed in the supposed Six Sigma experts. Surely there was a better way than this random… firing of thoughts? Was that it? Information comes into the brain – make this catapault less variable. The brain spits out whatever is immediately accessed – tape it down, put a mark on the launching arm, hold down the arm, put marks on the rubber band. They then proceed to carry out the commands of their brain. I suppose a clearer definition of thought is needed here. Without one, I will go on to say that all I saw was thoughts competing with each other. But not just competing. Some merged, some submitted to other thoughts, some were discarded, and the entire time I wondered if the participants actually qualified as human during the exercise. It seemed as if they were simply puppets of the information being fired out of their brains. It was fascinating!

I concluded that it should be the job of a Six Sigma expert to controlthese thoughts. They should grab the reigns of this group consciousness and start making productive use of these creative thoughts. The immediate response from the brain here is, “that sounds like a brainstorming session.” Sure, but I’m referring to so much more. Consciously directing competing thoughts by making plans, by detaching people from following the courses dictated by their brains – asking them to think! Re-insert information into the brain. Control the brain rather than follow its directives! Of course it starts with rejecting the assumption that everyone around you is wrong. That seems to be a fairly natural assumption and at work I notice how often people will keep telling each other how very, very wrong they are without attempting to understand the other viewpoint. Pick up what I just did? I set myself up for a trap and leapt right into it. Take the point as this: we must control our thoughts. Our natural inclinations do very well for us – sometimes. If you are confronted with a bear you don’t start thinking about asking the bear how he’s feeling. You run. This is a good response. However, our brain acts the same at work. We run or we attack when confronted. We need to combat our own brains, and that is extremely difficult and we will often fail at it.

My second major thought, while watching this interaction during this Six Sigma exercise, was that in addition to mastering thought we must cultivate a garden within our brains of good thoughts. We need to receive information so that our brain can access better thoughts than those we usually default to. This is usually accomplished by reading. It’s very important, though, that we cultivate this garden and make links between information in our minds consisting of more correct thoughts than those currently in the brain. The more correct thoughts we absorb the more likely it is that new correct thoughts will come from either accessing those thoughts or making links between the thoughts.

My mind, while on this subject, begins to ask those larger questions about whether we exist. For now, my brain has accessed the following information: “I’m able to enjoy cheesecake, therefore I do not care whether or not I technically exist.”

The Fifth Question

by hulk

“CLANG!”

XB-34712 was disappointed to hear the bell that signaled the end of recess. He was watching a car go down the highway far below the hill that the school stood on. The car waded easily through the crowd of horse and people-drawn buggies carrying goods and other people to and from the city. XB-34712 wondered who might be on it. Only mediarites and level 47-V bureaucrats, turquoise grade or higher, could drive cars. XB remembered his mother telling him about the speed of cars and how everything was shipped across the land by truck, at least the bulk goods, and how she once went from Chicago to New York in 16 hours. She showed him a picture of her car, the word “Explorer” on the back of it, and a blue oval with the word “Ford” in the middle. She told him how wonderful cars were, but they were taken away when Congress outlawed the use of gasoline by the general public. A lobbying group formed by actors and internet-based activists had convinced lawmakers that gasoline exhaust was poisoning the Earth and that the only way to keep humanity safe was to stop the use of automobiles. Congress tried shutting down the big automakers, Ford, GM, and all the Japanese plants in the US.

Then Japan threatened war. It had been building its military since the Taiwan occupation began. Once the Chinese nuked Taipei to end the rioting, Japan demanded the right to own a military again. Since then the JAF, or Japanese Automated Forces, had begun building bases throughout the South Pacific, and had the ability to threaten Hawaii and California. Congress buckled immediately, knowing the public would not tolerate casualties after the pullout of Baghdad and the seizure of Iraq by fundamentalist clerics leading a frenzied mob. So then cars were only made by Toyota, Suzuki, Nissan, etc. People complained and got GM and Ford opened back up. They couldn’t come back to speed very quickly though, and the lobbying group came right back before Congress. Finally a solution was reached; without gasoline, cars couldn’t run. Gasoline use was banned throughout the country. Ration tickets were issued for generators and other equipment for a few years, and finally it was banned for use by the general public. Gas could only be acquired by those who showed an absolute need, such as for large pieces of equipment run by corporations. Hydrogen powered cars came to the market, but all it took were a few explosions and several multi-billion dollar lawsuits and no car manufacturer dared to continue. GM and Ford shut down for good, and the Japanese took huge losses in closing their plants in the US.

Hence XB-34712’s amazement. He ran inside, knowing he was late. A buzzer went off as he ran into the class. “XB-34712: Late”. A ticket issued from the slot by the door. He knew it meant twenty minutes spent after school in “Remedial education”. Students were no longer given detention; that was deemed harmful to their self-esteem. Instead they watched videos about the greatness of the Bureaucrat and “The Grand Protectorate”, which watched over them all. Each video ended with the message, “Serve the Protectorate Well”. XB couldn’t understand those videos, what with the conflicting messages his parents gave him. XB took his seat.

“I have your projects graded, class. I must say I’m very pleased with the dioramas you constructed. They will be presented to a local level 34, fuschia-grade bureaucrat! Aren’t we excited?!” The class cheered. Except for XB. He couldn’t see what was so special about the bureaucrats. They kept issuing the same old messages: “Be calm. Be well. The Protectorate will provide.” They seemed like robots to him.

The teacher handed back grades on the assignment. XV-57496, sitting next to him, started crying when she saw hers. The paper read “ABOVE-AVERAGE” in big red ink. The student in front of her almost leaped when he read, “Excellent Job! Below average!” The teacher pulled both of them from their desks and put them in front of the class.

“Cease crying, XV-57496. I’ve told you time and time again to stop trying to be better. Haven’t I class?”

“Yes TH-83055.”

“XV-57496, explain yourself.”

“I wanted to do well! You said the assignment was to show the glory of the bureaucrats outlawing capitalism and seizing private money for the public good. Isn’t that something I should spend extra time on?”

“And ruin the average for your classmates?! How dare you think you are better than them! XQ-17569 knows better. He waits for the Protectorate to educate him to be better, along with the rest of his classmates. He knows that to be part of a whole, carefully moving towards progress, is better than trying to run ahead! Don’t you want the Protectorate to look out for you?!”

“Yes ma’am. I’m sorry. I’ll try to fit in with the class next time. I’ll wait for my education to improve, like everyone else.”

“Apology accepted, XV-57496. It is unfortunate that you had to be shamed in front of the class. Perhaps it was one of those pirate broadcasts that corrupted you; they will surely be processed by the bureaucrats.”

XB turned to his friend when she got back to her desk. “Why did you lie? XQ-17596 only got congratulated because he was lazy! Why keep yourself down?!”

XV-57496 hissed at him. “I’m sick of getting in trouble. This game is stupid! You and your stupid parents telling us to do well. All it does is get us yelled at! Your parents are stupid!”

TH looked up. “What was that? What did your parents say, XB-34712?”

“Nothing ma’am.” XB hoped she would forget about it. She was fairly clueless, which so far had let him and XV-57496 get away with achievement. But she would catch the two every once in a while, and XV-57496 seemed to bear the brunt of it. Probably because the rules were different for girls.

*Note: This story will be continued. Further note: I stole the numbers instead of names concept from Ayn Rand.*

The little letter next to your name, Or: You can’t help yourself, Darky. You’re too…dark!

by hulk

Howard Dean. This is pure genius. He gets the Democratic party noticed at a time when they are largely being relegated to the sidelines. In my personal view they’re merely the party of whining and then telling you to cough up more tax money for social programming, regardless of whether it’s actually helping or not. That is a very, very biased view and I apologize for it. Unless you’re a democrat yourself. Go jump.

Apparently all Republicans are white male christians who (and these are separate statements he made) never worked a day in their life. He later changed it to Republican leaders. He honestly believes that Democrats still represent the working class. Since when? Issue-grouping has killed that! The Democrats have to be the party of diversity, abortion rights, more social programs, more doormat behavior in foreign policy, and government regulation. The Republicans have to be the party of religion, morality, aggressive foreign policy, lower taxes (though that is rarely delivered), and less social programming and more spending on defense instead.

Issue-grouping is simply bad for America, but it’s really bad for the Democrats right now. They would jump at the chance to abandon abortion and therefore pick up a bunch of religious voters, or so they think. I doubt they’d pick up many votes by abandoning abortion, because I happen to believe it is a media-spun myth (since most people in ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the LA times are liberals) that most of the middle of America only voted for Bush because of abortion and gays. It just fits too well with their typical characterization of red states as full of complete morons. Yes, that college degree completely separates you from them because you know who Voltaire and Jack Kerouac are. (I don’t happen to know who those two are but I don’t really give a crap.) A bunch of over-education and half-hearted pothead analysis of the beauty of the tree symbolism isn’t exactly going to pay the bills. Excuse me, I’m being crass because I’m angry. I apologize. For your information I happened to enjoy the symbolism in Dante because he ruled. Moving on.

So, issue-grouping is bad for both parties, bad for our country, but really, really, really bad for Democrats right now. They simply can’t get their disparate groups together under one big umbrella. Sure they can throw the Pride whatever with the Afro-American Urban Action whatchamacallit, but the Afro-American Urban Action whatchamacallit doesn’t fit with the Abortion league and Local 5380 doesn’t fit with the Pride whatever. (If you’re wondering, I happen to support abortion rights.) I’m just saying they’ve got an uphill battle. Especially when the rhetoric gets nasty. I’m sorry, but “You’re a bunch of baby-killers” is a better line for whipping a crowd into a frenzy than “My body, my choice”. I’m not saying this is good, but you’ve got to face the fact that it will take years to convince people on this one.

It’s also not easy for the gays. I say you go ahead and have hot man-love with whomsoever you want to have hot man-love with. However, “we’re here and we’re queer” is downright obnoxious, especially when they sue some town to fly some pride day flags on a bridge the town maintains is reserved for historical flags. You know, like Veteran’s Day. Or the fourth of July. But then you get some weeping about the holocaust against gays and I’m sorry, but I can’t help but roll my eyes.

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Failures of the Self, Or: I F***ed up, Ted. That’s why your legs are missing.

by hulk

My mentor at work has been jokingly thanking me for training him in how to be political. He said, “See, I’ve learned my mistake. Before, I tried to do what’s right. You’ve shown me that we should just do what’s wrong and get the credit.” This is either a joke, or, as I suspect (though I am prone to paranoia due to social anxiety) it’s a rebuke. Either way, it’s shaming.

My main project at work is receiving more attention than needed, and possibly more than merited, due to the disturbing fact that we have used (deleted out of fear of what happened to that Delta Airlines stewardess) so well that our project will be used as the “model project”, meaning our tools will be shown as examples in training future green and black belts. We only did what was right for the project, ignoring the ephemereal certification guidelines. Now the project is progressing fairly well and we’ve got the sun shining on us.

We have done well on this project. Massive failures remain built into the system we constructed, and I feel inadequate for failing to solve them. At this point I don’t feel that the major problem of production has been solved though we will present data to the contrary. The scary thing is it doesn’t matter what we actually did. No one is watching. We could lie through our teeth and be hailed for it. The ones who will pay will be the tech reps in the field who will, yet again, be presented with a part that meets all design specs yet does not perform the job they need it to do.

I could make the argument that getting noticed is all that matters. I’m a young man and I need to think of my future and getting noticed by the right vice presidents and being obsequious without being obvious is where I should concentrate my efforts. The argument falls apart when I wonder where those vice presidents started out. Probably young people, like me, looking up to those at the top and figuring “hey, they lie to themselves and each other, so why shouldn’t I?”

I don’t mean to be simplistic. I’ve had a problem since starting in the working world, a problem with believing that people are idiots. I can’t believe people are idiots, since I am a person and to believe that everyone else is an idiot but me is… idiotic. People are prone to moments of idiocy. So how do I explain the consistent idiots? Can’t they see what they’re doing? Either they can and they don’t care, or they just don’t notice. That can be fairly easy. I wonder, perhaps too much, what the production workers think of me and the failures on my little production cell. Do they blame me? Do they think that I’m simply an ignorant fool, willingly ignorant or not? Of course I could deviate from this relativistic standpoint and just say that yes, the vice presidents are idiots but they don’t know it because they’re all living a lie, managing by numerical targets that have no basis in reality and without knowing or caring what the actual impact on the company is, as long as they meet their own targets on their perfomance evaluation and manage not to commit actual fraud on the budget in order to do so. If you were an english teacher, I apologize for that last sentence, since I am sure you are now dead.

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Why you don’t “Deserve” a dime, Or: Learn the miracle of not being a tool

by hulk

If I could bring back one person to start beating people over the head, I would bring back Harry Truman. Why? “The buck stops here.” How easy is it to blame external conditions for our lack of satisfaction? It seems perfectly logical to trace events that have had direct influence on our lives and caused us some kind of hardship. However if you really look at many hardships, there is either a pattern or a series of exacerbations. Allow me to explain. I recently had an accident on the highway. I was driving at a high rate of speed in icy conditions because I couldn’t stand being behind slow moving cars. This ended up costing me $600 in repairs to my vehicle and who knows what kind of insurance hike is awaiting me when my next insurance bill comes next month. I am fairly clearly at fault here. Don’t you know someone who might blame the city for not plowing before rush hour? Or perhaps someone who would demand better industry-wide tire quality, or might ask for icy condition training to be incorporated into driver’s license tests? It’s certainly the response the government would take in response to a singular incident. Wow, I just thought of another rant, but I’ll continue with this one for now.

Let me make a more realistic point: I’ve had some trouble at work getting the technicians producing parts for me to adequately inspect the parts. They are all of similar age and background and one of them is able to find defects while the other two cannot. She spends more time with the parts and takes a closer look at them. The other two take a detached attitude to the parts. Should I not come home complaining about lazy techs who are so hard to work with? I would not do this since I know all three are excellent workers. Let’s say I didn’t know them. Wouldn’t I blame any missed defects on their “laziness”? Also take an operator who was, until recently, performing some operations involving cutting on my parts. I found, upon inspecting her work before shipping, that she had cut up several of the parts improperly, rendering them useless. She had lied to me about not finding any defects when I asked. Should I not blame her for my loss of parts?

OR: Should I take responsibility as the engineer for the project? Should I design a better inspection process that is more foolproof and requires less effort from the technicians? Should I define better what a defect is and hold a training session to show them what I am looking for and what I am not worried about? Should I have inspected the operator’s work earlier to make sure she was not improperly cutting parts, or explained to her more carefully which sections of the parts were necessary and which were not? Should I have given her tools that would have made it difficult to accidentally mangle the parts?

Here lies the freedom you can grant yourself with personal responsibility. When external factors are turned into internal factors, you find that there are actions you can take to counteract undesirable conditions. It’s liberating, ironically, to blame oneself for problems because you can immediately see your areas for improvement.

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Killing a Baby to Save a Puppy, Or: Missing the point

by hulk

A released criminal recently brutally murdered his daughter and her friend because he felt she was misbehaving and needed to be taught a lesson. I should avoid labels. A man with a LONG criminal history was released on parole and moved back in with his family and proceeded to kill his daughter and her friend. Apparently he was upset with his wife going easy on the girl on a matter of discipline and followed her to the park to drag her home. She resisted, he beat her, and according to him, her friend pulled a knife on him and he stabbed them both to death. How many little girls carry knives? Yep.

I’m sure at this point some lawyer is salivating over the opportunity to show his moral superiority by defending this guy. It shows our amazing morality, doesn’t it, to defend criminals to the point of gaining their release at any cost, at any confusing flurry of words aimed at a jury, or exploiting every loophole in the legal code to give people who commit crimes as many rights as possible. The man who recently murdered Jessica Lunsford was a convicted sex offender living, without notice, in her neighborhood. He didn’t get found out because he was simply boarding with a relative, not owning any property in the neighborhood. Some lawyer defended him. Others debated, afterwards, whether it was alright to demand that convicted sex offenders wear locator bracelets. It shows our morality as a society to defend criminals to the point of freeing them on technicalities and allowing them to roam free and demanding parole for them, right? Especially if they are a minority. Then it’s just plain racist to demand justice for their crimes. Well, what is justice? Here’s my idea of justice: Not giving them the chance to hurt anyone else. Now, we can certainly debate the severity of crimes. Murder and rape should be #1. I don’t really give a rats ass about potheads or drug possession or financial crimes, compared to those. As far as I’m concerned marijuana should be legal, as this would remove potheads from general society since they’d be too high to remember to eat and they’d all wipe themselves out and stop singing crappy music. Sorry, tangent.

So why is it so important to defend murderers and rapists? Why do lawyers jump at the chance to defend these people? Because a moral society protects the weakest of their citizens, and people who commit crimes must be weak since they’ve given in to their animalistic nature. So, on the 1% chance that they might go out and commit another horrible crime, we press for their release, mistrials, appeals, parole, and their “rights”. They’re still human beings, right? Yes. Human beings who show a penchant for harming other human beings. It’d be immoral to lock them up and throw away the key, wouldn’t it? I’d say for this to not be a debate, we’d need some kind of average on the number of murderers who go on to murder again once out of jail. If it’s so much as 1%, then you’re sacrificing at least one human life for the “rights” of another. The harsh decision that has to be made is to imprison one person to protect another who wouldn’t commit these types of crimes. Our society simply lacks the stomach for it. So we flip to the other side and cry every time another victim is made but rush to defend whoever committed the crimes. We want to help. We want to *heal* them. To hell with the victims. Two little girls are dead because of one man’s “rights”. This should sicken you enough to give you the stomach to support jailing violent criminals for life.

And guess what? You’re going to be running a risk. A great example explaining the normal distribution shows the criminal system and shows a conservative approach to crime compared to a liberal approach to crime. The liberal approach to crime has 1% of people who are innocent being imprisoned and 5% of people who are guilty walking free (not actual figures, don’t start debating statistics with me, I’m too lazy to worry about the math). The conservative approach to crime has 5% of people who are innocent being imprisoned and 1% of people who are guilty walking free.

Which do we choose? What do you worry about more at night: Men with tortured souls crying in jail at night, and possibly innocent men being imprisoned, or two dead little girls? If you worry about the men with tortured souls, then your morality would lead you to kill a baby to save a puppy.

A non-techie post, Or: Our Imperialist Friends

by hulk

Ah, Japan. The land of Karoake, video games, shaming, and hentai. Scratch that last one. There’s something about our modern generation that obsesses over the Japanese, to the point where for some reason a large plurality of male geeks seek asian women to a creepy extent. They’ve given us so much, like our entire video game society, they’ve re-inspired american industry, drive the techno-shift to more gadgets and robotic dogs, and anime has become mainstream, especially for small children. They’re also filthy racists.

I had a very interesting breakfast discussion with izzat this morning. We spoke of Gojira, the mighty destroyer, and how the Japanese really wanted those nuclear weapons. We also spoke of Japan trying to seize all the islands around it in a gotta-catch-them-all pokemon craze. Then monster island came up. Izzat asked, “Do they think there are monsters on these islands?” I said, “Yeah, they’re called Koreans.” I didn’t mean I have anything against Koreans. I meant the Japanese do. The cultural hatred is refined there. When Japan conquered Korea they banned the speaking of Korean and used mass-shaming to make Koreans adopt Japanese culture. And now they publish some textbooks for Japanese students saying that the Rape of Nanking never happened and that Korea has islands that belong to Japan. Oh, and Japan wants some Chinese islands too. I think it’s only a matter of time before that flag with all the rays coming from the sun shows up again and we have a new Empire of Japan.

How should we respond? Let’s consider their opponents in this war of words. China, a communist dictatorship with complete control over the media. South Korea, a corrupt regime that is supposedly democratic but doing a poor job of it. The world is composed of several types of nations, but let’s look at three here: The bully nations, the corrupt nations, and the nations that are much better off. We’re among the better off. We can go into a long, long exposition of how many of our leaders suck and the extent to which they suck, but when compared to the rest of the world we have a much more honest government. The bully nations, such as Syria, Iran, Russia, China, and North Korea, are pretty much dictatorships, whether dictatorships of one leader or several, and oppress their people and their neighbors. China is in the process of ruining Hong Kong and has its sights set on Taiwan, Russia is busy trying to control the future of the former Iron Curtain countries and dominate Chechnya, Iran wants nukes so it can threaten Israel, Syria also hates Israel and is pitching a hissy fit about leaving Lebanon where the military is illegally occupying the Bakai Valley, and North Korea starves its own people so Kim Jong Il can buy another fancy car and then send out a press release saying that Americans stole this month’s food shipment. Then you have corrupt nations, such as some South American countries, ours to some extent, Africa, where corruption is mandatory, Malaysia, and South Korea.

Japan wants to fight a corrupt nation and a communist dictatorship. I say let them. Hell, let’s help. Those islands may or may not belong to them. But there are two ways to respond to bullies. Try to understand them, which I would argue is impossible with our balanced systems of government, or fight them at every opportunity we get. I’d rather see Japanese Imperialism than see China grow.

Japan, our Imperialistic friends. Say unto your neighbors, “All your base are belong to us.”

Social Security, Or: Parable of the three servants

by hulk

I’m watching Bill Maher’s latest incarnation, whatever it’s called, and they have this wonderful democratic congressman from Massachusetts saying that Bush’s plan to reform social security would take away benefits for disabled people. I wanted to start a holy war. I’ll try to be rational here.

The administrator of social security testified on C-SPAN about SSI (Supplemental Security Income). This is different from the SSA (Social Security Administration). The SSI is a separate system with a separate account. So as of now, it’s leaving this debate. Bye bye, disabled people. Don’t let the door hit you in the wheelchair on your way out.

Now for the SSA. The administrator also said that the funds from social security are procured seperately from the general tax fund. However, these funds enter the general accounting pool. They are earmarked to satisfy social security’s needs for that year, then are taken by the treasury which issues an IOU to the SSA. Currently social security taxes bring in more money than the SSA needs, so these taxes generate a surplus which goes into the general federal budget. At some indetermined point in the future, the SSA will bring in less than it needs. The guesses for this deficiency range from billions to trillions. They’re just guesses though. Let’s define the problem more thoroughly.

When the SSA was formed by FDR he said it was to ensure that no one suffers through poverty-ridden old age. Back then, 19 workers paid for 1 retired worker. Now, it’s about 3. Back then, the retirement age was 65. Most people didn’t make it to 65. Now people live well into their 70’s, and Clinton lowered the retirement age in the late 90s. Add in the damn baby-boomers, and we’ve got WAY too many people retired. Of course another problem is that people are working until they are older and some of those who have “retired” have simply taken new jobs, reducing the number of jobs available to younger people. Why? Too much damn stuff to buy.

I’m sure some of you have heard of the new bankruptcy laws which will make it so that if you can pay back some of your debts, you have to. I hear a lot of tears being shed about this one and I don’t have a lot of sympathy. We all control our spending. With credit cards, it gets easier to get into debt. It’s still us getting ourselves into that debt, though. In the 1930’s they didn’t have too much to buy. You buy a coke, a broom, one of those new big-city fancy-pants refrigeration machines, and you’re living the high life. We’ve been getting addicted to that high life by consuming more and more. We’re spending our money on shit we don’t need because it’s there. And then we cry that we don’t have enough to pay our credit cards or retire. The real answer is we don’t have enough to retire in the fashion we want to.

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