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We don’t need no steenking Americans. June 27, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Does Not Compute, Economics, Politics.
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In the world of technical workers there is on the part of some anxiety about outsourcing, H-1B visa holders and other things that make it seem that American employers don’t want Americans as employees. When these complaints and worries are voiced the chorus of assurances starts.

We are told that outsourcing is being exaggerated. There aren’t really that many jobs being sent overseas. Don’t worry about how all the tech firms want an unlimited number of H-1B visas because after all, don’t the rules make them pay market level salaries? Don’t they have to prove that they need to bring in these hot shot ultra-talented geniuses because there just isn’t any American who can do the job? Well, maybe not.

Frankly, I’m not surprised that the corporations are rigging the game. I think that to a large extent all of those things you hear about how you ought to keep up with your training and technical skills really doesn’t mean a whole lot. If your skillset and experience isn’t exactly what the company needs and you’re willing to work for a fairly low salary then you’d better be just out of school or from another country if you want a job in far too many cases. And as far as the companies paying H-1B workers fair wages is concerned one heavy user of the visas was fined for not doing that just recently and another company was fined for the same offense a couple of years ago. Somehow all those assurance just ring hollow to a lot of people who are either unemployed or underemployed.

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Foreign Policy Minus Realism June 26, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in The Bush Administration, The Middle East.
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Newsweek writes that the Mullahs of Iran aren’t even close to having a population willing to overthrow them. And of course the Bush Administration doesn’t realize this. In fact they have insisted on taking actions that hurt the cause of Iranians that would like to see their country be a republic in more than name. Virtually anyone who was paying attention to attitudes in that part of the world towards the U.S. could tell what kind of reaction our “aid” to democracy activists would produce. But I just have to seriously wonder if anyone in this administration asked anyone and if by chance they did ask did they pay any attention to the answer.

Not Quite, Andrew June 25, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Health Care.
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Andrew Sullivan responds to a reader who recommends Michael Moore’s Sicko. The key part that I want to address is this one:

But I grew up with socialized medicine, and I know what a disaster it is.

No, Andrew, you did not grow up with socialized medicine. You grew up with one version of universal health care that wasn’t managed nearly as well as it could have been. That does not mean that you grew up in every possible permutation of public and private health care that might exist. The system in England isn’t the same as that of Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden or any of the other industrialized nations that have a system of providing health care to everyone including those who can’t afford it on their own. I respect you in many ways but your mind seems completely closed on this concept and refuses to recognize that just maybe as we strive for something that would keep the best of what we do have that something new will come into being. But that can only be done if we honestly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the existing systems.

The Problem with Piracy Paranoia June 25, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Geek Stuff.
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Most software companies worry about piracy and intellectual property theft. This is only reasonable. But then the question becomes what do you do about it? How does that decision affect your customers and what are your obligations to them?

This was driven home to a lot of people recently. A company named AppForge made a very useful program that allowed programmers to develop applications for almost every hand held device available. And you could do it in Visual Basic, a language that some hard core computer geeks hate but many programmers find useful for rapidly developing applications. Their program wasn’t cheap and in addition to the cost of the development environment they started charging for every “booster”, the component that you have to install on any device you want to run your programs. To enforce this, each booster had to be activated in a process similar to when you activate your copy of Windows or some other programs. This activation depends on servers maintained by the software company.

Well, in March AppForge went out of business. There was no advance warning and the company made no provisions for its customers. The company’s IP was purchased by Oracle, one of the industry’s big kahunas in databases and other business software and everything else went to a financial services company. No one is running activation servers. Every customer of AppForge’s who needs to install their software on a new device or anyone who needs to reinstall the main software on a PC for any reason is out of luck. Until someone figures a way to crack their activation algorithm it’s not possible.

The company I work for was considering whether we needed to upgrade the version of AppForge we are using though we hadn’t needed to yet. Then one day I went to their web site and was redirected to Oracle. Our old version doesn’t have that pitfall and I have the code that lets ours work. I’ve never been so glad to be running an old version of a piece of software.  Sometime if we still want to develop for Palm OS V.5 or later I’ll have to find something else that will do the job but I do wonder about all of those customers left in a major league lurch and it makes me wonder about the business model that relies on servers like this. I think that lots of people who got burned by AppForge or those who hear this story will hopefully start asking their vendors “What if…”. I know that I will.

Some people disappoint me. June 24, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in The War in Iraq.
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Sixty Minutes repeated a story from last December this evening with one of their usual follow ups. It told the story of Joe Darby, the courageous young man who brought the events at Abu Ghraib to the attention of military investigators. He requested anonymity. Somehow the New Yorker found out but the article which revealed his identity didn’t really gain widespread attention. But when Donald Rumsfeld mentioned his name during his congressional testimony there came the firestorm. Now to the point of the title of this post. His hometown turned their backs on him with a vengeance. The young man who had the courage to do what was right was condemned as a traitor. Consider this part of the piece.

An officer asked Darby what he wanted to do. “I said, ‘Sir, I just want to go home. I’ve always just wanted to go home.’ He said, ‘Well son, that’s not an option.’ He said, ‘The Army Reserve has done a security assessment of the area and it’s not safe for you there. You can’t go home,'” Darby remembers. “‘You can probably never go home.'”

“They said, ‘If you had to choose, where would you want to live?’ And you know basically where do you pick, you know? You’ve lived a whole life in one area,” he says.

Asked if it seemed fair to him, Darby says, “No.”

“It’s not fair. That we’re being punished for him doin’ the right thing,” his wife Bernadette adds.

The Army’s security assessment of his hometown had concluded that “the overall threat of harassment or criminal activity to the Darbys is imminent. …a person could fire into his residence from the roadway.”

The local VFW commander told Cooper the military was right to keep Darby out of town. “Probably so. There was a lot of threats, a lotta phone calls to his wife,” Engelbach remembers.

He says there was a lot of anger in Cumberland. “‘Cause it really did put our troops in harm’s way more so than they already were,” Engelbach says.

Bernadette Darby says she heard people calling her husband a traitor, that he was a dead man and that he was walking around with a bull’s eye on his head.

So yes, there are people involved in this situation that disappoint me bitterly when they fail to comprehend that in the debate over torture and prisoner abuse it doesn’t matter what Saddam did. They actually think that it was wrong to do what is legal and right because it was other members of our armed forces who were committing those crimes. One of them at one point uses the tired old cliche about the things that Saddam said. It doesn’t matter what any tyrannical government outside of the United States does. What matters is that those who represent the people of the United States, be they civilians or members of the military do the right and legal thing and the events in Abu Ghraib weren’t it and neither is making threats against a good man and his family.

Here we go again. June 23, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Environment, Politics, Science.
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Once again someone who has clearly made up his mind on the issue of climate change writes an article that has the deniersphere tapping their keyboards gleefully.  Unfortunately for them the paper is not even written by a climatologist. Mr. Patterson is a geologist. Also notice that this article is not appearing in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. It is in the Financial Post, a paper owned by Conrad Black and it has a rather unapologetic conservative political agenda. This is where someone who is criticizing the political agenda of people who think AGW is proven writes to prove he is the apolitical one in this debate?

In addition he brings into the article claims by Henrik Svensmark which are very far from being considered settled science. What do these people ignore when it comes to the AGW debate?

Even though they should know better they ignore the very basic physics and chemistry of carbon dioxide. It has been known to be a greenhouse gas that can affect temperature for over a century. The basic physics and chemistry are well known. The question is not whether it contributes to the warming of our planet but rather how much other factors might mitigate it and how much we are going to contribute to carbon dioxide’s warming effect by our actions that increase its quantity and by changing the factors that could mitigate against that warming increasing too much for our current social structures to deal with.

Other links:

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Dioxide in  the Earth’s Atmosphere

Sure. Yeah. Uh-huh. I believe that one. June 23, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in The Middle East.
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The New York Times reports on how the always reasonable and reliable leaders of Hamas are reaching out to Fatah to re-create a power-sharing government. While Fatah is very, very far from being an organization of saints or even potential members of MENSA apparently the old saw about “fool me once” has sunken in to their heads.

I know that there are those who call the United States and others hypocritical for cutting off aid to Palestinians that flowed through the Palestinian Authority when the Palestinians voted Hamas into power but I consider it reasonable for there to be consequences when you vote a group into power whose primary goal, written into their founding charter is to destroy an ally of ours. Hamas has no interest in ceasing its terrorist activities or conceding Israel’s right to exist, whatever the result of Palestinian elections might be. So for the Western nations who consider themselves friends of Israel to react negatively to them being voted into power was inevitable and should have been foreseen by other Palestinians.

No one really hates to say I told you so. June 18, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Government.
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Including me. So when I saw this in the local news today it was just proof of my opinion concerning the old “The illegal immigrants just take jobs Americans don’t want.” saw. Didn’t roofing and similar construction trades used to be jobs that paid middle class wages? I seem to remember my father working in construction and knowing people who worked in construction who weren’t close to wealthy but certainly could afford to own a home, car and send their kids to college. How many jobs that used to do that don’t anymore? How anyone can say that illegal immigration can’t put downward pressure on wages is beyond me. But of course I’m one of those oddballs who has severe distrust of the accuracy of the official unemployment numbers.

I just wonder… June 18, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Politics, What is Justice?.
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…how some of the Constitutional “originalists” among us who don’t believe that Griswold or Roe were proper decisions feel about Loving. Andrew Sullivan posts something by Mildred Loving 40 years after the Supreme Court decision that said she and her husband had the right to marry.

We can hope, can’t we? June 18, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Environment, Technology.
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Wired Magazine has an interesting article about some of the innovative ideas to replace the standard internal combustion engines that power virtually all of our personal vehicles now. While they do quote one contrarian engine designer I would think that his caution only applies to the ideas that are variations on combustion engines, not some of the more unique hybrid concepts.