Monday, August 16, 2004

Man, I'm Bushed 

Mark Morford, a columnist at sfgate.com (the San Francisco Chronicle's Web site) has a great column dated Wednesday 11th August titled Time To Get Out The Bush. While I may not agree with this guy (?) on all the things he writes, this is one of the best relatively "mainstream" post-constitutional US media articles I've yet seen that covers all the bases regardless of the reader's own politics and ideology. He writes:
This is the new rallying cry. If you care at all about the soul of this country, if you care at all about women's rights and gay rights and true spiritual freedom and the environment and our international standing, if you care at all about actually reducing the anti-U.S. hatred in the world, as opposed to amplifying it a thousandfold, then oh my god yes, this election matters.
While this is obviously pitched at an almost stereotypical "San Francisco liberal" (em phasis on the sneer in the proper BushCo style), the meat-and-potatoes Goldwater conservatives and the more thoughtful neocons might also take a few things to heart here. If you agree with the (paleo)conservative mantra is "Less government, no foreign wars unless America's essential liberty is directly at stake, a free and open marketplace for all", there's not much to like in this régime. Think of the budget deficit that must be financed using money that could have been invested in growing American businesses and giving Americans jobs at a decent wage. Think of the change in international attitudes towards America during the past thirty years alone. Countries that once worked with us, or at least didn't needlessly work against us, now question and hector American policy and interests at every point. With the collapse of the previously reasonably stable bipolar world and its replacement with a lot of little, less stable, powers, conservatives and liberals should be alarmed. Anybody can look forward and see that, regardless of your ideology, this change is certain to bring increased military expenditures, increased risks, increased loss of American lives when American society is more reluctant than at any time in history to pay those prices, especially when there is less than total agreement on the value purchased with those lives.

What has been that 'value'? We don't know; we can't even come to agreement as a society. Public discourse has been horribly mutilated for quite some time, and has largely ceased to exist since the "double whammy" of the aborted 2000 Presidential election and the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001. Many who would otherwise protest mightily at this historically unprecedented expansion of raw Executive power have been cowed into appalled silence. Others who might ordinarily defend and encourage actions that this régime is taking, based on their own principles, are likewise silenced by what they see as reckless arrogance and deliberate negligence. The field has been abandoned to the most extreme, intolerant, dangerous individuals on any side, who are more interested in "scoring points" with their own core constituents than with making public policy that enhances the principles and ideas that made America great to begin with.

The tragedy is that even though America is still undeniably a great country, Americans are doing their level best not to pay attention to precisely why that is. We have become so focused on the issues that divide us from each other and from the outside world, regardless of the merit of those issues, that we have become largely incapable of seeing what we have in common, and what divides us from those who truly would do us harm. We have utterly forgotten the wisdom of Dwight Eisenhower, Harry S Truman, Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, let alone the Founding Fathers and all those brave men and women who have given their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to gain and preserve the freedoms that we now deliberately scorn.

Yes, Mr. Morford, you're right: This election [if it happens - JD] will be the most important in American history. But getting out the Bush won't really be enough. We have a long, difficult, dangerous road ahead of us if the United States of America is ever again to be "the land of the free and the home of the brave".

May God, by whatever name you know Him, restore the United States of America. But don't wait for Him to do it all by Himself.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Another slow day for email 

If you sent anything to my Yahoo ID and didn't get a response when you expected one, maybe this will explain a little. I logged out of Yahoo at 2 AM this morning, with a clean inbox and spambox. At 10.45 this morning, I logged back in -- to find 683 messages in my 'Bulk' folder. This is not particularly unusual these days.

Email is bad and getting worse. Designed back in the halcyon days of yore when everybody quite reasonably trusted each other - sometime around the early 1980s - it has greatly outlived its native environment, the non-commercial Internet. On any given day, the six accounts I monitor daily receive 2,000 to 2,500 messages, with frequent spikes above 5,000 at certain predictable times (like the end of the month). Of these 2,000 messages, 1,500 or so are obvious spams and can be eliminated in minutes (ads offering to refinance "Your Home At (the address of the apartment I lived in 5 years ago)" or "NEW! Amazing Ancient Secrets!" are obvious candiddates for the trash). This gets us down to a few hundred messages. A few dozen are obviously legitimate - from people I know or mailing lists I'm on, for instance - but the rest have to be viewed, at least briefly. This isn't a real problem for messages sent to my "real" email address; Opera is a great browser and a very useful email package; half an hour and I'm done filtering out the remaining junk. This only leaves the Web-based email, primarily Hotmail, Eudoramail and Yahoo.

Up to this point, on a typical morning, I've spent about half an hour to 40 minutes just getting rid of the easy spams. But now is when things start to really bog down. None of the three has anything remotely resembling a decent filtering system, let alone a quick-browse feature (throw up a page with just the headers from each message, so I can quickly check for patterns of forged messages). Yahoo is the most aggressive at catching spam, Eudoramail the most hapless. Microsoft, as usual, does things differently: when your inbox is filling up with spam, they send you a spam of their own hawking their "Extra Storage" offering - bringing George Carlin to email management. (Carlin on houses, as best I can remember: "People buy houses so they can fill them up with stuff. When their house gets too full, they buy a bigger house, so they can buy more stuff!")

An hour or so of hitting 'Delete' and waiting for the next full Web page to display, I'm done with killing spam for the morning. Now I can finally read my (legitimate) email, and then, maybe, get started on my 'real' work.

So go ahead and email me; I'll try to respond. But if you want to be sure, send me an SMS or an instant message on Yahoo or ICQ.

Any better ideas?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Mauling a retrospective 

Back again....
I've been doing a lot of work lately for proposals for new IT projects here in Kuala Lumpur. Since the demise of our previous project (never apply a technical fix to a political problem). Life outside work has also been, um, interesting, for reasons best not gone into here at present.

Back on 11 July, I went to the last performance of the season for the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, which did a wonderful performance of Mahler's Seventh. Though the performance started late due to a "hole in the tympani" (!) - few things in Malaysia start on time - Kees Bakels led a performance captivating even to someone who doesn't particularly like Mahler (except for the last two symphonies, of course).

But I couldn't help noticing...there is this beautiful symphony hall. I was sitting in what had to be one of the worst seats in the house - right at stage level, poor sightlines, next to the wall behind an outcrop supporting a balcony - and it was still glorious, easily comparable to what I remember of the Kennedy Center. But it was also a tad shabby. There is a beautiful lighted dome over the center of the audience - that had over two dozen of its lights apparently burnt out, judging by the random pattern. Other, smaller details - where on earth could you find program notes? - marred but did not greatly diminish the experience. I'm looking forward to the new season, which starts up at the end of this month.

Question for you locals - in this very racial society, why were there very few Malays or Indians in the audience? Perhaps 2/3 of those at the performance I attended appeared to be Chinese, 30% or so foreigners (I chatted with an Australian couple and a German man before the performance), and a good chunk of the remainder those in my 'not necessarily traditional' party? If everybody's taxes and Petronas gas money is going to support this thing, why the apparent apathy from the proudly dominant majority here? Or is it just a paraphrase of the old DC t-shirt, "it's a Malay thing, you wouldn't understand"?

Oh well, back to work....and as always, comments are appreciated. :)

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