And then there were five (or six…)

So we’re down to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic party, versus John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee in the Republican party (I guess we can count Ron Paul if you really want). I’ve already stated who I would vote for in the primaries, and last night’s debate really showcased Huckabee’s fantastic oratory skills. He didn’t get a lot of facetime, (why? Huckabee is clearly still in this race, but CNN has already chosen its favorites and didn’t give Ron Paul or Huckabee much time to speak at all) but the little facetime he got I thought he used very effectively. But that’s the short version, here’s the long version of how they all did last night:

  1. Mitt Romney: He got the most speaking time of any of the four candidates but didn’t really say very much. Whether he was bickering with McCain about word choice used in early April or trying to state that he’s definitely not pro-choice, Romney did nothing to make me think he’s less of a slimeball than I think. Also, when McCain is talking, SHUT UP. Grade: C+
  2. John McCain: McCain’s got the momentum, the lead, the support of Giuliani, the Governator, and, as Romney pointed out, the liberal New York Times. So what did he do? He spent the evening attacking Romney for the stupidest little things. He came across as petty and childish. His voice didn’t show much passion (it never really has) but instead talking to the voters as equals he was talking above them, as if he knows what he’s doing and no one is gonna’ change his mind. And also, when Romney is talking, SHUT UP. Grade: D
  3. Ron Paul: It’s too bad Ron Paul doesn’t have very much support, because the fact that he’s even in the race keeps the other candidates honest. There were a couple times where he kind of came in after a Romney/McCain exchange and said, “isn’t this a little ridiculous?” I don’t agree with a lot of his policies, but the guy has ideas. His problem is that no one seems to listen. Grade: B+
  4. Mike Huckabee: Huckabee’s performance last night was outstanding. His monologue comparing a governor to a president was outstanding and he did an outstanding job being humble and, to quote his campaign saying, like the guy you work with. The moderator asked him at one point “Rush Limbaugh has said you will destroy the Republican party if nominated”, but I liked his response: “I wish Rush loved me as much as I love Rush. He’s a great voice for the conservatives of this country, but he’s capable of error, and this is one of those times.” The one negative of his performance last night was that you could clearly see he was frustrated with how little time he was getting, as he prodded the moderator to give him more time and allow him to chime in occasionally. Grade: A-

Tonight it’ll be one-on-one, Hillary versus Barack. Should be pretty interesting to watch the fur fly.

I’ve kind of started thinking about how I will vote this fall depending on who is nominated, and I think the results may surprise you. I’ve arranged them into a matrix, Democrats along the top, Republicans along the bottom. Each cell represents who I would vote for if that column ran against that row.

Clinton Obama
Huckabee Huckabee Huckabee
McCain McCain Obama
Paul Paul Obama
Romney Romney Obama

Kind of surprising to those who know me, but there you have it.

Operating Systems

I’m sitting in Operating Systems right now, and I’m somewhat amused. Of the 40ish students in the class, at least 30 have laptops out. I can see about a third of the screens from my vantage point, and at least 5 are still working on homework that is due today in this class. The rest are either surfing the web or working on homework from another class.

As interesting as the subject of operating systems is, the guy who teaches it is showing how absolutely boring it can be.

Curveball

Recently read the book Curveball, by Bob Drogin, for my political science class. If you have any interest in U.S. intelligence or foreign policy at all, I highly recommend this book. It tells the story of Curveball, the codename of a single Iraqi who defected to Germany in the late 90s and gave the Germans the intelligence that eventually sent the United States to war in Iraq. If you don’t want me to spoil the ending for you (haha), don’t keep reading.

Spoilers

The defector turns out to be an outstanding con man. Everything he said made logical sense, but was just completely false. That alone would not be an issue, a lot of people are good con men. Here are the major problems that the book brings up.

  1. Second-hand intelligence. The CIA never saw the guy before it was too late. The Germans passed intelligence regarding their conversations with Curveball through low-security reports to the DIA. The DIA, after watering down the intelligence even further, passed them to the CIA. The CIA was getting information that was filtered…twice.
  2. Egos. The CIA was never able to admit its mistake, even before the war started. There’s a great scene in the book where George Tenet, the director of the CIA at the time, is assisting Colin Powell in his preparations for that famous address to the UN back in 2003. In the scene, Powell asks Tenet if he will back everything, and Tenet confirms that he will, even though he knows that some of that information is bad.
  3. The bureaucracy. Once CIA personnel were on the ground in Iraq, the search for the WMDs was chaotic at best, mostly due to the lack of an organized plan. At one point, someone notices that its mid-July of 2003 and no one has kept track of where troops have already searched for WMDs. Additionally, DIA and CIA personnel were fighting so much that almost nothing got done.

Does this tell us we shouldn’t be in Iraq? It’s tough to say. In retrospect, it’s easy to look back and say that we should never have gone because the weapons were never there. On the other hand, what if they were there? President Bush, based on the information he had available, felt that these weapons were too dangerous to have even a few. My belief is that we should be there, for a couple of reasons.

  1. Strategic location. Iraq borders Iran, and Iran is bordered on the other side by Afghanistan. Having two US-friendly (or even better, US-occupied) countries surrounding Iran has probably kept them from developing nuclear weapons.
  2. Humanity. For all that everyone says, “We should be helping in Darfur,” just a few short years ago Iraq was a very similar society. It’s trendy to bash Bush and claim that he doesn’t care about the citizens of Iraq and just cares about the oil, but apart from overthrowing a totalitarian government, the operations in Iraq have included building hospitals, roads, and running water.

On that note, Bush’s final State of the Union address is on tonight. I always like the State of the Union, because I think its the one night that everyone on Capitol Hill takes a break from automatically hating Bush and shares some optimism for once. It’s an important night; I think everyone should watch it, or read it or at least read the Cliffs Notes when they get here tomorrow morning. We are heading into a pivotal year for our nation and this administration.

Musings

Hello blogosphere! After what I know must feel like forever, I’m back and writing some stuff on this thing. So much to discuss, so I’ll just kind of go down a list.

  • “You Decide” 2008: Please, please, please, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton. I’ve determined that if you are absolutely inclined to vote democratic, that Barack Obama might actually be your best choice. Here are some reasons why the other two (anyone actually believe Gravel and Kucinich have a shot? Stop reading this blog immediately):
    1. John Edwards has absolutely no idea that the campaign is a competition. Has anyone seen this guy? He’s lost every state he’s run in, and invariably, after the votes are in and its determined he’s lost, he CELEBRATES! I think we can predict what would happen if he were elected: something would eventually happen that would tick China off, they would attack us, they would win in a war. But President Edwards would say, “It’s okay America! We came in SECOND! YEAAAAAAAH!”
    2. Hillary Clinton lies like her husband. I wonder if anyone in the Clinton family has ever told the truth (voluntarily, anyway)…
    3. For all of you liberals who complain that by this time next year, we will have had a Bush in office for 12 of the past 20 years, there is a conservative that feels the same way about the Clinton family. Regardless of your beliefs, regardless of how much you hate one party or the other, you cannot possibly argue that having the country run by two families for 24 years (or more, if, God forbid, Clinton gets reelected in 2012) is good for this country.
    4. Of the three candidates, Obama has been in politics the shortest amount of time…which is a good thing. The longer you’re in politics, the less likely you are to do what is right over what is popular.

    A few of you might recall that I’ve supported Rudy Giuliani for president for a long time. I liked his national security strategy and his record on crime, as well as a lot of his social and economic views. However, when it comes time to vote on Super Tuesday, my vote will go towards Mike Huckabee. Let me tell you why:

    1. No negative campaigning. The fact that Huckabee has not released any ads attacking his peers has greatly helped his campaign, and for me has increased his likability. One of his main mantras is “Americans want their president to remind them of a guy they work with, not the guy they work for.” That’s a great attitude to have. A lot of other candidates say they “work for the American people”, but I like the idea of a team setting from the beginning. It’s a fantastic vision of what American can be. And the fact that he hasn’t gone on the offensive and attacked any of his peers shows his difference from the other candidates.
    2. No more IRS! This idea is probably the main reason I’m voting for Huckabee. The IRS has become a bureaucratic mess. Here’s a question: how many of your tax dollars go directly towards funding the effort to collect taxes again next year? I do not have an exact figure, but getting rid of that from the budget leaves more money for more important things. But the main thing is that it doesn’t tax Americans on their INCOME. It encourages more conservative spending, and could help to fix a lot of things wrong in the economics of the basic American family.
    3. Accountability. Huckabee has already admitted several mistakes he has made and has held himself accountable. His weight, which was astronomical just a few years ago, has gone down because he started watching what he ate and exercising, not because of a miracle drug or liposuction. His policy on Iraq has also changed. He was not a supporter of the surge earlier in the year but has admitted that he was wrong and that the surge is working. For the record, he also believes the war in Iraq should be WON, not just ended.
    4. Social issues. Pro-life, against gay marriages but for gay rights, against amnesty towards illegal aliens.
    5. The most important issue: endorsed by Chuck Norris. Need I say more? His Chuck Norris commercial was pretty humorous, and he’s said some pretty funny stuff in debates as well which only increases the guy’s likability.

    Apart from Huckabee, I would still support Giuliani and McCain in a general election (against Obama). But if it were Mitt Romney… I actually think I would cross party lines and vote Obama. I don’t agree with everything Obama says, but I think he would be a much better president than Romney.

    And those are some of my political views of late.

  • Technology world: A few random ramblings:
    • Since November 26 (my last post), I’ve tried Fedora 8, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Debian, Ubuntu again, Fedora 8 again and Linux Mint. Clearly I had some issues with a few distributions :). I stuck with a Fedora 8 installation on my desktop and and going to install Linux Mint on my laptop at some point fairly soon. I’ve really liked Fedora thus far, I only had some minor issues with graphics and sound, and Linux Mint seems like a great distribution for my laptop because it comes with a lot of codecs and drivers preinstalled. I may try an openSUSE installation on my laptop too, it seems like that offers some interesting new features as well.
    • The MacBook Air. At least its not the iPhone (in terms of hype). I would seriously recommend against getting this, even if you are a Mac person, even if you really need an ultra-light computer. It’s overpriced, it’s underpowered, and I imagine the first models will overheat like no other laptop ever has.
  • Had some free time, so I wrote a sleep timer app for Windows PCs. Check it out if you want.
  • I’ve also checked out some new languages, including Python, which I am already a huge fan of.

In other news, I’m in Operating Systems as I finish this post and we’re talking about process control. The C function for creating a new process is the system call fork(), the professor is Asian… so he pronounces it as “f***”. The result is pretty hysterical, I’ve about lost it a couple times already:

“How do you create child process? Call fork(). The parent process will fork() and create a child process.”

The slant rhyme makes me wonder if the designers of C had this in mind when they were choosing what to call things.

I think that’s all I have for now. I’ll post more when I can.