Friday, July 14, 2006

Israeli-Lebanese Conflict

I haven't posted anything on here in a while. Probably out of sheer laziness, but mostly because I view this blog as my personal sounding board. And right about now, with all the new developments in the Mideast, I feel like sounding off.

Unless you've been in a very deep sleep the last 48 hours, you'd know that there is a major conflict going on right now in the Middle East. I'll spare you the complete background here, but essentially, Israel has initiated a full-blown attack on Lebanon in response to two Israeli soldiers that were captured and held by Hezbollah (a political party based in Lebanon, considered by many as a terrorist organization). It's important to note that this group does not represent Lebanon or the Lebanese government. It is a separate faction that operates and acts on it's own, in this case without the backing of the government. Small factoid: Hezbollah was originally formed as a means to help fight Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon areas. Most of their financial backing and support comes from Syria and Iran (at least in the early stages of its development), keep that in mind for a moment.

Back to today's conflict. We have a dangerous situation playing out right now with some very intense attacks being carried out across various Lebanese targets, such as key bridges and highways, TV stations, and their international airport. Not to mention a simultaneous attacks taking place on Gaza over another Israeli soldier that has been abducted by Hamas. We essentially have a potential war heating up which will only get worse as the days go by.

Now here's my frustrations with all this. Israel has basically crippled Lebanon and killed over 55 civilians in the process, all in an effort to get back two soldiers. Not to minimize the lives of these soldiers in any way, but the Lebanese people, which are basically caught in the crossfire, are dying and key communication and travel facilities are being destroyed as we speak, forcing thousands of innocent people to suffer. And by the way, Lebanon/Hezbollah has nowhere near the military strength that Israel has and very little capabilities in defending itself.

So what's the rest of the world doing about it? In addition to the EU, Russia and France have spoken against Israel's attacks on Lebanon. The UN offered a resolution to order Israel to halt the attacks, only to be vetoed by the US. Bush went on to say that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Here we have a perfect example of why there is so much resentment in the Arab world for the US and their relationship with Israel. This is yet another instance of Bush displaying outward support for Israel, when it's clear to virtually the entire world that they've gone too far. This veto essentially means that the US is prepared to stand by will the bombings continue and Lebanon and Gaza suffer more and more devastation. And what's even worse is that this veto will further isolate the US from the Middle East and create even greater contempt for Bush and his administration.

That said, this was a golden opportunity for Bush to show some evenhandedness in his dealings with Israel and the Arab world as a whole. The impact of this decision will be huge, and it will only fuel the conflict and create more sympathy for Lebanon by it's neighboring Arab nations. Iran and Syria will see that no one is coming to Lebanon's aid and it'll be just a matter of time before they get involved. And that's when this whole war will take a serious turn for the worse.

In fact, I'm pretty certain that Bush is smiling on the inside. Hezbollah and Hamas are not very US-friendly organizations. Israel is only helping to carry out Bush's Middle East cleansing efforts of anyone or anything that might impede the war in Iraq.

Ultimately, I'm just concerned with the way this administration continues to turn a blind eye to what's really going on in the Mideast. The President consistently finds a way to push the US further and further away from ever improving our relationship with the Middle East, and it's not getting better anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Latest Bush Approval Rating

I hate being that guy that always talks about politics. But lately, with Katrina and all, it's almost impossible not to.

So, the latest polls conducted by CNN indicate that Bush's approval rating is dropping. In regards to Katrina, 54% disapprove of Bush's response, while 43% approve. That's 43% of 1005 adults polled.

I'm wondering now if these people were polled in their sleep, or were they actually conscious? At the very least, do these people have televisions or access to a newspaper? I really don't get it. How is it that someone can look at the initial relief effort (or lack thereof) and then conclude that Bush and company did a good job? Right. So good, in fact, that the FEMA director had to resign from his job " avoid creating further distractions." So good, that people are suggesting that Bush's late response to Katrina was actually racially charged. And so good, that he was already congratulating officials on a job well done just 2 days into the aftermath as hundreds of people were dying and thousands of others turned the Convention Center into hell on earth.

That's 43% of the people that feel this way.

Absolutely mind-boggling.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Daily Show on Katrina

Good stuff. What would we do without Jon Stewart???

The Daily Show Katrina video

Friday, September 09, 2005

I couldn't help it.

As a guy, I guess I'm forced to post at least one pic on here related to sex. I thought about it long and hard (no pun intended) and decided on Shakira. Adorable.

Operation Visa: Getting my wife into the States

It's been a painful road, that much is for sure. After being denied the first time around, I was almost ready to give up. I mean, we waited almost 8 months to get our first visa rejected due to a technicality. A lot more detail on that in a recent blog. So, we took a deep breathe, regrouped, and I just submitted a new petition, this time for an immigrant visa (form I-130). This basically gets you a greencard, but typically takes a few more months to approve. The good news here is that I can also apply for a K-3 visa, which essentially says that I can bring my wife here on a regular nonimmigrant visa and wait for the I-130 to get processed. That can still take up to 6 or 7 months, but it's better than nothing. So, both of those forms are in and now we're waiting...again.

The other day, after explaining my situation to a coworker, he gave me the most unbelievable, typically republican response -- "You should take comfort in the fact that the system is working." Is he serious?!?! I had to let it sink in for a second 'cause I didn't know what to say. The system is working? What system? Where was this "system" pre-9/11 as dozens of terrorists (on the FBI watch list, no less) strolled right into this country and flew planes into the WTC and the Pentagon? And does this "system" exist at our borders as hundreds of illegal immigrants walk in untouched on a daily basis? Please. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for tighter security, and I think it makes all the sense in the world. I was born and raised in NYC and worked in the WTC during 9/11, no one needs to tell me twice. Having stronger policies and more control over immigration is a good thing. But when Homeland Security tells me, an honest, US tax-paying citizen, that I can't bring my wife here to start a family and contribute more to this country, there's something seriously wrong with the "system".

That never came out of my mouth, unfortunately. That guy actually apologized the next day. I guess he realized how callous that sounded. Whatever.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My take on Katrina....

So, everyone's pretty much accepted the fact that government was a little slow in reacting to Katrina. I was kind of amazed to be honest since this was a perfect opportunity for Bush to try and score some extra points in response to a waning popularity poll. But instead, we saw the same ol' Bush we've come to know and love. I was floored -- really I was -- watching him stand there at the Red Cross headquarters (I think) while he congratulated everyone on an amazing job, assuring us that everything is under control! He basically took all of his favorite Iraq catch phrases and spun them around New Orleans. I can't watch the guy anymore -- the goofy facial expressions he makes, and the way he tries to look so concerned when he could really care less. What's really scary is that by the end of his term, we'll be looking back, not on all the proactive things that Bush has done, but instead, how he reacted to 9/11 and Katrina. And even if you believe he responded well to these huge, catastrophic events, that basically says he accomplished nothing else. Maybe the Patriot Act, if you even consider that a beneficial thing. I'm just looking forward to the "Katrina Commission" which will study exactly what went wrong. And once again, Bush will be exposed for failing to properly respond to another human tragedy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Should I buy a PC or a Mac?"

I just got off the phone with my cousin who's looking to buy a new computer, and he was wondering if he should buy Apple or a Windows machine. I guess since I work in sales for a big IT company, that makes me the computer guru in the family. I'm not a super techie by any means, but I do love technology, and especially Apple. That's probably where half my salary goes. I mean these guys can put out iCrap and there's a good chance I'd buy it.

That said, lately I've found myself fielding questions from prospective PC buyers about Apple versus Windows. So, I thought I'd just lay it down here for anyone else that might be pondering the "switch". I actually grew up on Windows before I moved over to Mac, so most of this is based on my experiences and what I've learned, not completely one-sided.

When it comes down to it, it's not really Macs vs PCs per say, but more about the fundamental differences between OS X and Windows, that's how I'm approaching it. I broke it up by key topics, comparing pros and cons:

Anyone that's used Windows for a long time knows that resetting your computer on an almost daily basis is just a part of life. It crashes a lot. To be fair, that's usually caused by lots of different things besides the OS, like funky applications, or incompatibility issues, etc. Problem is that Windows doesn't really handle these issues well, so it will usually just crash or lock up to protect data. Not the case with OS X, and that's one of the first things I noticed about Macs. It just handles errors better and rarely will it force you to reboot.....and I mean rarely. OS X is built on Unix, which is inherently a very stable and mature operating system (more popular on big servers usually used by larger companies and corporations). It's all around a much more solid platform.

Simplicity/Ease of Use
Everything is much more straightforward and intuitive on a Mac. It just works. And when it doesn't, it's usually pretty easy to troubleshoot and figure out what it is. With Windows, you have too many moving parts. That means more things can go wrong and the solution is not always so clear. The geek's explanation for that -- the Windows kernel (the heart and soul of any operating system) has pretty much remained unchanged since 95. That means every new release has consisted of more and more code piling up on older code which introduces more complexity. That's why you often find yourself going down 4 or 5 different paths to troubleshoot a relatively simple problem.

Probably one of Windows' biggest weaknesses, it's security (or lack thereof). Going back to the point above about the kernel, Windows was initially written during a time when there wasn't really an Internet. So, security was never a real apparent concern. Microsoft has certainly come a long way in addressing that, but there's still some major vulnerabilities that are inherent in its design that leaves Windows open to hackers and viruses. And most of those holes are found in two of it's biggest programs, Internet Explorer and email (Exchange/Outlook). That means a lot more maintenance for the user, like running the latest and greatest antivirus software, a firewall, constant Windows updates and tons of patches. That's usually a best practice on any computer, but an absolute must on a Windows machine. Macs on the other hand, do not have that problem, for two reasons: first, Unix is much more secure and far less susceptible to attacks. To be honest, I've never had a virus, nor do I personally know of any other Mac users that have had viruses. Second, and to be fair, 99% of all viruses are strictly written for Windows only since they make up a bigger majority of PC users out there.

This is where OS X really shines. Macs have always been the de facto standard when it comes to multimedia. And that's been made even more evident with the success of the iPod and iTunes. All the tools you need for home movie editing, music, photos, or recording music come with a Mac. And it's not like some of the free apps you get with your Dell -- these programs are top tier stuff, very easy to use and they produce some amazing results. That's iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD and Garageband, packaged together into the iLife suite. I use 'em all pretty regularly and they work great.

But not all programs are available for Mac!
Not true. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Almost all your major apps today are available for both PC and Mac. Granted, you do have a number of PC-only applications, but you'd be very hard-pressed not to find another comparable program that runs on OS X. What do most people really need anyway? OS X has a great email client, you have a bunch of different browsers to choose from (Safari, Mozilla, Opera, Firefox, etc.), and you got your iTunes for music and iPhoto for pics. As far as MS Word and Excel, you got that, too. I'm actually a big Office user and it runs great on a Mac. And yes, all the formats are the same as PC, so there's no problems exchanging files between the two.

All From Apple
A major plus that people don't usually realize is that Apple designs the whole system, the OS and the hardware come from the same manufacturer which makes everything very tightly integrated. So, from a support perspective, it's all Apple product and the support comes from one company. Unlike a PC, your OS and you computer come from two different places. And that's probably okay if you buy from the big guys, like Dell or HP, support is pretty good. But good luck if you buy from some little retailer out in Kentucky with a total staff of three -- that could be a problem. And the market is flooded with those shops. Not to mention with Apple, you always have the option of physically going right to the Apple Store for help. Just go online and make an appointment with a "Mac Genius"...where else can you do that? Although, I will say that Apple's warranties are pretty stingy. Only about 90 days, unless you opt to buy the Apple Care extended warranty.

So, that's my take on it. At the end of the day, it really comes down to personal preference, you basically need to see for yourself. For the average user that only uses their computer for email, browsing the web, Office apps and storing pics and music, almost any new computer today will do, PC or Mac. But if you're looking for an all around better user experience, and a computer that looks pretty damn good just sitting on your desk, then a Mac will surely please.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fiance Visa Update

So, my fiance had another mtg with the Embassy today. They saw the marriage certificate and confirmed that we need to resubmit a spouse visa (I-130). Now I'm officially bummed about this whole thing. A small part of me couldn't help but think that maybe they might just let her have the visa after all. That didn't happen. Instead, we're looking at another 6-8 months possibly, assuming that she gets the visa the second time around.

It's a frustrating and helpless feeling not being able to do anything about this. Basically, by way of some stupid technicality (that's supposed to protect us) they're forcing an innocent married couple to be apart for over a year. Meanwhile, thousands of people illegaly cross over our borders every day, but my wife and I are a threat. Way to go Homeland Security!