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<nettime> long time no hear
Ivo Skoric on Fri, 12 Jun 1998 08:57:55 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> long time no hear


Yes, I am back. True, I won't be writing as often, since I kind of have a job
now, and I have less time to look at the big picture, which, however
fascinating (at least for those who can find humor in human's inadequacies),
never paid off much anyway.

I updated the web page (which still can be found at http://balkansnet.org/)
and I included at the bottom of this text a few articles that I've written while
I was in transition from the computer #1 to the computer #2.

New computer came with a malfunction, so the manufacturer took it back
for a lengthy repair. Now it is kind of working. It is like a toy. Sometimes
the hard-drive just slips out of its connections in transport, and then the unit
does not turn on. The tech support said that I should just "re-seat" the hard-
drive module. Easy. And then, there are Windows 95, which seem to be
opening every time with some new configuration. Com ports change places,
shortcuts disappear, for a few days I had the screen saver and now the
screen shuts off again as it was before. Whenever I turn the unit on I sigh in
annoyance thinking of how much time would I have to spend to find the
answers to all new riddles the operating system generated that time. And
can anybody please tell me why each new computer that I have, while
nominally faster, works actually SLOWER? Generally, as a consumer I feel
terrified: most of the goods I bought here I had to complain or even go to
court about. Fortunately, I didn't pay cash, but charge, and like many others
in the U.S., still haven't paid off that charge. The situation here in which
consumers are systematically cheated on quality of products they, on the
other hand, buy for phony money, painfully reminds me of the last days of
the Yugoslav economy. While long term interest rates fall below 6%, many
credit card companies charge their victims usurious rates of well above
25%. So, it does not surprise me, given that American consumer debt
outmatches the GNP of Great Britain, that more Americans declare
bankruptcy than graduate college yearly. Neither does surprise me that, as a
consequence of both trends combined, all House Republicans voted
yesterday for legislation to make filing for bankruptcy more difficult. In a
move highly unfair to those Americans who live in the states or cities with
high living costs, they want to tie the eligibility for Chapter 7 filing to the
national median income. And what are they going to do with the rest? Put
them in prison? As if prisons in America are not already overcrowded with
non-violent offenders (40%) and costing taxpayers too much money. Stick
without a carrot was the prescription former Yugoslav regime swore by.
Please, take a note that the accent here is on "former."

There is something we all should admire about the Balkans: its unbearable
predictability. Did anybody perhaps not expect the war would spill into
Kosova? I put up a section on The Balkans Pages dedicated to Kosova
Crisis and I scarcely had to update it in the past two months to keep it "on
the ball" (http://balkansnet.org/kosovo.html).

What the American administration likes to call a "new world order" is really
neither new, nor it comprises the entire world, and it is not that orderly
either. It is a return of the world to the pre-cold war situation similar to the
one we had at the end of the previous century. Only then the super-power
was British empire, largely crumpled by now, and the relationship between
the powerful and powerless was colonial, while today the powerless are
generously allowed to have ruthless dictators of their own to rule over
them. Sometimes, figures like Suharto, which are larger than life for their
subjects, are actually nothing more than middle management executives for
multinational corporations. Their job is to make sure that the pool of cheap
labor and inexpensive resources as well as gullible market is made available
for merciless exploitation by foreign owned industrial giants.

When those middle managers get to appear to have a mind of their own,
they are simply fired.

Any attempt to break this mold seems almost as desperate and pathetically
futile as it was for humans to try to fend of the alien attack in the
Independence Day movie. I bet the Indian prime minister missed that movie.
Otherwise, he'd know: nukes don't work (read the article "INDIA" below
about that). Developments between India and Pakistan are a classic example
of the disorderly element in the "new world order." During the cold war
many regimes in the have-not's world were floated and financed by either
the East or the West or in many cases both the East and West were
competing for favors from the local governments. With the end of the cold
war, the reasons for supporting those regimes became absent, and the
support ceased, causing those regimes to crumble. 

New, by free elections ELECTED governments are almost as a rule
nationalist, and in many cases extremist. They are bitter at the West (for
leaving them after their predecessors so faithfully served the cold war, and
despite their complete surrender to the free market). They are like any
disgruntled middle management employee in any of American larger
corporations. Very often they are lead to believe, largely by examples from
history, that the only way they are going to be taken seriously and treated as
equals is if they make a lot of noise, and spill large amounts of blood, which
is both best produced by firing ones artillery upon the other. Some, like
Hussein and Milosevic, are nearly suicidal in that pursuit. Therefore we saw,
we see and we shall see more Bosnias, Rwandas, Kosovos, Congos,
Chechenyas, etc. 

But in the case of India and Pakistan, for the first time we see two countries,
which generally fall into the above description, whose governments are
mutually ready to go in the war with each other AND which both have
nuclear weapons and the ability to launch it. Usually, the West would let
them duke it out - a nice new conventional war, particularly between so
populated countries would just fuel the western industry and make
multinational corporations richer, while at the same time crippling their
economies and cooling down their resentment to the West. Towards the end
of the war, the survivors would welcome the Western "help," like demining
(removing the landmines that they previously purchased from the western
manufacturers), with deep bow, the help they would be dependent on for
many decades to come. With India and Pakistan, we shall see if the "new
world order" is ready yet to subject the planet to the limited nuclear war for
the sake of reaping profits.

While the "new world order" might not exactly be ready yet to deal with
that, it is sure as hell ready for another war in the Balkans. Weapons
salesmen, former special forces freaks, now military advisers, the whole
'train and equip' operation - they are already down there. Of course, I doubt
they are in Tropoje. That's where the refugees are, where the journalists will
go in a week or two, and where, hopefully, a Serbian shell would hit a
hospital in a month on a nice sunny day in the right time of day (to avoid
direct sunlight to the camera lense). A friend of mine, who spent several
years reporting from Bosnia for the U.S. media is already itching to go
back, suddenly again in demand - and she was, having used all the money
she made in Bosnia to pay off student loans, on the verge of taking an
administrative assistant jobs, temping or something, planning to write a
book (on Bosnia, of course, like every other western journalist who was
there, anyway), fighting of depression and a variety of related
psychosomatic quirks. Thank God for those clowns in Balkans coming up
with a new war, so her expertise is once again valuable. The sense of being
important, while she is down there, restores her back to normalcy quite
quickly and she doesn't mind the absence of western comforts (like bagels,
air-conditioning, cabs, gyms, working public phones, cable TV, etc) as long
as she has the rush of it being there then. Which makes her an excellent
journalist. Good that their employers don't know that she NEEDS to do
that (otherwise they'd get her to do it for free, huhuhu). In a sense, maybe
India DID the right thing: nuclear weapons still serve as a good deterrent.
And they are cheaper than modern conventional warfare.

Milosevic, in his usual lovely way, first completely vaporized the entire area
on the Kosova-Albanian border and around the supply roads to that area, in
a tactical move to prevent further smuggling of weaponry to the KLA
forces, and once he reached his military objective - he generously invited
international observers to come there to see for themselves that he is not
doing anything against the international law. State Department first called
that 'ethnic cleansing' - because in fact Albanian population was cleansed
out from that area, but then subsequently retracted saying that it was not
'ethnic cleansing,' because the cleansing was not the goal but just an
obviously unfortunate side effect of the possibly legitimate military action.
Although, coincidentally, the cleansed area corresponds to the Metohija
region of Kosova, which is historically the cradle of Serbian state, and
which Milosevic cannot politically afford to lose. British, as always rushing
to protect Serbian gains, insist on sending the international force in Kosova
(this actually happened in Bosnia, where UNPROFOR then served as a
target practice for 'both' or, even, 'all three' sides, therefore making them
all look so equal). Americans, betting that KLA and Kosova Albanians,
which represent 90% of Kosova population (60% of that younger than 30)
and whose emigres in the U.S. and elsewhere send 3% of their yearly
income back home to help their brethren, will eventually win the war against
Yugoslav Army, in a way Afghan rebels won the war against the Soviets, of
course oppose the British suggestion, insisting that international force
should be sent into surrounding regions of Albania and Macedonia (where it
can serve the best purpose of supplying KLA with weapons, logistics
support and health care..., while protecting weak Albania and Macedonia
from eventual Serbian attack). Since Macedonia is formally neutral it is
more likely that it will be chosen.

Still, I am puzzled why Milosevic's generals seem to hope that Serbs may
achieve in Kosova what Soviets couldn't in Afghanistan and what
Americans couldn't in Vietnam by using the same tactics. The use of
Vietnam-era terminology is telling as it is sarcastically noticed by a certain
journalist of Belgrade's Vreme, who for a few years now lives in Zagreb
following the rule that an artillery shell rarely falls at the same place twice.
Milosevic maybe knows that Kosova is his last battle, and that Kosova will
be another lost battle, and that with Kosova he finally shall loose the war, so
I wouldn't be surprised he already has planned a nice little tropical retreat.
Meanwhile, however, he still pretends to rule Serbia, and to an extent
(limited by KLA and Montenegro's newly elected president Milo
Djukanovic) Yugoslavia. In that function he decided not to ban B92 radio,
but instead to grant them the broadcasting license, but (it had to be a but
here) at a steep licensing fee, with which B92 and all other independent
stations are incapable to comply. This gives West an option: either they pay
B92 to pay the fee - which basically means giving Milosevic money so he
can wage war in Kosova, or let Milosevic LEGALLY shut B92 off the air
and spare Belgrade and rest of Serbia from the truth about his last lost battle
in Kosova, enabling him to stay in power longer (without media like B92,
any opposition in Serbia to that war will be unlikely to form), and wage the
war in Kosova longer. Those choices should be carefully weighed against
each other.

Well, I nearly forgot to write about Croatia and Bosnia. There is actually
nothing happening in Bosnia. I mean comparing to the amount of
information we used to see about Bosnia floating in the world's media, the
situation today is nothing. Maybe another elections. Or another complaint to
the International War Crimes Tribunal, which will be answered in the next
life or two. The same is true for Croatia, too. Or at least it was until the day
Gojko Susak died. Was that on the anniversary of Tito's death? Kind of like
a revenge of the old paraplegic (sorry folks who did not read Alan Ford and
might not understand the pun here). It is not a surprise for people who
know the rules of the game in Eastern Europe that all important political
dynamics happens inside the governing party rather than between political
parties. Croatia's HDZ consists of two powerful yet opposed political
lobbies, the first being the caste of Born-Again-Croats former elite
communist executives (lead by Tudjman himself) and second is the class of
new-rich ex-emigres which trace their roots prevalently to Hercegovina -
that was headed by Susak as Tudjman's praetorian guard separating and
alienating him from his original lobby. Susak was a moderate who
understood the value of compromise. This value eludes some of his more
radical followers, terrifying Tudjman who is, like any autocrat, allergic to
aspirations to power around him.  So, I didn't see Tudjman shedding many
tears for the loss of his man from the top of Hercegbosna, although
opposition rushed to label the event a huge loss for Tudjman.

Now, Hercegovci (people from Hercegovina), are generally hated group in
Zagreb, Split and Sarajevo. Still, Torcida and Bad Blue Boys, Croatia's
soccer fan clubs (football hooligans) from Split and Zagreb known for
intolerance of Hercegovci, instead of uniting against common threat prefer
hitting on each other. Zagreb football hooligan scene is infested with Nazi
skinheads whose priorities are gay-bashing and hazing underage punk girls.
Recently, they added to that assaulting bicyclists, and trespassing into a
friendly alternative cafe. Finally, they beat up Ben in Zagreb. Ben is an
institution in the world of Balkan football hooliganism. He graduated, got
his masters and is writing his doctoral thesis on that issue. Why would they
beat up their unofficial liaison to the rest of the world? Well, Ben was often
more than an impartial researcher. He goes to the games and stands in
bleachers with his Torcida pals. He is also a veteran of pro-democracy,
peace and human rights movement in Croatia and former Yugoslavia. In this
second role he clearly despises the destructiveness of the extremist,
exclusive  nationalism espoused in the skinheads abbreviation of Nazi
ideology. Recently, after their repeated attacks on the Zagreb alternative
scene, Ben was among those inclined to non-pacifist defense solutions. Then
in the streets when confronted by eight skinheads, he greeted them by
shouting Torcida and ended up in hospital. Now he at least has a good
reason for the postponement of the deadline for when his thesis is due: a
little unusual way, but he got it again.

On the day of Croatian statehood, the Croatian Center in New York showed
a documentary under the title "Tudjman." The event was selling for $20.
Considering that previous years tickets for such events were sold for 50, 70,
100 or even 120 dollars, and that Tudjman sometimes appeared in person,
this shows that Tudjman's sales value is down, and that now the HDZ is
trying to animate people by lower prices. I didn't go, deciding to wait some
more - who knows: in a year or two they might hold such events free of any
charge. "Tudjman" is a documentary and one of the people who helped
making it, as I understood, was a New Yorker who writes a biography
about Tudjman. Curiously, he was not invited. Croatia's ambassador to the
U.S. is M. Zuzul, who belongs to the "Hercegovci" faction. He was angry
that he had been kept out of the loop about the biography (commissioned by
HDZ moderates)  and urged the publisher (Harper Collins) not to publish
the book. If that does not happen by February next year, the writer would
have the right to do with the manuscript whatever he pleases.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Health Problem

Both in the New York Times on May 2 and in the ABC Nightline on
May 4 there was much talk about ramifications of showing a
tragedy on the network TV, but nearly not a word about preventing
the tragedy from happening in the first place.

I have a piece of advice for the society that believes that
whether was it right for the TV to show a man blowing his head
off *live* or not, is more pressing social issue than examining
the justifiability of reasons why the poor fellow did it: don't
create tragedies, then you won't have to worry about showing
them.

Is showing a real life suicide on TV good or bad journalism, I
cannot tell. Media in general are a mirror of society. If society
is sick, the media shall reflect that sickness. To prevent that,
was one of the gravest mistakes of communist societies, which all
by now paid for that with their lives. What really is the bad
journalism is not talking about why Daniel Jones actually
committed suicide: getting screwed by his HMO, which happens to
millions of Americans every day.

I can completely understand that the health care administrators
may easily drive an otherwise sane individual to the act of
suicide, since I am being systematically driven crazy by the
system myself. At one point it occurred to me that it is better
*not* to have any insurance. If you are a private patient, the
doctors will at least tell you the truth, and then if you have
ten thousand dollars, they will treat you and if you don't, they
will let you linger in your misery, which is an ultimately
perfect application of the laissez fair capitalism.

If, however, you belong to an HMO, your doctor will give you a
diagnosis which will justify a kind of treatment that your HMO is
willing to pay, so that your HMO is pleased by his/hers savvy and
continue to send him/her new patients. HMOs don't like expensive
treatments, so your doctor will not resort to anything radical
unless it is an absolute life threatening emergency. It doesn't
pay for him/her, because your HMO agrees to pay less than he/she
would normally ask for such treatment (however absurdly inflated
that sum would be).

Therefore as an HMO patient you are bound for a second class
care. And if the cheapest possible treatment that you are getting
at the end shows no results, i.e. your health does not improve,
the good doctor will change the therapy, keeping you constantly
in a limbo between health and sickness, so that you keep
returning back for more, until you die or drop the HMO. HMOs
apparently have no problems with indefinitely long treatments as
long s they are low budget ones.

That means that many doctors consciously provide inadequate care
to the patients, in order to keep a cozy relations with the HMO.
This is very disturbing. It was disturbing for Daniel Jones to
the point that he decided to commit suicide. And the only thing
we can talk about is the inappropriateness of showing that on TV?
What should have the TV done? Sweep the event under the carpet?

Well, should I ever come to that point, I promise you all a good
television.



Banking in the Free World

On May 7 my account was charged a $ 17 maintenance fee. No, I
don't have a brokerage account. This is a LIFELINE checking
account, which name correctly suggests that there are all my
miserable earnings and modest survival expenses recorded there.
Basic fee for that account is $ 4.50 a month, which covers just
an enormous privilege to have your money kept in a bank. The U.S.
banks are the only banks in the world to charge their customers
for TAKING their money. Maybe this makes sense considering the
overall U.S. corporate arrogance in the world. This basic fee
will also cover up to ten transactions during one month.
Transactions are checks, electronic payments or cash withdrawals.
Once you have more than ten transactions, which is hardly
avoidable unless you are a retired person, your monthly fee will
shoot up to $ 9.50 a month AND you will be charged a per
transaction charge of $ 0.50. Customer service clerk explained to
me that the $ 17 included the $ 9.50 service fee in 15
transactions that I had the last month: 15 * 0.5 = 7.5 + 9.5 =
17. My question was: did I have fifteen transactions over my
lifeline "limit" of ten, or did I have fifteen transactions
total, meaning I was five transactions over the "limit"? Her
answer was that I had a total of fifteen transactions. The fact
that I had more than ten transactions automatically raised my
monthly service fee from $ 4.50 to $ 9.50 - a $ 5 penalty for
having 5 more transactions, or a $ 1 per transaction. Also, as I
was over 10, my account was automatically charged a $ 0.50 per
transaction fee, now here is my point: I was charged the per
transaction fee for ALL 15 transactions, not just for the 5 which
were over the lifeline "limit" of 10. I was penalized once - $ 5
for 5 transactions. I was penalized twice $ 2.50 for the same 5
transactions. And I was penalized for the third time for the same
5 transaction by being asked to pay $ 5 for the previous 10
transactions which would otherwise, should I have not made those
5 transactions over my limit, be included in my lifeline checking
agreement. In fact, those 5 transactions cost me $ 12.50, which
is a whooping $ 2.50 per transaction, that in a case of a let's
say an ATM withdrawal of $ 20 represents more than a 10% of that
transaction. This is a treble penalty for five transactions. I
deem such harsh penalties unreasonably cruel and unusually unfair
to your lower income customers. Again, the customer service
person asserted that this charge is a part of my agreement that I
have signed and that it is a Chase Manhattan bank's POLICY to
charge its lifeline checking account customers $ 9.50 monthly
service charge should they exceed their 10 transactions monthly
limit AND a $ 0.50 per transaction fee RETROACTIVELY including
the first ten transactions. I never understood that the per
transaction fee can or will be applied retroactively. I doubt I
would sign the agreement if I understood that. Furthermore,
having a policy does not necessarily make it right. Nazi Germany
had a policy to exterminate Jews, for example. Chase bank has a
policy to drive its customers to the poorhouse with unreasonable
and unfair fees.

Yet, this is not the only example of the Chase bank's bias
against the lower income brackets. The closest Chase ATM to my
home is at the corner of 106st Street and 2nd Avenue on Manhattan
in the minority area known as Spanish Harlem. There are no
working pens in the ATM. There is never a security guard present.
There are no customer service telephones. There are no deposit
forms available. There are even no deposit envelopes available -
which is completely outrageous, because a customer cannot make a
deposit outside of the bank's business hours. The Chase Manhattan
bank ATM-s that I visited in other parts of city - Broadway and
8th street, Amsterdam and 97th Street, Lexington and 86th Street,
Madison and 79th Street, Park and 20-something street, a Midtown
location across the IBM building, Broadway and Steinway in
Astoria - all had working pens, available forms and envelopes,
customer service telephones and guards on duty. So, I concluded,
that there is a clear discrimination on the part of Chase
Manhattan bank against the minority neighborhoods. I informed the
customer service twice of the situation, and the customer service
representatives both times gave me an unsatisfying excuse about
homeless people breaking into the ATM and taking the forms with
them. There are homeless in other parts of New York city, but the
Chase ATM-s in other parts of the city have guards on duty. And
besides, what would a homeless person do with a bunch of bank
deposit envelopes? Furthermore, there are other ATM-s neighboring
the Chase's ATM on the corner of 106th Street and 2nd Avenue -
Citibank ATM on the corner of 116th Street and 1st Avenue and
Ponce De Leon ATM on the corner of 106th Street and 3rd Avenue,
which are both better maintained and kept. Therefore, I
concluded, there is no acceptable explanation for the Chase
Manhattan bank's fascist arrogance and discrimination against the
neighborhood in which I live.

To protest both cases I renamed Chase Manhattan Bank on all my
checks to Chase Fascist Bank and I reduced the Chase corporate
sign on my ATM card to a swastika - it, how unsurprisingly,
reminds of a swastika anyway, doesn't it?




We don't need no stinking Windows 98

Something just occurred to me: there is a dynamic relationship
between hardware and software industry, sort of a bi-directional
pull. New software makes old hardware obsolete and new hardware
makes old software obsolete. When new software is written for the
new hardware, it is written to make that hardware useless soon.
When new hardware is built to support that new software better,
it is built also to provide for even better software then to be
written. This is how Microsoft and Intel rule the world. 
Software is and will always be possible to hack,
partially because this was a long-standing interest of software
industry to better proliferate. Technically it is possible to
stop illegal copies by various impractical means for quite a
time. Hardware industry had to try to keep prices at that general
level (which is lower every year), so now most of the chips are
made and boards printed in Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, etc. The
cheap labor there drove the price of software down, so now the
software companies contract labor in Eastern Europe or Ireland.
The turnaround of the new software and hardware used to be a few
years (3-4). Now, it is about a year. Microsoft expects you to
upgrade your operating system every year, and that means you will
need all new hardware (makes Intel happy) and all new software, because
the new
operating system will be written for the new hardware
requirements and require new software to be written for it. Once
the new software is out, files produced by the new software are
usually not readable with old software, and, sometimes even vice
versa, so everybody has to get new operating system, all new
computer and new software. That's why others in computer industry
although bitching about Gates cornering the market don't really
seriously want to get rid of him. Eventually the price of
hardware is now that low that it is less practical to repair a
computer than to buy a new one. The price of labor in the country
of production was substantially lower than it is in the country
of service (in the U.S., for example). Usually, manufacturer
keeps manufacturing parts for its old models maybe a year or less
since the model went out of production and then it stops. Like I
can't get any more a battery for a 7 year old 286 notebook (Sharp
pc 6220), and the old trusty NiCd is verifiable dead (but the
computer still works fine, running DOS 5.0). Or like ATI would
not update Windows 3.11 drivers for its 3 years old video card
Winturbo, and the old drivers are not supported with the 3.0 or
higher version of 16-bit RealAudio player. New ATI cards are
built to support new Windows 95 features (although they do
provide new Win95 Winturbo drivers for customers who need some
time to buy a new card), and RealAudio is concentrating itself on
32-bit versions. Radio 101 sent me RealAudio file of a 30 minutes
broadcasting of the Weekreport from Zagreb. That file could not
be read by my old version of RealAudio 2.0. I called RealAudio
and they pointed me to a download of RealAudio 3.0 Plus. This I
even had to pay (about $30). The RealAudio 3.0 however would not
open on my computer because of a conflict with ATI Winturbo
driver. While I was trying to solve this problem my Windows 3.11
irretrievably crashed and I can't get them back on, nor I can
install a new version of Windows on the same disk. So, I get a
new computer. The new computer is a laptop and it comes with
Windows 95. But it is also a 1 year refurb, because Winbook
corporation, from which I had purchased it, do not manufacture or
sell those outdated Pentium 166 MMX models any more. My 3.5 year
old desktop is Pentium 133 (no MMX) - and this is the new
motherboard in it - it was originally 75 MHz. So the unit came
with a non-working floppy drive unit and a non-working printer
port. They took it back, sent FedEx to pick it up. It is already
over 10 business days they have it. Last week they said that they
are replacing the motherboard and then that they will pass it to
the quality control department for a burn-out. Today they said
that they are just replacing the motherboard and that as soon
this'd be done they are going to pass it to the quality control
department for a burn-out test. At both times they could not give
me an estimate of when the unit would be shipped back to me. I
have a friend who was finally given an option to add money for a
new model, or accept her money back for the old one she bought,
but they could not make it work. And the only things really
important are the ability to access and edit your own data (text,
graphic, spreadsheet, sound, animation files) and the ability to
access and edit your communication software (so not only your
ISP, but also your customized e-mail software and your customized
Internet access software, as well as web editing software should
you have a web page to maintain), everything else you can
generally pillage at the office of some of your working friends
after hours. That means that your files must be backed up after
each editing, and backed up in the most common formats available.
And the communications software should be entirely backed up and
able to run from a zip drive. Then it came to me to ask myself -
did anybody thought of creating a zip disk that would be able to
substitute a PC to an extent? Like instead of carrying a laptop,
person would carry just a zip drive (or the more powerful syquest
unit) and the disk that would contain most necessary applications
and personal data files that can temporarily "parasite" itself to
any working system. Huhuhu - well, this in combination with the
Sun Java computer (that has no hard disk, but all other
components and, of course, a modem), creates a 'real' computer,
but you can use your 'hard drive' on any computer with a SCSI or
a parallel port. Theoretically the Java system or the Microsoft
Windows (more likely, after devouring Sun-Java) would constantly
search the web for the ways to improve your personal system and
update your files. So the hardware upgrades would be less
dramatically feared, and the software ones would happen while we
sleep. One day when we don't wake up the system will still update
itself. If none of the humans ever log on again at that point,
would the autobots still update their clients and for how long
until they'd ask for a new input? If they don't need input is
that a sign of intelligence or of a rather stupid behavior? If
they ask for input is that a sign of ability to communicate or
just a mechanical response? In the end, the anti-trust case the,
otherwise pro-corporate, U.S. government is putting up against
Microsoft, deals with the deepest fears of any government over
loosing the monopoly over information. The government, like any
other end-user, needs Microsoft products to establish control
over its intelligence data, being virtually at mercy of
Microsoft. During history, practically only Catholic church
exerted such power. Today the end-users watch the world through
the Windows from their homes like once they used to watch it
through colored high gothic windows of the church. Bill Gates, who holds
more power and controls more money than a Pope in 9th century, 
maybe does not tell us what the truth is, but he is showing us the
only way to the truth, and the truth is just a click away. Where
do you want to go today? To the nearest technical support person,
thank you.




House of Fun

New York police, in the most recent effort to keep good on the
mayor Giuliani's promise to improve quality of life of New
Yorkers, started writing summonses for listening to loud music in
the cars. The tough-on-crime stance so far ruined the lives of
turnstile jumpers, squeegee windshield washers, graffiti writers
and other random denizens of the domains seldom visited by the
middle class. The Operation Civil Village as a target has the
population at large. Everybody found of producing noise in the
excess of 68 decibels can be ticketed and fined $100.

My apartment is on the third floor of a building on the corner of
110th street and Lexington avenue. Its windows look at the
Lexington avenue. Right across the avenue there is an 18 story
project building at 1760 Lexington avenue, "Clinton Resource
Center," owned by the City's Housing Authority. On the left hand
side to the building's entrance there is a grey box, and below
the box there is a table with red letters on white background:
ELEVATOR EMERGENCY ALARM. 

>From time to time, actually quite often, this alarm goes off.
When it does, it is left ringing for an hour, or, occasionally,
even longer. Sometimes it goes off and then it stops, and then it
goes off again in cycles of every two minutes and it keeps this
rhythm for entire day, or, which is, unfortunately, more
frequent, entire night. As it is an alarm, it produces a high
pitched noise of amazing loudness (I can hear it below ground at
the subway station) which blows right through my kitchen window.

The procedure then is to call the Housing Police (212-427-2500),
which always asks me at what floor did the elevator get stuck -
to what I answer, trying not to loose my religion, that the
elevator is INSIDE the building, and I don't live in the
building, but across the street, and the alarm is OUTSIDE the
building, closer to me than to the stuck elevator. Most often I
am the one to call the Housing Police, not people from the
project building. They don't hear the alarm mounted outside the
building.

Or even if they stand right in front of the alarm, they seem not
to be hearing it. Once, during the daytime, while the alarm was
ringing, I went to the project's management office to ask what's
up with the alarm, and the receptionist asked me: "What alarm?"
Apparently, she did not hear what I heard. This is perhaps an
adaptation, sort of a learned state based on the feeling of
general helplessness. It is known from the experiments with dogs
that if you give them electroshocks (unpleasant feeling) and if
they are put in a restrained position that they cannot escape the
shocks, they will just curl down on the floor and take them
stoically, at which point an observer will not be able to
determine whether they are receiving shocks or not. 

Or put a frog in the water and slowly heat it up: you'd boil the
frog, and she wouldn't even notice. People exposed to this noise,
eventually learned that this cannot be stopped, that this is
something like rain or wind or lightning, and then they just take
it with a shrug. No one, however, can estimate how this affects
their general behavior. In Eastern Europe similarly people were
taught that they are helpless in the face of powers to be and
forced to put up with shit of any sort. It ended with a lot of
anger and violence.

But throw the frog in the heated water and she'll scream and try
to jump right out. She'll feel tortured. That's how I feel: like
being confined to the House of Fun, a UK torture chamber, tested
on IRA suspects and sold to yet another model democracy (Abu
Dhabi), which uses loud, high pitched white noise to break the
subject's resistance.

So, I complain. I called the city's regulatory agency in matters
of noise - Department of Environmental Protection (718-699-9811)
and I spoke with Ronda there (second try: first time they hung up
on me). She said that DEP is handling only complaints against the
noise coming from commercial sources (except cars - for that I
should call the local precinct, she said). If the noise is coming
from the place owned by the city, they can't do anything about
it. I asked her if that meant that it was OK for the city to
break the law. She said that it was, in the case of an emergency.
Obviously, the city is regarded above the law. It is clear that
answers like this reinforced the acquired feeling of general
helplessness, which today plagues New York's inner city
neighborhoods, as it ravaged former Eastern European countries.

I find this alarm, terrorizing the neighborhood with noise
exceeding the legal limit of 68 decibels, a grave threat to the
mayoral promise of better quality of life to all citizens of this
city. Furthermore, I find the behavior of the regulatory agency
arrogant, rude and rightless. Today there are better, more
efficient and less invasive methods to inform relevant
authorities if there is an elevator emergency in a building than
to hang a loud alarm on the outside of the building. Maybe in
fifties, when the building projects were built, that was the only
way. Now, there are telephones, beepers, computers - the elevator
emergency alarm may be designed to ring in the Housing Police
offices and to convey all the relevant information: which
elevator in which building on which floor has a problem; the
police, fire brigade and EMS can be dispatched quicker AND
without any unnecessary noise disturbing other citizens.



India: No justice, no peace

Today I was buying shoes for the summer. Sneakers, more
precisely. I bought some Reeboks in Modells. Black ones. I like
black. They are made in Indonesia. The white ones (same model,
same size) are made in Taiwan. Actually any shoes made by a
larger manufacturer (Fila, Reebok, Nike, Converse, Adidas, etc.)
are made in sweatshops in Thailand, China, Indonesia, Taiwan,
Malaysia, Philippines, etc. My snowboard gloves, for example,
were made in Sri Lanka, country than never saw snow. India is
also a large producer of snowboard apparel.

India's ambassador to the US asked the same day CNN viewers about
how could have it been expected from a billion people great
nation like India not to have aspirations beyond that to be a
pool of cheap labor for multinational corporations - in part the
uneducated poor laborers in the country and in part the educated
youth that fled abroad. He said that more diplomatically, of
course, being a diplomat. India stated that it is sick of the new
world order, assertively but in an awkward way, almost as when
Croatia's Tudjman renames a street of his capital city to the
name of some former Nazi villain: they blasted three nukes
underground. And they blasted one more, once the new world order
slapped them with sanctions, as for the good riddance. Not long
afterwards Pakistan joined the nuclear show-off blasting its own
nuke under the Pakistani ground.

This was bound to happen sooner or later: another two formerly
non-aligned countries, which in their past followed the same
pattern of developing a political system more close to the Soviet
Union, while maintaining an open doors to Western capital, and
which suffered greatly economically and politically since the end
of cold war, recently developed nationalist bourgeoisie and
elected bitterly entrenched nationalist governments. Only this
time it is not Serbs and Bosnians, but Indians and Pakistani and
this time they both have nuclear weapons. Is India showing it is
ready to use them? Well that's what the world is reading - for a
while nobody did any testing, and although India, as a non-signer
of the test-ban treaty, did not break any international laws, it
is highly unbelievable that there were no political reasons
behind the test.

Pakistan is outraged. Well, of course. And China, who gave
Pakistan the ability to strike anywhere in India (hating India
for providing safe haven to Tibet's Dalai Lama) with the long
range missile technology, China is protesting. Dalai Lama didn't
say a word. Although, having recently watched the "Seven Years In
Tibet," I think he must be appaled at the number of worms and
other small living creatures that must have been killed by those
underground blasts, and left there without a proper Buddhist
burial. Russia, which mafia provides nuclear and missile
technology to India, Russia is silent. The U.S. and the rest of
the sober, solemn, "Western, civilized" world (Helmut Kohl kept
the side to Bill Clinton) decided on a go with sanctions against
India. Not against Russia and China, which both broke (or in
Russia's case it didn't do enough to prevent breaking it) the
non-proliferation treaty that they signed, but against India,
which is a lesser trading partner.

Then the ambassador reveals that Pakistan was not on India's
mind. The U.S. and the international community was. Are the
nuclear tests in India and Pakistan threats of those nations to
each other or to the new world order itself? The message of the
misguided Serb music teacher who comes to New York with the nuke
in his backpack ("Peacemaker") is, I believe, a very accurate one
and the NIKE's decision to rise its minimum wages in its
sweatshops abroad came thus very timely these days. Hopefully the
other corporations will follow, because peace cannot be achieved
without justice (that also consists of economic justice) in a
long run. Imagine what'll happen if China gets a democratic
nationalist government! Or maybe the State Department intends to
keep communists in power there eternally to protect the Western
economic interest? And, hehehe, why Clinton is so unenthusiastic about
easing sanctions against North Korea when even their "arch-enemy" - South
Korea is begging him to do that? Maybe the "international community" likes
more Koreas divided?!


Ivo
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