blog.asurroca.com my personal blog

May 31, 2005

Why Bush’s 2nd Term Is A Good Thing

Filed under: politics,thoughts — Tags: , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 6:39 pm

Yes, I’m a staunch liberal, and I think the Bush administration’s second term could be the best thing that ever happened to us, and the worst thing that ever happened to the Bush administration. Wipe that shocked look off your face and read on to see why.

During the 2004 presidential elections, as Democrats were divided between the hopeful “lets get out the vote” and the hopeless “Bush is going to win” camps, I thought about what a second term for George W Bush would turn out, and thought what was at the time considered blasphemy amongst my fellow Democrats: “Perhaps it would be for the best in the long-run if Bush won a second term”

My reasoning was that it takes longer than one term for people to understand and feel the full effect of an administration’s decisions. With a single term, the Bush administration could escape accountability for its mistakes, but the four years of the second term would give ample time for the effects of these decisions to set in. While the first four years might zip by with momentum, the second term tends to be difficult, even for a popular administration. The administration comes under closer scrutiny.

Take Iraq, for example. magine if Kerry had one the election last November. We would still be embroiled in post-war Iraq, because after the Bush administration set the ball rolling, we can’t just pick it up and leave. The difference being, the public would see Kerry making war decisions, and as the years roll on, it would eventually “forget” that the previous administration started the war, and become frustrated over the new administration instead.

Now, Bush has four more years of the public’s increasingly negative view of his handing of Iraq. The Bush administration has four more years for the public to become increasingly frustrated with things like the economy, unemployment, gas prices, and so fort. And during this term, 9/11 will no longer cut it as an excuse.

I thought about this as I read an article from today’s Washington Post, Bush’s Political Capital Spent, Voices in Both Parties Suggest (By Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post Staff Writers). It’s not terribly long, and I suggest you read it. The article describes how it appears that just six months into his second term, Bush’s “mandate” has already disappeared. Apparently, its gotten to where even Republican politicians are growing frustrated with this administration. Its support is waning, and the poll numbers show this. A Gallup poll puts Bush’s approval rating at a rock-bottom 45% approval of his handling of Social Security is around 30%

The most interesting piece of information to slip out in the second term so far, however, has got to be the Downing Street Memo, which has gotten members of Congress asking the question, “Did the Bush administration deliberately mislead America into going to war with Iraq?” The administration has thus far skirted the topic entirely, and the most disturbing thing is, so has the mainstream media.

I mention this today as an article by Ralph Nader, The ‘I’ word is published in The Boston Globe, detailing exactly why, if the answer to the previous question is “yes”, then it is time to start impeachment proceedings.

To sum it up, I believe I was right last November, and I reaffirm that I am glad that Bush won a second term. With support dwindling, at best he’s likely to sit out the rest of the term as a “lame duck”, while more damning evidence continues to trickle out to the public. They asked for “four more years”, and now they’ve got it, but as the saying goes, “careful what you wish for… you just might get it”.

May 29, 2005

Windshield Washer Nozzles

Filed under: business,humor,thoughts — Tags: , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:30 pm

If you look closely at the hood of almost any car on the road, you will notice two small, black protuberances spaced a few inches away from the windshield.

These are spigots which spray a soapy water mixture to clean the grime off your windshield, and in conjunction with the windshield wipers, ensure maximum visibility during inclement weather, and its apparently an important safety feature which you must properly maintain. This system is also required to continue working after having wiped the equivalent surface area of 200 football fields.

Well, one tends to think about these things during long car trips, and what I noticed while sitting in the passenger seat of my father’s Passat on the back from Orlando was the lack of any black bumps on the hood. I then thought to my own Volkswagen, and realized that it, too, was free from these spigots. All modern VWs have these unsightly spigots hidden neatly away underneath the hood. The same goes for a few Fords and some older vehicles, but, the same can not be said for almost every other car on the road.

Perhaps the peak of existence for these black spigots was during the Fast and the Furious-era street-racing craze, when every ricer stuck LEDs on these bumps, though I can’t see why anyone would want to emphasize these blemishes on an otherwise clean hood. You’d think it’s more of an econobox thing, especially as these nozzles are made of cheap, unpainted plastic befitting of such a car, but you’d be wrong. Take a look at new BMW M3. Two little windshield wiper nozzles. Any Lexus. The same.

In my quest to find why only some car manufacturers employ the aesthetically superior method of hiding these spigots, I found a lot of trivial information about windshield washing systems, but never got a clear answer to my question. I did find out that apparently two people working for General Motors invented and patented this system as we now know it in 1979.

I found that apparently, the wipers in the Nissan Quest minivans suck, and that it took 1.5 years of customers’ bickering for Nissan to fix this problem.

I found that a division of a multi-billion dollar group called the Tata Group, Tata Autocomp Systems, Ltd., makes some kind of dual-pump water atomizing windshield-washer system, but what stood out was the group refers to itself as the TACO group. I’m sure that goes well in conversation:

“Yes, I work for a multi-billion dollar conglomerate which engineers automotive components for some of the largest companies in the world”

“What’s it called?”

{uncomfortable pause}

“TACO.”

“Taco?”

“TACO. It stands for Tata Autocomp Systems Limited.”

“Ta-ta?”

I discovered that the aircooled Beetle had an air compressor-driven windshield washer system which used air from the spare tire in the trunk. Which, according to the site I referenced, is a great idea “until you need the spare on a stormy night when you’ve had to use the windshield washer a lot.”

May 26, 2005

Ever Read The Fine Print?

Filed under: business,rants — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:35 am

I used to be a cash-only type of guy. It was only after being nagged by my parents about building my credit that I finally succumbed and got myself a credit card. Recently, I opened an account with Bank of America and got their credit card because of an offer for $35. Now, I find in the midst of the paperwork for a mortgage loan I’m going to get, I need to have a third credit card.

I settled on the Chase PerfectCard because it gives me some money back on fuel, and so forth, instead of offering me garbage “rewards” I’ll never use such as frequent flyer miles (I’ve never flown). I treat every credit card deal as a scam, perhaps just a notch or two more credible than your average Nigerian e-mail. So, I make sure to read the fine print. In this case:

To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.

That’s the (in)famous USA PATRIOT Act at work there. In the old days, credit card companies took down your personal information and ran credit checks because they wanted to make sure you could pay your bills. Now, they’re doing it to fight terrorism. Apparently.

You agree that we may share personal and account information about you with our affiliates for the purpose of marketing to you their products and services, including banking, insurance and investment products.

Once they’ve collected your personal information and made sure that you’re not a terrorist, they’re going to send it off to their affiliates so that you can receive more junk mail. Here, I’m waiving my right to not receive junk mail.

The Cardmember Agreement contains a binding arbitration provision which may affect your rights to go to court, including your right to a jury trial or your right to participate in a class action or similar proceeding.

And here, I’m basically waiving my right to join a class-action lawsuit against Chase, should the need ever arise. When I agree to settle any disputes through arbitration. You’d be surprised how many times you sign away your right to sue a large company without knowing it. Many license agreements have an arbitration clause.

No annual fee first year. Thereafter, the $19 annual fee will be waived if at least nine (9) purchase transactions were made in the prior year.

And here’s the kicker. Most credit cards have no annual fee, and they make sure to make a big deal about this fact. Except, it’s not true. If I don’t use my card enough, that annual fee magically manifests itself.

Nothing I read about this credit card screamed “deal breaker”, and I sent in my application. I’m just glad to know that I have to use this card at least nine times this year to waive the supposedly nonexistent annual fee. I’m not a terrorist or criminal, I’m not planning on suing anyone, and my personal information (like yours, like everyone’s) is already for sale.

Just remember to read the fine print, people.

May 14, 2005

The 400 Drinks

Filed under: humor,rants,work — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 1:43 pm

This Friday morning, I had an annoying shift, and chose to pass the bile on in the standard way any Starbucks barista does, by giving our customers decaffeinated coffee. Unlike fast food workers, Starbucks partners are more passive aggressive in their methods. We do not spit in people´s drinks, I assure you, under any circumstances. Instead, we press the decaf button, which is directly adjacent to its caffeinated equivalent. Throughout the morning, I estimate I made about 400 drinks. Let´s think for a moment about the potential ramifications.

Our morning customers consist mostly of suits running to work. Doctors, lawyers, paper-pushers of all sorts. These customers depend on their morning caffeine jolt to survive the morning and mid morning until they can come back to Starbucks for a lunch break fix. They are faithful, like crack addicts. And let´s not think for a moment that caffeine is that different from crack, because I assure you, these people are addicted. Imagine for a moment a crack addict without his fix. Now, dress him in a suit or her in a dress and designer heels. Give him or her a manicure and a classy hair style. Now, affix a Bluetooth hands-free cellular phone earpiece to this person’s ear. Now you’ve got a solid picture of the owners of these 400 drinks.

400 doctors, lawyers, paper-pushers, and gofers, real-estate brokers, pharmaceutical reps, nurses, and coders. 400 suits of all sorts using caffeine like a crutch to get them through their mornings until they can return to their nearest Starbucks during their lunch break for another fix. During the morning, these 400 would find themselves lacking that pick me up they usually get. They would find themselves forced to run to the office Folgers, burned to a crisp and as clear as tea, filled to the brim with dusty powdered cream and granulated white sugar. They would soon find that this remnant of pre-Starbucks workplace society would not cut it.

The lawyers likely fell behind, just a little bit, on the research for their cases, and this forced them to call their spouses once again to tell them they’d be coming home late. Perhaps one, just one, called one time too many, that one time required to finally instill the suspicion of an affair. Perhaps that last cup of decaf coffee was the last straw needed to break this marriage’s back and land this lawyer in the nasty legal mess of divorce. The paper-pushers missed their Friday afternoon deadlines, and that was enough for them to stay on the spot enough for their bosses, in that Lumbergh drone, to catch them and “ask” them to come in on Saturday morning. Perhaps one of these paper-pushers was going to go out Friday night, and hang out at the beach Saturday, he’d been waiting all week for this release, and now, he’ screwed. The computer coders might have missed a line or two here and there in their rush to get out and search for another cup of Starbucks. Perhaps the one bug this coder missed in his sleepy state will grow to be a security hole in the next release of the banking software being released six months from now. Hackers will find and exploit this hole, and bank accounts from banks using this software will find themselves cleaned out. The company making this software will find themselves in that nasty legal mess of being sued.

Maybe I did end a marriage, ruin someone’s weekend, or make some hacker rich. Maybe one of these suits fell asleep at the wheel on the I-95. Who knows, maybe one of these 400 suits lost his job, and the guy in the next cubicle got it instead. And perhaps this guy in the next cubicle deserved it better, but the one who came to my store and unwittingly got decaf was just a better ass-kisser. Either way, you really can’t know what happens once you throw your action into the lake, you can’t see the ripple effect. And more than likely, you’re acting out in part as the result of someone else’s action as well. I know I was. Maybe if I didn’t have to work Friday, or if it hadn’t been that busy, or if the coworker who failed to come on time had, who knows?

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