Confederate Flag

One of the good things to come as a result of the patriotism expressed by people after the terrorist attacks of September 11 has been the large number of US flags on display everywhere. I like it especially since now it seems to me that Union flags outnumber Confederate flags in rural Georgia (since probably Reconstruction). You can probably guess that I have no fondness for the Confederate flag. In my opinion, it is a symbol of the Confederacy which mainly stood for right to own slaves. Yes, the civil war was not about slavery but that was because the Union fought not to abolish slavery but rather to keep the Union. I know that the this flag was not the official flag of the Confederacy, but due to historical quirks it has been the most well-known symbol of the confederacy.

Georgia’s first Republican Governor since Reconstruction, Sonny Perdue, ran last year on the promise that the state flag would be put for a referendum. Remember that the previous Governor Roy Barnes had changed the 1956 flag, which had the Confederate symbol on it, to a new flag which definitely looks like it was designed by committee. Now, I think there are a large number of Georgians, especially white rural ones, who want the old flag back. Another option has been to bring back the pre-1956 flag. According to PhotoDude, that flag was based on the original Confederate national flag. Overall, it’s a bad situation for Georgia, with an NAACP boycott threat looming in the background.

I believe that with the history of systematic and racial hatred going back a long time and ending only 30-40 years ago, we must not only act for racial harmony but must also be seen to do so. And that means discarding quite a few symbols from the past even though they might be dear to the heart of the local whites for reasons other than race. If we want a decent multi-racial and multi-cultural society, that is a price we have to pay. That is my preferred solution.

On the other hand, I have a novel proposal for resolving the flag issue as well. How about the Georgia legislature deciding to bring back eithe rone of the previous flags? But with a caveat: In the legislative act itself, the Georgia legislature officially and profusely apologizes for slavery and Jim Crow, and recognizes the relationship of the state flag and the Confederacy with the slavery issue. What do you think?

As an aside, has the United States government or an state government officially apologized for slavery or Jim Crow?

Definitely Broken

You are 33% geek
boy_25x50.jpg You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.
You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You’ll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!
Geek [to You]: I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!
You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com

Via The Poor Man.

Conspiracy Theories

CalPundit wonders about Steven Den Beste’s sanity:

Several weeks ago, weary of his futile efforts to understand the French psyche, Steven Den Beste announced that he had exhausted all other logical possibilities and come up with the only possible remaining reason why the French continue to oppose our war with Iraq: they have supplied banned weapons to Saddam and are afraid that an American invasion will turn up evidence of their treachery. Mind you, this is not just garden variety sanctions breaking he has in mind, which nearly everyone has done, but active help developing nuclear bombs and other WMDs.

Now, Den Beste’s essays usually strike me as being bastard stepchildren of JFK assassination conspiracy theories: long, closely argued tracts that are full of facts and surface plausibility, but drawing conclusions that any rational person recognizes as fantasies. So I didn’t take this very seriously.

[…]But I’ve got a question about all this. I have no doubt that the French have sold Saddam lots of stuff —- that’s no secret, and U.S. companies have also done business with him —- but if they really had sold him WMDs (or the makings for WMDs), wouldn’t their best bet be to support the U.S. wholeheartedly in return for us keeping quiet about the whole thing? Especially since, as Den Beste himself admits, it seems obvious that “the US is going to move with or without any further UNSC resolution.”

Does this make any sense at all? And who are the people who take it seriously?

Now, why can’t we invert this conspiracy theory and think that the US wants war because it is worried about WMD stuff it gave Iraq in the 1980s? In fact, that’s what this short post by Amber did.

Talking Dog’s Dog Run

The Talking Dog has been going through the massive project of commenting on every single one of the links on his blogroll, the Dog Run, and assigning a dog breed to each one. His blogroll is long and extensive and his comments have been pithy and useful. I have been introduced to quite a lot of new blogs by his effort. Now if only I had 72 hours each day to read them all!

Here are his comments about me:

Procrastination is the work of Atlanta (Georgia Tech, specifically) based blogger Zakaria Ajmal and on occasion, his wife Amber. Zack is originally from Pakistan, and gives us the appropriate perspective, with focus from that part of the world. I would classify Zack as a moderate liberal, but the interesting focus here is on South Asian and Middle Eastern issues, where his is a fresh and welcome perspective. Posts are thorough, and well reasoned (as you would expect from an electrical engineer.)
TD Designation: Pashmi Hound

Now, can anyone tell me what a Pashmi hound is?

Military Solution to Terrorism

The Talking Dog, commenting on the recent suicide bombing in Israel, talks about the ability of terrorists to act despite military action:

Israel can militarily crush all of its enemies combined these days, (possibly including Saddam Hussein), but it cannot stop every single Palestinian or Israeli Arab from this type of attack. Better disguises and tactics seem to be employed each time, and there continues to be a large, motivated pool of would be suicide bombers.

[…]What’s my point? Israel is the regional strongman (though a local pariah). The United States is, of course, the world’s strongman (on our way to pariah status). Israel can no more COMPLETELY stop suicide bombings than the United States could ABSOLUTELY stop 9-11, embassy bombings, or attacks on our ships and military bases in the Middle East. Military superiority gets you only so far. Intelligence is helpful, of course, but moral superiority, and well-thought policies also matter tremendously.

Israel shouldn’t be expanding its settlements, and indiscriminately killing NEIGHBORS of Hamas militants during its military incursions. But it is, and the resentment builds… The United States shouldn’t have to be in a position to permanently base troops in the Persian Gulf to contain one particular tyrant who should have been removed “back in the day”. But we do.

It would be nice if we actually backed up our talk about “democracy”, while we spit at Turkey’s (for not doing what we want) or France’s and Germany’s (for not doing what we want) or, for that matter, at our own (dissenters from this war are un-American, if not treasonous, and are, of course, giving aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein).

Right now, Israel is JUST relying on its military superiority. Israel can handily defeat the combined armies of the Arab world, but it can’t seem to make its streets safe to get a cup of coffee or go to work for its own citizens. The American President seems hell-bent on committing the United States to a comparable reliance on OUR military superiority to the exclusion of all else.

That reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend of mine soon after September 11. He said that a liberal democracy should not react too strongly to terrorist attacks; it should take it like a punch on its face, shake it off and get back to business. Now he wasn’t trying to say that one shouldn’t act against terrorists at all (we were both in support of the military action in Afghanistan). But the point is that it is too easy and tempting to react too strongly both militarily and in curbing civil liberties. We should be on guard against such tendencies. We should remember that as long as we have an open society, some terrorists will be able to get through taking advantage of the openness. Our reaction to that should not be to curtail that openness.

INS Prevented me from Blogging Yesterday

Yes, that’s true because I wasted a full day at an INS office. And all because of a mistake by INS. What happened was that my fingerprints on an INS document (done by INS officials themselves) were not identifiable. Why didn’t the INS officer who got those fingerprints checks them? I have no idea. Anyway, I had to go again to redo the form.

So I reached the INS office at 8:30am. The office had just opened and there probably had been a long line since 6am or earlier. I had to stand in line for 45 minutes outside in the cold. I could only wonder at the people who had been there earlier braving the cold. Finally, they took us into the building at 9:15am. But this wasn’t really inside, it was a small room where we lined up and waited to pass security. At 10am I was actually in the building. Now even though I had a letter from the INS, it didn’t say which room to go to, so I had to go with everyone else to the information desk. That was a big room, all filled up with people waiting in line and 4 INS people at counters helping them. It was going to be a long wait. After waiting for 2 hours, I made it to the counter. All they did was give me a wait number with estimated waiting time (until 2:18pm) and a room number to go to. So off to the new room and waiting for 2 more hours. There were 10 counters here but only 5 were being manned. I waited and waited, bored out of my mind. My turn did come around 2:15pm. I gave the INS officer my documents. Here, a mistake of mine surfaced to cause me further delay. I needed a couple of photographs and one that I had brought got ink marks from writing my name on the back (as instructed by INS). However, the INS officer told me I could get new photographs from a nearby place and return immediately. She also marked my letter so that I could get back in since the regular entrance was now closed. I ran outside and got the photos. I probably wasted 30 minutes due to this stupidity.

However, when I returned, that particluar INS officer had disappeared and I wasn’t allowed to do my paperwork with anyone else. So I waited another hour until her appearance. Finally, done with my part of the paperwork, I had to wait for them to run it through their system. I was there till 4:15pm. If you think my mistake about the photos cost me a lot of time, please consider that the guy ahead of me in the line who had similar paperwork to do got done at 4pm. At 4:15pm, waiting for the INS officer to appear with my paperwork, I was escorted by another INS officer to another floor. This was unusual since everyone else got their things back in the same room. I asked her where we were going and she said where my papers are. She took me to a small waiting room and disappeared. There was a couple over there and the woman was constantly crying. On the window, there was a notice “No Bonds accepted after 1pm”. I became a little worried at 4:30pm since INS closes at that time and I saw a lot of people going out. Finally, another INS officer came in to see me at 4:45 and asked me some really useless questions. Let’s just say that the information content in those questions and my answers was exactly zero according to Shannon. He took me back to the room I had done the paperwork in to finish the stuff, but it was closed. So he told me that half of the work is done but for the other half (not directly related) I will have to return tomorrow. There was no way I was going to waste another day, so I told him that I could wait for that part. He was OK with that since if INS does their job fast enough, I might not need it at all. I left the INS office close to 5pm. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and my wife was worried as well.

Now for some constructive criticism. INS definitely needs more staff. They cannot handle the number of people that come to their office and the amount of paperwork they have to handle. This is becoming more apparent with the special registration and other requirements of the USA PATRIOT Act. Another thing they could do is separate people who have come for information, to file applications, and as a response to an INS letter. They already separate people with appointments (the appointments are assigned by INS and cannot be requested). If they separate these categories, then a lot of the people don’t have to waste their time and the INS information counters’ time trying to find out what room to go to; instead they can go directly to the office corcerned.

What Do You Like About Your State or Country?

Michele of A Small Victory asked her readers to send her comments about their home states:

What is so great about America, anyhow? What makes it such a wonderful place? What would you tell a foreigner about your home state?

Pick a state, follow my example, provide links. Leave it in the comments and I’ll add your contribution to the list as I go along.

There were so many comments that Solonor created a separate page for each state and the comments keep on coming. Here are part of his entries about our adopted states of New Jersey and Georgia:

Kate: Famous New Jerseyans include: Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, the guys in Bon Jovi, Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Judy Blume, Thomas Edison, Jason Alexander.

New Jersey has the highest population density in the US. An average 1,030 people per sq. mi., which is 13 times the national average. (Over the years, Jersey City has had between 16,000 and 22,000 people per square mile!).

New Jersey is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US located in Elizabeth.

The first complete dinosaur skeleton found in the United States was discovered near Haddonfield, New Jersey, in 1858. This “Hadrosaurus” was about 28 feet tall!!!

Susanna: “New Jersey usually brings thoughts of urban decay, Tony Soprano and Atlantic City. But much of the state is still relatively rural, with everything from mountains and pine barrens to lighthouses and beaches (don’t think of it this way) within a couple hours drive from the big cities. The cranberry harvest and festivals in the fall are wonderful, and Cape May is a fairyland mix of old Victorian homes and beaches. The people in NJ are an incredible mix of races and heritages from all over the world, getting along for the most part, which means that the stores and restaurants have a range of products and foods that I think would be difficult to find most other places.”

Now over to Georgia:

Robb: “There’s Stone Mountain, Six Flags, and tons ‘o beautiful hiking trails. It’s cold as hell in the winter, and hot as hell in the summer (living here in Florida so long, I’ve forgotten what a “season” is).

There’s the Georgia Peaches, and peanuts. If you like onions, have a Vidalia. The Dogwoods are a sight to behold and up in the norther part of the state, you should see the leaves change color!”

Continuing on this line of thought, the Head Heeb is asking for comments about your favorite country.

So head on over to Solonor and the Head Heeb to comment about your favorite state(s) and country.

What Number Are You?

I am π
Everyone loves pi

what number are you?

this quiz by orsa

How Evil Are You?

Neutral

How evil are you?

Sleep, Drive, Sleep

I was so tired on friday that I slept for 17 hours. Then I drove for 14 hours to home. And went to sleep again for 8 hours. Now I am fresh and blogging would start again soon.