Sunday, May 29, 2005

Comcast sucks

And Comcast wonders why I won't use them for internet service...
I turned on the TV this morning to watch Sunday Morning on CBS, unfortunately the cable is out, again. Good thing I get internet access from the phone company who gives me 5-9's (99.999%) reliability. I'm lucky if Comcast can even give me 2-9's of reliability. I couldn't even call them to complain because their customer service line is busy (I wonder why?) and their web site is completely useless. Their site doesn't give you any information about service problems and instead just tries to sell you stuff, which even that it can't do well. It's too bad there's no real choice of provider because given the chance I'd switch to another company pretty quick.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The American Job Destruction Act

The American Job Creation Act is a farce. Congress passed this bill with the promise that it would help keep American jobs in America. Unfortunately the only jobs it will help keep in this country are CEOs and other executives.

The American Job Creation Act will permit corporate American to bring back any portion of the $650 billion in profits earned overseas during the past decade, while avoiding most of the income tax liabilities they normally would have to pay.

To qualify for the tax cut companies must file a reinvestment plan showing that they intend to spend the profits they bring back on hiring workers, capital investments, research, acquisitions, advertising, or debt repayment. By doing this multinational companies have a one year window to return foreign profit to the US at a rate of 5.25% instead of the normal 35%.

The biggest flaw with this bill is it doesn't require companies to create any new jobs with the money they bring back. The idea is that if corporations have more money they will hire more employees. This is backward thinking. Given the choices they have on how to spend this money

I'm sure you'll see a number of companies using it for acquisitions or other things that either save the company money or make the company money. Money that is normally used for these things will go to their top executives and their best shareholders as part of the usual shell game. What incentive do they have to hire more people? On top of that, the fact that they are able a lower tax on that money means that American citizens will either have to pay more in taxes to make up the difference, or suffer cuts in government programs because there is not enough money to fund them. It seems to me that instead of helping American workers find and keep jobs, this bill does nothing to help American workers and instead may even hurt them.

If the congress wants to pass a bill that will truly help American workers they need to give companies incentives for hiring and retaining American workers. Tax breaks for bringing over money currently stored in foreign accounts may bring more money into this country, but doesn't do much to stimulate our economy. The real way to stimulate the economy is to have a large productive middle class. People who have jobs buy homes and cars, take vacations, and spend money on many other things. People who are unemployed or underemployed are going to spend their money only on essentials. When will congress ever figure that out?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Where'd everybody go?

The Herold Sun reported that IBM and university officials are predicting a critical shortage of IT workers in coming years. Owen Astrachan, a professor at Duke said there is an unbelievable decline in computer science majors and smart people are no longer even signing up to take their introductory courses.

What I don't understand is why this decline is so unbelievable. For the past few years IT companies have been laying off IT workers by the thousands, salaries for IT works have been dropping instead of going up, and thousands of IT jobs have been outsourced to countries like India. Instead of working with local institutions to develop the next generation of IT workers, companies are using H1B visas to bring in foreign workers who won't complain about unreasonable work conditions and cuts in pay. Why would students want to go into a field where there's nearly a 100% chance that they'll be laid off and their education will go to waste because someone on the other side of the world is willing to do the same job for only 10% of the pay for American companies more than willing to pay it.

If America is really serious about remaining a leader in the high tech industry, our policy makers should make some serious changes to encourage businesses to help encourage local talent. There should be incentives for American companies to hire American workers and penalties for mass outsourcing of IT departments. Tax breaks for companies that fire here and hire there only work to encourage students to choose a career in a more stable industry and encourage the current IT workforce to change careers to something other than IT. I know too many former IT workers who are now working in law, accounting, education, or something else because they finally said "enough is enough" after the 3rd or 4th time they got laid off.

$1.5 Million for a bus stop?

It's good to see our federal tax dollars are being well used.
Republican Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska, who Alaskans refer to as "Uncle Ted" has appropriated $1.5 Million to build a bus stop in front of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. Meanwhile here in Chicago, the CTA is threatening to substantially cut service for Chicagoans in July leaving several hundred thousand commuters (including yours truely) scrambling for a way to get to work, not that $1.5 Million would make much of a difference for the CTA.

Tom Wilson, Anchorage's director of public transportation said they plan to replace the existing simple steel and glass, three-sided enclosure with something having better seating and lighting. Most likely it will be heated and completely enclosed and may even include heated sidewalks to ensure it remains free of snow and ice.

Here in Chicago most of the bus stops have been replaced through a program spear-headed by Mayor Daley at no cost to the city. In fact the city makes money from the deal. Citizens Against Government Waste has ranked Stevens number 1 on their list every year since 2000. I think "Uncle Ted" should think about giving up his number 1 spot on the list, find a better way to spend $1.5 Million of our transportation funds, and give Daley a call to learn how he can make money building bus stops instead of spending it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Get your butt out of here

Why is it that most smokers I see just casually throw their cigarette butts anywhere when they're done with their smoke? Do they think its just going to magically disappear? If someone dumped their trash out the window of their home or the window of their car I think most people would call that person a litter-bug and insist that they pick up their trash, yet when someone flicks their cigarette out a car window or drops it on the ground at a bus stop nobody says anything.

The next time you're standing at a bus stop or EL station look around and try to count how many cigarette buts are lying around. I can guarantee your bus or train will arrive before you finish.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Nature of the Bush

Well, it's been over a week since I started this thing. I thought I'd have so much to post, but I've been too busy and there hasn't really been any news that pissed me off enough to rant. It's been slowly building, so here's my rant.

In today's Chicago Tribune there was an interesting commentary by Derrick Jackson titled "Bush policy drives out the butterflies and the bumblebees." Now I happen to love monarch butterflies. Nothing defines a great summer day more than spending it in front of the Lincoln Park Zoo watching them flutter about in the garden. They're also fun to watch out on the lake as they float past the boat. I'm always amazed that they're able to go that far out on to the water.

Jackson's article spoke about how the monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles every year from Mexico to the United States using a highly specialized system based on UV light. The Peggy Notebart museum also has a good display showing how they're able to do this and the route they take.

So what do butterflies have to do with President Bush? Well Bush is working to lift the road ban in forests and open them up to logging destroying yet more wildlife. This doesn't affect the monarch's directly, but it does lead to more areas of wilderness that the monarch's have to navigate around. They are already loosing large amounts of their wintering homes in the Mountains of Mexico due to illegal logging. Jackson quoted a biologist from Sweet Briar College in Virginia who said he was in an area of Minnesota last August where there was noting but soybeans for miles. Even with binoculars he couldn't spot a single weed in the crop. He also didn't see a single bumblebee in a 2-mile walk. All this shows that the use of pesticides and industrialized agriculture is eliminating natural pollinators on a national scale.

He concluded the commentary by saying that all the sophisticated navigational gear in the world won't do much good if the monarch butterfly has nothing to eat and nowhere to go and that it might be 20 years before we lose the monarch migration at the current rate of habitat loss. Decisions like Bush's to reopen the forests to road building only speed up the the destruction of the environment.

So my questions are will my children or my grandchildren get the chance to experience the joy of spending a lazy afternoon in a garden watching monarch butterflies flutter about from flower to flower? My other question is how does George Bush have so much power in the short time he's been president to do so much destruction to the policies that protect the environment?

I think we as a society need to take a look at what we are doing to our world. We need to encourage our lawmakers to pass legislation that will help to preserve our environment. Mother nature has taken millions of years to give us beautiful and wonderful creatures yet we're able to destroy all of it in what seems like the blink of an eye. Shouldn't future generations have the opportunely to see and experience the wonder's of nature that our generation takes for granted?

Friday, May 06, 2005

My First Blog

Welcome to my new Blog. I've been meaning to create this for a while now, but I was trying to go about it the hard way by writing the blogging software myself or trying to incorporate open source blogging software. Had I known I could create a blog with Blogger and still host it on my site I would have done it long ago.

Anyway... What I plan on posting here are all of the things that tick me off when I read the paper. These are the things that make me say, "I just don't get it." Who knows. Maybe some of you will actually find this interesting. For me it's more therapeutic because if I can write about it, it's less likely to piss me off. I'm also curious on just how many people actually want to read the rants of an average middle class person.