Saturday, May 14, 2011

More than 50 lines about 25 computers in 25 years

Monday, August 14, 2006

25 computers in 25 years or less: what I think of PC World's list.

OK, PC World joined the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the first IBM PC (Five-slot, 5150) with their list of the 25 Greatest Personal Computers.

When you put the word "greatest" on any list, you are begging to have people take pot shots at you. So here are my shots at their list.

First off, I agree with their number one. The Apple II was the first practical personal computer. The Apple I came as a kit. The rest of them (Altair, Imsai, etc.) were basically geek toys, at a time when most geeks were either HAM Radio enthusiasts, model train buffs, electronic kit builders or in Fandom. The Apple II came into its own because it had a "killer app" -- VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program. This is what got it in the door in businesses where other less capable, more toy-like computers were stopped at the door.

The Trash-80 Model I is on the list too even though it was not a very capable machine. It was the first personal computer I spent quality time with, although I never had one. In fact, although my first encounter with a PC was in 1978, it took me 9 frustrating years to have a computer of my very own. Which turned out to be an IBM PC 5150 that my uncle didn't want to move to his new office because it was broken. "Fix it and it's yours." He threw in a brand new Tandon amber-screen monochrome monitor. What a guy. A PC for $200 in 1987 dollars. SCORE! W00t! The tough little guy wound up getting a replacement power supply, a serial mouse, a hard drive, a 1200Kbps modem, an Epson 9 pin dot matrix printer, a Hercules Monographic Card (Graphics! Yes!) and lots of time on BBSes. It eventually got passed on to a battered women's shelter eight (yes eight) years later.

My first experience in geek lust was for the Macintosh, though. Somehow the world of DOS and GEM and all the kludgy ways you did graphics in DOS-land was pretty grim compared to the effortless nature of graphics and sound on Mac. It took me until 1995 to have a Mac of my own, and to compensate I began to collect vintage Macs. I have a ton of them that I am going to clear out in the not too distant future because I know now I don't have the time or the skills to get them in fully functional order. I'm going to pare down to just the ones I know I will have some use for. The rest go out the door. I have to get a handle on this clutter and this is the only way.

The one Mac that should have been in the top 5 but wasn't was the Mac that saved Apple: the Rev A iMac. The Bondi Blue gem that looked like nothing that had existed up until the time, was often imitated, surpassed only by each further iteration of iMac. I am the proud owner of a Lime Rev D 333MHz and an Indigo 500MHz 2001 edition. I mean, I liked iLuxo when it came out. It was striking and beautiful and a wonderful re-imagination of the concept. Even iMac was an evolution and not a revolution: it owed its "DNA" to first the original Mac, then the other all-in-one Macs that followed, from the sublime to the ridiculous. They tip their hat to the "gumdrop" iMac in the honorable mention list, but it deserves better.

They also missed the iBook/MacBook completely. OMGWTFBBQ? O RLY? YA, RLY. The PowerBook made an appearance with the PB100, but that was it. They honored the eMate but not the "Clamshell" iBook, a real masterpiece of form and function which was "nigh invulnerable" ala The Tick. (A necessity for a computer designed for K-12 students) The "Clamshell" had two drawbacks: its weight and the intricate way the innards were engineered to protect them from harm. You would think the second drawback wouldn't be a drawback: again, designed to take punishment. However, it makes the machine a nightmare to work on, a fact revealed when I went looking for someone to upgrade the one I got from my Aunt Karen after she "upgraded" to a Sony VAIO laptop. I found intrepid souls willing to take the machine on, but they are in South Carolina. The work was done with the help of FedEx and DHL.

Not to make this article too Mac-centric, I will turn my attention to an entry I largely agree with, but only have little quibbles about. The Thinkpad, at least while it was still an IBM product (yeah, I know that Lenovo was one of the companies they outsourced manufacture to a few years before Lenovo bought the Thinkpad and other Think* lines from IBM, but hear me out...) was the Ne Plus Ultra of x86 notebooks. Built like tanks but often light enough to forget you have one in your backpack, they just plain rocked. The story of the Thinkpad is pretty neat, here's the link.

Anyway, the initial release Thinkpad, the 700, made it on the list. While it's a good choice, I can think of a better choice and a best choice. Here's what I wrote about the choice on Slashdot.

The 600 series Thinkpad, released at the height of the Dot-Com Boom, has got to be the epitome of Thinkpad-dom. It was light, (5 pounds!) it was versatile, it could run as a "3 spindle machine" (HD, Optical and Floppy) if you put the Floppy Drive in an external case that connected to a proprietary connector by a cable. During the Dot-Com Boom, the 600 series Thinkpad was a status symbol. It was the laptop the Big Dogs carried, unless they were Mac fans in which case they'd have a "Wallstreet" PowerBook.

The 600 series was the first to have official instructions on the IBM website on how to install Linux. (Red Hat, for the curious.) There was always a problem with the quirky sound chip, and it took IBM years to put out a driver (F/OSS, to their credit) for the MWave modem chip. Red Hat actually "certified" the 600 series Thinkpad, in spite of those problems.

The 600 "DNA" was transfered to the T series of Thinkpads, a series still in continued manufacture by Lenovo. Whether the T60 is a worthy member of the line is something the jury's still out on, but the T4x series remain classics.

Yes, the 700C was first. The 701C with its "butterfly keyboard" had more panache, and might have been a better choice for the Thinkpad niche. But the 600 series would have been the best choice of all, because it's the beginning of a continuum of perhaps the "best of the best" of the whole line.

It's getting late (or early, whatever...) so I'd better wrap this up with my additional OMGWTFBBQ what were they thinking? list.

1.) MIA: the White Box/Frankenbox/Homebuilt PC Compatible. It wasn't IBM or Apple or Compaq or Commodore or even Dell who opened PCs to the Great Unwashed. No, it was the shop around the corner run usually by a Mom and Pop of Asian extraction who could put together a computer for you from mostly Taiwanese and Chinese parts. And if you were sufficiently geeky or had geeky friends, you bought your parts from said Mom and Pop and did it yourself.

The advent of this new era of "homebrew" computers didn't come on all at once. It was an extension of the upgrade trade. Just as you can go into a shop specializing in Volkswagen aftermarket parts and build yourself an entire old-school Beetle, eventually it got to the point where you could build the whole thing out of aftermarket upgrade parts.

Microsoft has a major hate going for the screwdriver shops and for computer fairs/swapmeets. Their BSA goon squad is not primarily geared towards stamping out "piracy" among either casual users or in offices...this "piracy" has helped gain Microsoft their Goliath-like market share of both operating systems and Office suites. And they haven't even made a dent in places in the Third World where less-than-legal copies of their software glut the market. But the biggest target for the BSA is the Mom and Pop screwdriver shop.

The screwdriver shops have fought back, after a fashion, by going online. NewEgg, the mecca for gaming geeks looking to trick out their systems, started off as a screwdriver shop. So did PC Club. These big operators now can go toe to toe with Microsoft and get the special rates the big manufacturers get on OEM copies of Windows XP they provide with systems. But the little guys are getting busted again and again, sometimes for specious, questionable reasons. Hence the screwdriver shops are closing down left and right, and the once mighty computer fairs are shutting down.

However, as the screwdriver shop fades into history, something the homebuilt computer is not bloody likely to do until and unless really onerous, legally mandated DRM finishes the job, we must acknowledge its contributions to the universalizing of the x86-based PC of these humble entrepreneurs. Screwdrivers high! Salute!

2.) Where's the Osborne? Putting the Kaypro into the article and not Osborne is like putting the cart before the horse. Osborne got there first. The luggable never would have had its moment in the sun had it not been for little Osz. Yeah, Osborne stole its idea from Xerox PARC. So did everyone else. Next!

3.) The MITS Altair 8800 was NOT a personal computer. It was a GEEK TOY. A personal computer allows you to do useful things. The Altair just sat and flashed lights and beeped. Period. End of line.

4.) VAIO. Good god, man, Toshiba was there first with the Libretto in 1996, and there have been more stylish little lappies before and since. Sony is NOT a PC company and never should have become one. They also spoiled their home electronics line, which was the envy of every other manufacturer by buying first CBS Record Group, then Columbia Tri-Star Pictures, then the Bertlesmann Group, then MGM Pictures. Sony became Big Media and they acquired an endless thirst for DRM everywhere like the rest of Big Media. The desire for more DRM everywhere has led to the scuttling of promising technologies like MiniDisc, and has made the geek community more suspicious about new Sony technologies like Blu-Ray.

VAIO sucked before Sony became a content owner, though. They were prissy little things made to look good but not to last. They are almost as fragile as Dell's low-end line but sold at premium prices. At least when Apple makes a computer some"Metrosexual" they build it well, although some would say that this fact about Apple is changing thanks to explodey batteries, short-happy power supplies, and humming, mooing, and roasty-hot MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

I guess the rest of the list I can take or leave. And PC World came up with another list of the 25 worst tech products earlier this year that I cannot disagree with at all. They hit some of the real howlers, although they missed a few things here and there. (Road Apples, anyone?)

Wow, this article turned out huge. And it's almost freaking One AM. I'd better just end this article before this turns into an all-nighter. I'm sure I will do enough of those this school year, thankyouverymuch.

posted 12:55 AM

A little reminder of Bush-era attitudes towards deficits

Monday, June 12, 2006

Moving Backward vs. Kicking It Down The Road

I don't know why the new Schwarzenegger commercials piss me off so much. But they do. I guess we have Steve Westly to thank for giving Ah-nuld his first campaign meme. "$10 Billion In New Taxes." Never mind that every time Schwarzenegger has "balanced" a budget, he's either used accounting chicanery or borrowed money to do it. Never mind that he cared about the fiscal stability of California enough to impose a $90 Million special election on the state to attempt an end run around the legislature. We could have used that $90 Million in so many ways for so many other worthy things. But it was squandered.

In a lot of respects Schwarzenegger's stewardship of the public purse in California is a small-scale version of George W. Bush's stellar "borrow and binge" economics. Not only does Bush spend like a drunken sailor on a 3-day bender, he hands out tax cuts to his rich buddies like so much Halloween candy.

All throughout the Clinton Administration, there was a budget philosophy called "PayGo." It was short for "Pay as you go." To be fair, PayGo was established at the end of the Bush The Elder administration, but by a Democratic Congress. The concept was simple. If you want to put a new program into practice, find the funds for it. It was simple but effective. By the last three years of the Clinton Administration, the federal budget was running a surplus. Let me repeat that so it will sink in. We ran a surplus.

Then came Dubya, 9/11 (which maybe we could have avoided and maybe we couldn't have) and the completely unnecessary War in Iraq. (The war in Afghanistan was indeed necessary, however, thanks to Osama Bin'Laden's "special relationship" with the Taliban government of Afghanistan.)

Usually when we go to war, we ask folks to make certain sacrifices: cut down on consumption of necessary commodities, buy war bonds, have Meatless Tuesdays...if you weren't taught about what this was all about, watch a couple of wartime Warner Bros. cartoons and you'll get a dose of the humor going around with regard to what it was like on the Homefront during World War II. But the Dubya way you go to war asks for zero sacrifice, especially when it comes to what he calls "the haves and the have base."

During a time when the expense of the Iraqi and Afghani wars are costing us dearly, he gives welfare to his rich buddies in fat tax cuts, and welfare to Big Pharma with Medicare Part D (for disaster). And what is happening? The deficits are racking up. The New York City Debt Clock, which was decommissioned during the Clinton administration, will become obsolete in two years if the current deficits continue to accelerate as they have.

And what is the attitude in the Dubya administration with regard to all this?

"You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter."
-- Vice President Dick "Darth" Cheney to former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, 2002

Deficits don't matter to Dubya, to Cheney, and they don't matter to Gov. Schwarzenegger either. Deficits? What deficits? Let's kick 'em down the road a piece with more bonded indebtedness and more cooking the books.

Former State Controller Phil Angelides is basically blowing the whistle on Schwarzenegger's cowardly way of handling the public purse. Yeah, he might have to figure out a way to raise revenues to get the budget honestly into balance like it's supposed to be. However, Angelides failed in framing the debate correctly, and he needs to correct that ASAP.

Here's how you do it. Phil, you are welcome to use this. For free.

"Unlike the current Governor, who has used creative accounting and bonds to paper over the deficit, I want to get back to the Democratic idea of Pay-as-you-go spending. Rather than the Bush-esque coward's way out, where you borrow and spend with California's credit card, you find revenue to match spending like we have to when we balance a business' books or a household's budget. Bill Clinton did it: when he left office there was a budget surplus. Let's close the tax loopholes and make businesses pay their fair share of property tax. Let's stop the free rides for the richest Californians. It's time to face our economic situation instead of kicking it down the road for our children and grandchildren to deal with."

That's how you counter the "Moving Backward" ads. Time to tap your rich developer buddy to craft an ad to respond.

posted 9:50 PM

Point/Counterpoint part Deux (and last)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Immigration debate, part 2 of 2

Point: Kara Wild

In response to your points:

1) I completely agree that political/economic reform has to happen in Latin American countries before the demand of their citizens to cross into our country will die down. I think that the United States ought to be giving aid toward their infrastructure, as well as the infrastructures of other undeveloped counties that send us a large number of illegal immigrants. It gives me hope to see democracy slowly taking shape in Mexico, where two of the presidential contenders have vowed to create jobs at home.

At the same time, we don't know how many years it would take for reform to set in, or how thorough it would be. Meanwhile, we are suffering from the effects now. Americans with a high school diploma, who once could count on working certain jobs to get ahead, are struggling to stay afloat. Do we just tell them, "Sorry. Gotta wait until social reform happens in Latin America"?

Moreover, in order to stay consistent, those who argue that people from impoverished countries should settle in the United States would have to advocate for open borders. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? When do you tell illegal immigrants that it is no longer enough that they are impoverished and desperate? I think a more realistic approach would be to acknowledge that while hundreds of millions of impoverished people would like to settle in this country, we can only accept a certain amount if we want to maintain not only a competitive wage, but our superior infrastructure. Even though we're not Europe, we still have an admirable social safety net; but if there is an unchecked number of low-income people vying to use our social programs, the system becomes so strained that no one, legal, illegal, or citizen, gets the help that he or she needs.

2) I agree that American history is dotted with unhealthy strains of nativism, but you need to be careful to distinguish between Confederate flag waving racists who want to build a white Christian America and the much larger group of Americans that supports diversity, but is also sincerely anxious about unfair job competition and the effect of illegal immigrants on our social programs. Concerns about unfair competition from cheap, exploitable labor can be irrational and unhealthy, but they are not inevitably so. For instance, in the years leading to the Civil War, a "free labor ideology... grew up [in the north] that celebrated the dignity of labor and the opportunities available to working men. Slavery was seen as unfair competition for men attempting to better themselves in life." It was largely because of this aversion to easily accessible, exploitable labor that the institution of slavery was toppled.

I'm willing to bet that quite a few people would back a program to legalize the millions already in this country (with penalty fees and an English requirement) if it could be guaranteed that millions more wouldn't sneak in and, ten years from now, demand the same treatment. Otherwise, we would just have the same problems, only the newly legalized individuals would be amongst those facing an uphill battle against exploitable illegal immigrants.

The Tom Tancredos and Minutemen would probably fade into obscurity overnight if just one rational middle-of-the road politician took these workers' concerns seriously. Instead, union workers receive lectures from John McCain about which jobs they will and won't do. Smug liberal activists inform them that concerns about illegal immigration are just distracting them from the "real" issues, as if we were all George W. Bush, incapable of considering more than one issue at a time. Editorials in the Los Angeles Times assure them that their anxieties are nothing more than narrow-minded reactions to economic trends, and that they should just get over it, because the trend will inevitably shift. If that's the case, why bother worrying about anything, much less the long-term effects of George W. Bush's policies on America, because in the grand scheme of things, it won't matter?

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is scared to take any position, except for Ted Kennedy, who compared the recent marches to the Civil Rights Movement. Certainly there's no real plan to stem the flow of illegal immigration, or provide relief to those who are adversely affected. It's this same mixture of blindness and political correctness that caused blue collar workers to flee the Democratic Party in the first place. Now that we have the chance to win them back, why would we want to alienate them all over again?

I think that a solution that takes their concerns seriously, while not hanging all 12 million illegal immigrants out to dry, can be reached. However, it requires politicians to risk the possibility that the most extreme red state and Latino voters will turn away from them because they won't get everything they want. So... I don't expect to see that legislation in the near future, especially given the bills being considered now.

Counterpoint: Michelle Klein-Hass

OK, first of your points first. What to do with the underprivileged who either don't have a diploma or have a high school diploma and nothing more? Education, education, education. Our priority should be making the good jobs available to our citizenry by educating our citizenry. Americans are more literate than they have ever been, ever, but the problem is that the good jobs require more literacy than ever before. I would like to point you to the website of Dr. Stephen Krashen, one of the best advocates we have for science-based literacy. (As opposed to the faith-based "literacy" programs imposed on schools by the No Child Left Behind Act.) Krashen was the first to point this out, something which would seem to be axiomatic but which isn't entirely obvious.

The living-wage jobs that are being created in America right now are not the kind that a person with "some high school" or a high school diploma can just ease into. They are professional jobs. They are jobs that require at the very least a BA. What exists for those who are not in that charmed circle? I'll give you four words: "Want fries with that?" And we all know that those kind of jobs are not living-wage jobs. We have a professional sector and a service sector. The manufacturing jobs that brought the generation who came home from World War II into the Middle Class do not exist anymore. That horse has left the barn for China and Thailand and South Korea and places like that, and no amount of locking the barn doors will do us any good.

Wage arbitrage is defined as pitting workforces in the Third World, with lower standards and costs of living, against workforces in the First World, which has a higher standard and higher cost of living. Many of the policies of the Reagan and Bush I administrations encouraged this flight of manufacturers from high-wage to low-wage countries. For a while, wage arbitrage helped, not hurt, the Mexican economy. For a time Mexican and Central American maquiladoras made for better lives for impoverished urban residents South of the Border. However, the race for the bottom continued, and the Mexican and Central American maquiladoras priced themselves out of the market when compared to places like China. The maquiladora boom went bust, and the tide of immigrants washed over the border once more.

Another thing that is pushing Mexicans across the border is the damage that NAFTA has done to Mexican independent farming. It mirrors the same process that is decimating family farms in the United States to enrich big agribusiness. Just as American family farmers are having to sell out and get out of the business, Mexican family farmers are having to sell out to large combines.

By the way, in some respects the Mexican social safety net is better than ours is. People are not leaving Mexico to get better health care or better social welfare. They could stay in Mexico and have a single-payer system that in a lot of respects works better than our own. Mexico has an infant mortality rate more like that in the United States, which is one of the worst in the industrialized world, than to the Third World that Mexico is still numbered with. No, Mexican immigrants are going where the money is. Their use of our horrifying medical system is just incidental: they get sick and have accidents here. It comes with the territory.

To address the exploitation issue, we needn't institute new laws that are punitive of immigrants themselves, but need only enforce laws against the hiring of undocumented workers that are on the books right now. The corporate exploiters who employ compliant, fearful "illegals," paying them less-than-minimum wages for hard, dangerous work or tedious, mind-numbing work need to be busted and busted hard. A stronger labor movement could be helpful, but 12 years of ReaganBush eviscerated the legal protections that were put in place in the 1930s with regard to unionization.

When Wal*Mart was caught with their hands in the cheap labor cookie jar, they were let off with a wagged finger in the face and slapped wrists. "Naughty, naughty!" The management people responsible for the decision to hire undocumented workers on cleaning teams should have gotten jail time, and Wal*Mart should have been fined a King's Ransom for the infractions. The laws to do this are on the books now. However, it comes down to the prime unspoken rule of the George W. Bush administration: It's OK If You Are A Republican. The rentiers who inherited the Wal*Mart empire after the death of Sam Walton are heavy GOP donors. So are the lords of the huge agribusiness combines who have built their businesses on the blood, sweat and tears of generations of undocumented labor. They loves them some Mexican cheap labor. If the laws on the books were enforced, they would have to pay higher wages to attract labor. They would have to play fair. And they don't like to play fair.

We need to attend to our borders. Both borders. The Al'Qaeda terrorists have used the open, almost non-existent Canadian border to get in to the US to work their deviltry. The guy who was stopped from bombing the Seattle Space Needle and the guy who was stopped from dynamiting LAX were both stopped from the Canadian border. The 9/11 hijackers and Zacharias Moussaoui came into this country from the Canadian border. However, unless Darth Cheney has a cloning facility on Planet Kamino to make new National Guard CloneTroopers, (tm LucasFilm) the current humans in the National Guard are sick, tired and battle-fatigued and stretched horribly thin. We are going to have to create a new infrastructure on both the Canadian and Mexican borders to make them less likely to be violated. And the government currently doesn't have the will to spend enough money to create this infrastructure. It's like the problem we have with our ports. They are soft targets for terrorism right now. Shoring them up would require real money and real hiring of people. That takes political capital and political will the Dubya Administration simply has not been able to conjure up with all their "Mandate" talk in November 2004.

The problem of stubborn unemployment amongst the underclass, the problem of porous borders, the problem of the nudge nudge, wink wink attitude towards employers, the problem of economies next door that need reform and development badly and have for a century, these are big and systemic and complicated and can't be legislated away or wished away into the cornfield. We need government to think big again, to think like FDR did when faced with the Great Depression. A works program would do wonders to accomplish a lot of the things we are both talking about. Take some of these anxious long-term unemployed and retrain them to police our borders. Take some of these people with high school educations and put them to work building a better and more controllable border system on both our northern and southern frontiers. Take some of these folks and give them law enforcement training so they can inspect companies for undocumented, underpaid workers. Allow them to trade their service in these works programs for free-ride scholarships in universities so they can move up into the Middle Class. Start a "Marshall Plan" for economic rebuilding of Mexico and the Central American archipelago.

This of course will take huge amounts of money we don't have. If we hadn't gone on our damn-fool adventure in Iraq and we hadn't given huge tax cuts to the wealthiest 1% of Americans maybe we could have done this, and still had money left over to convert our pitiful, expensive and broken health care system to a healthy single-payer system. Thank you, George W. Bush, for squandering the economy left to you by President Bill Clinton on adventure and cronies and bullshit.

I said it before, I'll say it again: this is a problem that is too big for simple solutions and pat answers. Really addressing it correctly is something nobody has the will to do. And by addressing it I don't mean jackboots and Berlin Walls and mass deportations. The wet dreams of the Tancredos, Sensenbrenners and Simcox-es and Gilchrists of this country are precisely the wrong answer to the problem.

Update 5/13/2006, 9:54 am: I was remiss in mentioning the worst anti-worker scam that has been perpetrated, which is the H1-B Visa scam against American tech workers. Both the Senate and the House bill jacks up H1-B Visas so that American tech firms can bring in compliant, docile workers from India, Pakistan and the Former Soviet Union to write code and do tech support for peanuts while ignoring the fact that THERE ARE STILL A WHOLE SHIPLOAD OF UNEMPLOYED AMERICAN TECHIES WHO NEED THE WORK. I am a refugee from the tech sector which collapsed under the combined weight of the Dot-Com bust and 9/11.

I left the tech sector because it became clear to me that American companies have taken advantage of the same wage arbitrage conditions that caved in US manufacturing to outsource as much as possible of the tech infrastructure to Mumbai and Moscow and Warsaw and Islamabad. For those jobs that can't be offshored, the companies cry "there are no qualified workers here" and whine for more H1-B workers. Bullshit, there ARE lots of chronically unemployed workers who need work in the tech sector.

I figured that counseling would be a safe professional job to have, in that you really can't offshore it. Whether it be as a school counselor or as a counselor in an assisted living facility or in a clinic for underserved people living with the hazards of life in the ghetto, these are one-on-one, face time, person-to-person kind of jobs. I can't see this being shipped off to Bangalore anytime soon.

The offshoring of vast swaths of the tech sector is a story that is not being talked about in all the furor about "illegals" from South of the Border. These H1-B workers are largely caucasian, from places we don't hear talk about anymore. India. Pakistan. Russia. Poland. Hungary. Rumania. They don't stir the blood as much as Indios from Mexico and Central America. You don't hear Chris Simcox braying for them to be ejected from the US. Because they look too much like Chris Simcox.

posted 9:50 PM


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Point/Counterpoint: Immigration

Point: Kara Wild

I read your most recent blog about the Minutemen and felt compelled to respond. Since the e-mail function only allows 300 characters, I'm responding via regular e-mail.

All right, I ain't for the Minutemen and I ain't against them. However, blogs like the one you've linked to won't convince me one way or the other, given how clearly biased they are to begin with. This is a case where looking at all of the information the mainstream press has to offer is more helpful. In any event, there are crazies in every movement, including the anti-war movement. Does that mean you would prefer not to be considered anti-war?

Me: I'm against illegal immigration, though I don't know whether I would be in favor of deporting 12 million people. However, those who claim to sympathize with illegal immigrants don't seem to have *any* solutions for very real problems in this country, to which illegal immigrants contribute, though they aren't the main cause.

Open borders? A billion people want to come here. How many people do you think this country can sustain?

They take the jobs Americans won't do? Tell that to African Americans with a high school diploma, with their 10% jobless rate. Tell that to a resident of New Orleans who was denied the opportunity to rebuild his or her city because the contractors hired illegal

On a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, they mocked the fears of lower-income Americans by claiming that illegal immigrants only took really trivial jobs like handing you towels in the bathroom. God, what elitism... toward *both* groups.

Target the employers? With what, the laws already on the books? After initial sporadic enforcement, the enforcement level has been nil for the past several years, until recent attempts to utilize racketeering laws. And in spite of the fact that the feds are going
after the employers, there is still an outcry from some illegal immigrant supporters that it is unfair to them. Some employers have even claimed that cracking down on their hiring of illegal immigrants is racist, because it might make them more hesitant to hire Latinos in the future.

Then there are the employers who actually *do* mean to hire only legal employees but have never been trained properly to spot forgeries. To punish them would be unfair, yet right now, too many employers get away with claiming that they "just didn't know."

Repeal NAFTA (as one Kossak suggested)? Um, sure... and in 20 years, when that's accomplished, what will the illegal population be?

Raise the minimum wage and enforce the minimum wage laws? Great idea, except that if there is always a surplus of labor in a given market, unscrupulous employers will find a way to hire more under-the- table illegal employees. Big Business is the Republican base and they thrive on cheap labor. They won't surrender it easily, even if the Democrats win a majority in Congress.

Everyone against illegal immigration is a racist? I guess there are a lot of black, brown, and yellow racists, too, in addition to white. Whereas Latin Americans with their "day without gringos" aren't racist at all.

My points aren't aimed strictly at you; rather, they are responses to the various arguments I've heard on the Dailykos and Mydd. Respondants in the immigration threads tilt toward pro-illegal
immigration, but there is quite a sizeable group that is opposed, filled with many respectable members of the Kos community, many of whom are immigrants themselves, and many who are fighting hard to stop all exploitation of people. As for me, I feel as though in this country, we are so strained as is, with a social safety net in tatters and so many citizens who need help, that we *can't* absorb unchecked numbers of foreigners, especially low-skilled, low-income people. At least legal immigration allows for the process to take place in a somewhat orderly fashion, allowing for communities to anticipate and prepare for the growing population. With illegal
immigration, you never know how many will be coming, and therefore communities cannot adequately prepare.

I feel like I'm invisible to both liberal bloggers like Markos and to big media news sources like the Los Angeles Times. To them, those who oppose illegal immigrants are racist Confederate flag-loving baby eaters who gladly exploit illegal immigration, then claim that they need to be deported. Meanwhile, the "sympathetic" L.A. Times features exclusively Latino (mainly Mexican) illegal immigrants, doing its part to further the stereotype that all illegal immigrants
are from Latin America. I'm just so fucking sick of their self- congratulatory hypocrisy. I'm so sick of reading that people who think our country is so fucked up under Bush that the next generation is doomed, yet that we can magically absorb unlimited numbers of people and everything will be A.O.K. I'm sick of those sympathetic toward illegal immigrants screaming racism toward anyone with a different opinion, yet always being the first to trot out "Mexican
power" or Mexicans' "right" to claim part of or even all of the U.S. due to a misguided notion that having *some* tribal blood means that you are related to *all* North American tribes... something that many tribes in the U.S. would dispute.

I don't think militias like the Minutemen are helpful or wise, but they do attract attention to a real problem in this country, one that both parties have been trying desperately to ignore.


Counterpoint: Michelle Klein-Hass

I just can't go through this point by point. So I'm going to have to respond generally. My grandfather was an "illegal." He was supposed to emigrate to Canada from the Ukranian SSR in 1922. Instead of staying in Canada, he went across the (open) border and eventually wound up in Chicago. And I will raise the ante even further: he got the only "job" he could as a person who barely spoke Russian and for whom Yiddish was a first language: he ran rum for the mob. Remember, this was Prohibition. Hotels and restaurants all had their "speakeasy" downstairs. They needed a steady flow of the illegal hooch. Guess who supplied a lot of them.

By 1933 and Repeal, my grandfather made lots of connections with hotels and restaurants, so he went into the institutional food business. By then he also spoke fairly good English, and lost a lot of his Russian. By 1946, he and his family took the trip on the Super Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles and settled here.

The issue of illegal immigration is big and tangled and complex and cannot be solved by extremist attitudes on either side. No, we cannot absorb everyone. But we cannot just ship every single one of them back. The solution that dare not speak its name is economic development and economic justice for Mexico and Central America. The recent events in Bolivia and Venezuela suggest that there exists now a will to beat back globalization by the people who actually can and should do it: the people of these respective countries. It is they who will eventually see that NAFTA and CAFTA was a sucker's game and only enriched the elites of their countries. There is a similar movement to our attempts to be the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party down there in
Mexico. These folks are not happy with globalization and the rule of elites in Mexico...they want the pie made larger and they want more people to get a slice. They will inevitably be branded as "leftists" and "Marxists" by US interests. The US government might even find it necessary to move against them. But they are the hope of the impoverished many in Mexico.

Until there is social justice in the countries from whom the majority of so-called "illegals" are emigrating, the tide will continue. Any effort short of turning the stretch of land from San Diego to Brownsville into an armed, turreted Berlin Wall with "shoot on sight" orders will be like King Canute and his vain attempts to command the North Sea. Do we really want to descend to that level?

If we don't, we are going to have to come up with an intelligent, fair plan to reunite families and turn honest immigrants, with papers or without, into taxpaying, contributing American citizens. The status quo means that unscrupulous business people can exploit a permanent underclass perpetually in fear of La Migra, and strain the financial resources of state and local
governments because these unscrupulous business people never pay for things like health insurance. The status quo is not the answer, nor is a draconian "head 'em up and move 'em out" push, which would require the resources and the precision of a Final Solution. We are talking a projected 10 to 14 million immigrants here without papers.

Every generation has its nativist movement. It usually occurs at low points in the business cycle, but the last one came during the '50s and the height of Cold War paranoia. That was a rare time when the nativist movement did not coincide with financial ruin or a hot war. There was a big nativist push during the Civil War days in the North: watch the movie "Gangs Of New York" for a taste of it then. There was huge anti-Immigrant movements during the economic panics of the Turn of the Century. The KKK moved North, to where they were able to gain political representation in Indiana, during the time of and immediately after World War I. And during the Great Depression there were attempts to deport "Mexicans" of all statuses, some even Chicanos who
were second-generation Americans. There is a great Woody Guthrie song called "Deportees" about that period.

We are going through bad financial times and some of the worst, most disempowering political times ever. It's not the Great Depression again...not yet. But the cycle has come around, and the rough beast of nativism slouches towards California to be born anew. However, this time there is a push back. If only we had the same resolve as those who have been protesting en masse on the streets! If we had the same resolve and cohesion we could tie up the streets and close the shops until George W Bush, Dick Cheney and their whole machine were brought into the dock to answer for the High Crimes and Misdemeanors that have been woven, warp and woof, into the fabric of their administration. But we don't. What a pity.


posted 12:00 AM

Happy New Year, Richie & Michelle...

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Well, that geeky 2005 wrapup is going to have to wait, because we had yet another weird incident with cars.

New Year's Eve might be a bit more interesting than you expect....
-- Rockie Gardiner, Scorpio Forecast, this week's Rockie Horoscope

Interesting. As in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

Tomorrow is New Year's Day. We are still going to Little Tokyo to enjoy the food and serene good times. But we aren't going to be driving part of the way, because Midori-chan, our 1993 Japanese-designed, Mexican-built Ford Escort station, is now a partially crushed, non-street legal car.

We had gone to 99 Ranch Market for some last minute fixings for the noodle soup for tonight's dinner. I also went to Office Depot to get some more fliers made for Anime Los Angeles. I made 50 foldy fliers and 100 flat fliers. I figured the foldy ones would be easier to leave around at the New Otani Hotel during Oshogatsu festivities. Richie was unable to find a parking space in the little mini-mall that houses Office Depot, 99 Ranch, Sam Woo's Barbecue and 20/20 Video, so he parked the wagon on Victory Boulevard, across the street from the mall.

When we were getting ready to cross the street, we saw a huge commotion near where we parked the car. An ambulance, fire engines, and a couple of cop cars.

"Shit! That's where I parked!" shouted Richie.

We dashed across Victory and saw the disaster before us. A car was rolled over onto its roof in the street. And there was a big fucking dent across Midori-chan's roof, and an indentation on the hood. The windshield was reduced to glass powder in places, and warped in a weird way. It was as if King Kong stepped on the car. Or Gojira. Or something.

"The car, it flew, and landed on the other car. Then it fell off." -- an eye-witness account of the demise of Midori-chan.

We didn't see it happen, and I feel gypped. According to the LAPD, the culprit car, a silver Honda Accord, went out of control and leaped the curb. Somehow or another, the car -- this is weird, folks -- went up the guy wire used to keep the telephone/power pole steadied for a few feet, then fell off this high-wire directly onto Midori-chan. The car flipped over and landed upside down on Victory. It's like a car stunt from a bad '70s redneck movie, only there was no stunt director choreographing the action. Someone should have been rolling film, or tape, or something.

The Speed Racer (Go Mifune) wannabe actually seemed only shaken-up, not harmed. His Mom picked him up to take him to the hospital just in case, and she alternately yelled at him and was in tears, glad that he was alive after that bad of a crash. The police and the guy's mom assured us that they were insured, and that we wouldn't have to pay for fixing (doubtful) or replacing (likely) the car. However, we can't do anything about it until Tuesday, when everyone gets back from their day off on January 2nd.

At least this is not like what happened when Chibi-Caru, the Chevy/Toyota we had prior to Midori-chan, bit the dust. If you remember, Richie got hit by a woman who was clearly at fault, but had no license, no insurance, no ID, and spoke no English. She got away with it. At least this time the guy had a driver's license, ID, and insurance that checked out when the cops ran a check on it. And there is a police report on file about the incident. He will not likely get away with it. We might have to get "lawyered up" to get our due, but there are records about the incident now.

Damn. What a way to end the year.

posted 8:39 PM

John Lennon, Dimebag Darrell, and RFK

Friday, December 09, 2005
The dream is over, and has been for 25 years.

Here I am, trying to get it together enough to finish this godawful writing task I have to accomplish for Family Systems, and I'm thinking about John Lennon, Dimebag Darrell and RFK.

I don't remember watching the moon landing live, but I think I might have witnessed the RFK assassination live on the local TV news. I remember the news being on, and RFK making his speech. Then a horrible noise and a tussle. My mom cried out "OH MY GOD!" and began sobbing...she was a big RFK supporter and had voted for him in the primary that day. My dad, however, was nonplussed. His dog in the fight in '68 was Nixon. And he was never huge on public or even semi-public displays of grief.

Now I'm thinking about how I heard about Jim Morrison being found dead in Paris 3 years later. I was on a summer camp schoolbus with my trusty transistor radio. They were playing "Riders On The Storm" on Boss Radio 93 KHJ. It was raining that day, so the song really affected was actually creeping me out. We were in the middle of a storm in Agoura, and Jim Morrison is singing about a storm and a killer on the road. Is that killer anywhere close by? Would the bus driver pick him up? Were we all going to die? I really allowed my mind to run away with me. What do you expect? I was 7 years old.

Anyway, after the song faded out, I think it was Machine Gun Kelly who said "We've just received word from Associated Press that Jim Morrison was found dead today in his Paris hotel room. I repeat, Jim Morrison is dead." Incredibly vivid memory. The killer on the road was nowhere near Agoura, California that day...he was in Paris to steal Jim Morrison's last beer-perfumed breath.

I think there isn't a coincidence that Reagan was President-elect when John Lennon was shot. I remember how bummed I was that Reagan beat Carter, who in spite of being a soul perhaps a bit too gentle to hold the office of President of the United States was not necessarily the worst President we had. I couldn't vote this time. I was too young. My first Presidential election would be 1984. I would reach my 18th birthday in a year.

Anyway, I was in a foul mood already that night. I was watching stupid television after a stupid fight between my mother and me over her stupid boyfriend. I was sitting there alone in the house when I channel-surfed over to the football game. Just in time to hear Howard Cosell announce the death of John Winston Ono Lennon. You made my night, Howie. Thanks for making my evening complete.

Update 10:22: Wow, that was certainly an unfinished post that makes me sound awfully petulant and blaming Howard Cosell for my misery of that night. No, I don't believe in shooting the messenger. Let me continue. Anyway, the announcement of the horrible news was the cherry atop one of the worst days of my life. I was walking around like a zombie for days after that. Why couldn't someone else other than Lennon bite it at that point?

However, what I'm saying here is that Lennon was making a big comeback at the same time Ronald Reagan was getting ready to assume control of the United States. It is not tinfoil hat territory to say that Lennon was already under FBI surveillance and there were people in our government who viewed him as a threat. It wouldn't be a very long stretch to assume Reagan would be one of those people who would think that way.

And of course George Herbert Walker Bush, former CIA chief, was his VP. I would imagine it wouldn't be a very long stretch to assume Bush The Elder would have independently regarded Lennon as a threat as well, but that's not necessary in this tinfoil encased scenario. Reagan was President-elect, Bush The Elder was Veep-elect. If Reagan said "frog" Bush would jump, that's the way stuff like that goes. get the idea. Like I said, it's pure tinfoil and conspiracy gobbledygook. However, it's also one of those "things that make you go hmmm."

Wrapping this up: Dimebag Darrell was shot on the same day as John Lennon, 24 years apart. In a way it was even more disturbing of an incident because the bastard who shot Dimebag actually shot him on stage. My husband is a musician. Being on a stage, the focus of attention, is actually a very precarious place. If someone wants to turn your performance into the finale of Phantom Of The Paradise, it would be quite easy for them once they got their weapon of choice past security. Certainly at Corporate Rock events where everyone is wanded and patted down that's not going to happen.

But at a little hole-in-the-wall club? Dear Goddess, that's vulnerability. Ever since Dimebag bit it, when Richie has to go play an out-of-town gig I'm not comfortable at all about it. To a lesser extent, local gigs are sources of anxiety too. It was a horrible incident. Not epochal like Lennon, but horrible nonetheless. Here were my thoughts on that day. Look towards the end of the post.

posted 4:45 PM

Thoughts on sucky, pointless movie remakes

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Anyone want to know the secret of why the movie industry is in such deep doo-doo? It's really not a secret...sucky, sucky movies.

I'm going to hold forth on one of the main reasons why movies today suck. Pointless remakes! We had a lot of them recently. Let's recap:

War of the Worlds
The Island (Parts: The Clonus Horror)
The Fog
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Longest Yard
House of Wax
Lords of Dogtown (Dogtown And Z-Boys)

I would like to add, for dishonorable mention, the remake of The Stepford Wives.

What's distressing about this list is that many of the movies were not good movies to begin with, and the remake was no improvement. A few were really good movies that got bad remakes. But ultimately all of them were totally, absolutely pointless.

This trend started with George Romero, who by a fluke of copyright law had the original Night Of The Living Dead end up in the Public Domain. Of course, that was before the Copyright Act of 1976, and the Sonny Bono Act, etc. Romero made a shot-for-shot remake, with the only change in it being that the heroine stops screaming after 5 minutes of Zombie attacks and becomes Rambette. Gotta change with the times, right? More like "gotta nail those Intellectual Property rights down."

Then came Psycho, the remake. Aside from a questionable scene where you see Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates masturbating, the movie is a shot by shot remake. Again, totally, unquestionably pointless. Gus Van Sant is permanently on my shit list for that.

OK, here are a few suggestions for pointless remakes. Don't blame me if someone takes me up on it.

Don't Look In The Basement.(On IMDB as The Forgotten)
One of those "so bad it's good" movies. A nurse starts work at a small "asylum" (more like a board-and-care) for the mentally ill. Of course, you know it's not going to end up well. The classic Fun Boy Three song "The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum" would be a dandy theme for the pointless remake of this Dadaistic classic.

KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park. Of course, let's not have KISS as the rock band, even though theoretically because they are all in heavy makeup their advancing age would not be obvious. No, let's do it with another band...something "the kids" will love. Yes! It's obvious! Franz Ferdinand Meets The Phantom Of The Park! Scottish dance-poppers with superhuman powers foil the plans of a masked theme park saboteur! "And I would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for you meddling haggis-eating kids!"

The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Is Michael Jackson looking for a comeback? Have I got the vehicle for him. He wouldn't even need makeup...he's a living, rotting corpse as it is! It would be perfect! Hoo hoo hoo! Oww!

posted 5:45 PM

(Note: this was written in 2005. Michael Jackson would die 4 years later.)