Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blog #29 Still Mulling Cheney’s Candid Moment . . .

This week I find myself still mulling over last week’s fateful words of our favorite president of vice, Dick Cheney. He certainly gave us a lot of gristle to chew on. It was during that interview with the ABC news reporter where in response to her referring to polls indicating that two thirds of Americans are against the Iraq war, he replied, “so?” and then went on to relate that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the public supports the continued US presence in Iraq. “I think you cannot be blown off course by fluctuations in opinion polls,” he said.

Think about that for one little moment my friends. The opinions of two thirds of the American people, the very ones that he and Bush were elected to serve, amount to nothing more than fluctuations in the opinion polls. Have you ever in your life heard a statement more arrogant? And we are supposed to be a government Of the People, By the People, and For the People, or so I was what I was taught in school. What a joke! Under Bush/Cheney we have a government Of the Rich, By the Rich, For the Rich, and being Run by Incompetents. And that seems to be the standard credence of all Republican led regimes of late. I guess we should thank our lucky stars in that Cheney deigned to be honest with us. But then he went on to defame the memory of the president who freed the slaves by comparing Bush’s position in Iraq to that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. A stretch truly of Grand Canyon proportions. Paraphrasing the immortal words of the late Lloyd Bentsen, believe me, mister VEEP, George W. Bush is no Abraham Lincoln. Not even close!

The question hanging in the aftermath of Cheney’s bad air is this: “What, if anything, can be done about an administration which is trashing our nation’s economy while bankrolling this Highway to Nowhere that is Iraq? Mr. Bush began the invasion in direct response to Saddam Hussein’s reputed attempt to assassinate his father. We leave it to you, avenging the threat to his father may be admirable, but to the extent that we end up selling off our nation’s resources to China to pay for it? Is the Bush honor really worth our country going financially bellyup? And keep in mind, a November vote for John McCain will guarantee an Iraqi fight to the finish, although it is not at all clear as to just whose finish such a fight is likely to bring about. In my 82 years on this earth I have never seen a pair as arrogant and as openly uncaring as Bush/Cheney. They are indeed two of a kind. In retrospect they have managed to make Richard M. Nixon seem like a well meaning Sunday school teacher.

It is heartwarming to see a return to the marches and demonstrations that were common during Vietnam. It is reassuring to note that people who oppose our government’s actions have not lost their will to be counted and desire to make their voices heard. It’s too bad those in power aren’t listening. It must be wonderful to feel that you are right no matter how strong the feelings are running against you. But whatever you do, Mister and Mrs. North America (and all the ships at sea), let’s go to the polls, and for God’s sake don’t let the Republicans trick, lie, Swift-Boat and bamboozle us into another four years of such highly autocratic leadership. I don’t think the country could stand it. I know I couldn’t. All indications are pointing to a dynamic Democratic sweep in the fall. Let us keep our fingers crossed. And pray. And VOTE! And as Captain Pikard would say, “Make it so!”
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People can do the damndest things to one another. Take what happened to a poor man in Jacksonville, Ore. A pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost him much of what he owned. The Seattle Times put the Associated Press story online:

“The ads popped up on a Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan. But the man, Robert Salisbury, had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse. On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.

The driver sped away after rebuking Salisbury. "I informed them I was the owner,” Salisbury said, “but they refused to give the stuff back. They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did." On his way home Salisbury spotted other cars filled with his belongings. Once home he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch.

The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. "They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true," Salisbury said. "It boggles the mind." Jacksonville police and Jackson County sheriff's deputies arrived but by then several cars packed with Salisbury's property had fled. He turned some license plate numbers over to police.

“Michelle Easley had seen the ad that claimed Salisbury's horse had been declared abandoned by the sheriff's department and was free to a good home. "I can't stand to see a horse suffer so I drove out there and got her," Easley said. "The horse didn't look abandoned. She is in good shape for being 32 years old." But it looked odd, so she left a note on Salisbury's door explaining the ad. And when the second similar ad appeared she decided to call him to make sure the ad was legitimate. "I feel bad because I was a part of it," Easley said. "It felt right to call the police."

“Fagan praised Easley's honesty but said prosecution was likely for anybody caught with Salisbury's property. Items can be returned with no questions asked, Fagan said. Detectives have contacted Craigslist's legal team to try to trace the ad. Meanwhile, Salisbury could not even relax on his porch swing. Someone had taken it.”

Who would play such a prank? Salisbury better sure as hell check his enemies list closely for clues. Meantime, where does the blame fall? If the ad poster can be traced, which is not a certainty by any means, Salisbury can sue him for damages. But if not, can he sue Craigslist? Should not the classified service have taken steps to check the legitimacy of an ad like that, 0ne that offers to give away a person’s possessions, before publishing it online? And I guess a lesson for the rest of us might be, check Craigslist hourly and never stray too far from home.
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But as awful as that story was, it can’t hold a candle to this one signed by Richard Owen and datelined Rome. The uk Times online reports that police have closed down a circus in southern Italy after a terrified 19-year-old woman was forced to swim in a tank full of piranha fish while her younger sister was forced to endure the company of snakes and tarantulas.

Three men have been arrested and charged with holding the Bulgarian women in slavery and breaching international human rights conventions. The trio, who are accused of running a "circus of horrors,” were named as Enrico Raffaele Ingrassia, 57, the owner; his son William Ingrassia, 33; and his son-in-law, Gaetano Belfiore, 25. The Marino Circus has been offering shows at Petina, south of Naples in southern Italy, in a tent with 200 plastic seats inside.

Mr Ingrassia's daughter, who was not named, told police that a Bulgarian couple and their two daughters, aged 19 and 16, had been held as slaves "in a state of fear" since January. They were forced to work 15 to 20 hours a day for €100 (£78) a week instead of the promised €480, with €380 deducted as "expenses for their upkeep.”

An appalled spectator tipped off the police after seeing the show, in which Giusi, the 19-year-old, tried to escape from the piranha tank "trembling with terror.” Her head was held down by Mr Ingrassia. Her sister, Olga, 16, was bitten by snakes that she was forced to drape on her body, and she had injuries to her stomach where the snakes had wound themselves too tightly around her. The circus owners had rubbed ointment on snake bites on her legs but had refused to take her to a doctor.

Police said that the Bulgarian family had lived in the back of a cockroach-infested lorry used for animal transport. The only meat they had been given since January was in leftovers from the circus owners' Easter lunch last weekend. Reports said Giusi had a tumour on her ear for which she had twice been operated in Bulgaria. Doctors had told her never to get water in her ears, especially cold water. However the water tank in which she was forced to swim with eight piranhas was kept at a temperature just above zero in order to make the piranhas lethargic.

The Bulgarian family has now been taken to "safe premises.” Police said that the raid on the circus followed an undercover operation in which plain clothes officers took their families with them as cover and filmed the show as evidence. The arrested men had appeared surprised, they said, but made no attempt to justify their behaviour. Corriere della Sera said that the incident appeared to be "something out of the 19th century" but showed that slavery was still "very much a reality" in modern Italy. La Stampa said that the treatment of the Bulgarians was "unfortunately not an isolated incident" of illegal immigrant labour, with many East European women brought to Italy as street prostitutes.

Police said they were investigating "trafficking in humans" by organised crime to supply circuses with cheap labour. The Bulgarian women's mother worked as a cook at the site, while their father moved tents and equipment and cleaned the camper vans and lorries. The mother had once tried to run away but had been captured and beaten, police said.

Livio Togni — a former left-wing senator whose family ran Italy's best-known circus for generations — said: "I've never in my life heard anything like this. There is a strong sense of solidarity in the circus world, and violence is not part of it".
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In the interests of showing that we aren’t the only entity occasionally decrying Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer we reprint the following email which was published in Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog in the website to accompany an article telling of new witnesses being called to testify in the class-action lawsuit over the Microsoft Windows Vista Capable marketing program:

Dang - that is just a shame - and Ballmer keeps on ingoring any questions about Vista being bad by pointing out how many copies he's sold. I think he'll pay any amount to avoid actually having to give a direct answer about anything negative involving Vista.

I don't hate MS and I'm not a Linux or Mac fanboy. I've runny every OS since DOS 4.x But Vista sucks and Ballmer just increases the negative publicity by forcing Vista down everyone's throat. Now maybe he'll feel our joy - Suck it Ballmer! Suck it long and suck it hard Ballmer.
Posted by unregistered user at 3/25/08 6:34 p.m.
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Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein wrote a column on the merging of the two satellite radio entities, XM and Sirius, in which he beautifully unmasked the Bush/Cheney administration’s take on business. The Justice Department’s allowing for the merger prompted his article, which proceeded to show a bias for management and stockholders, rather than consumers. “The Bush administration has concluded that we'll all be better off if these heretofore fierce rivals are allowed to stop competing and concentrate instead on reducing costs, paring down their combined offerings and finally delivering profit to their shareholders.”

“It took some doing – and more than a year of "investigation" – for the Justice Department to come up with its undisclosed evidence and tortured logic to justify this strikingly anti-consumer decision. As precedent, it could be used to justify the merger of ABC with both CBS and NBC, Clear Channel with the Bonneville radio network or even Coke with Pepsi. The message it sends to business executives is clear: If you find yourself in a tough competitive environment, the best strategy is not to find a way to offer better products and services at a better price, but rather to call your investment banker and negotiate a truce with your biggest rival.

“The essence of the decision announced Monday by Thomas Barnett, the head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, is that, contrary to all appearances, XM and Sirius really don't compete much with each other. Anyone in business, of course, will recognize this as a static view of how competition is waged – it's as if you divide the world into Pepsi people and Coke people and declare the competition over.

“It makes no allowance for the possibility that, if you force the two companies to compete, XM might come up with a morning host who is funnier and more outrageous than Howard Stern. Or Sirius, lacking a Major League Baseball offering, might take a chance on World Cup soccer or college lacrosse and tap into a whole new audience that nobody knew existed. The prospects for that kind of innovation will be greatly reduced after XM and Sirius merge and the combined company focuses on protecting its existing hit channels rather than creating new ones to displace them.

Mr. Pearlman concluded his piece with an observation which captures the intent of the Bush/Cheney business philosophy as well as anything I have read: “XM-Sirius is the latest in a long series of cop-outs by the antitrust police, but it's also more than that. As an unregulated monopoly, it is the perfect embodiment of Bush-Cheney capitalism – a capitalism that reflexively favors shareholders over consumers, rewards financial manipulation over genuine innovation and is never shy about harnessing the power of government to the service of private interests.
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Are any of you out there parents of girls 9 to 16? If so what would you think of a website that has your girls playing an online game where they buy their virtual characters breast enlargements and keep them “waif” thin with diet pills. The website, as reported in, is called Miss Bimbo. Healthcare professionals, a parents’ group and an organization representing people suffering anorexia and bulimia criticized the website for sending a dangerous message to impressionable children.

The Timesonline story reports that in the month since it opened in Britain, the site has attracted 200,000 members. Players keep a constant watch on the weight, wardrobe, wealth and happiness of their character to create “the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the world.” Competing against other children they earn “bimbo dollars” to buy plastic surgery, diet pills, facelifts, lingerie, and fashionable nightclub outfits. The article goes on to report that: “the website sparked controversy when it was introduced in France, where it attracted 1.2 million players.

“Dee Dawson, the medical director of Rhodes Farm Clinic, which treats girls aged from 8 to 18 who suffer eating disorders, said: “This is as lethal as pro-anorexia websites. A lot of children will get caught up with the extremely damaging and appalling messages.” “Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of Beat, an organisation that supports those suffering eating disorders, said that the website could make girls believe that weight and body size manipulation were acceptable.

“The Miss Bimbo site was set up by Nicholas Jacquart, a French entrepreneur. He moved to Tooting, South London, recently and with a 30-year-old businessman called Chris Evans set up Ouza Ltd to promote the website in Britain. “Its introduction came as research showed that children as young as 6 were developing acute eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Yesterday it emerged that increasing numbers of teenagers were undergoing breast enlargement surgery.

Bill Hibberd, a spokesman for Parentkind, a parents’ group, said: “Children’s innocence should be protected as far as possible. It depends on the mindset of the child but the danger is that after playing the game some will then aspire to have breast operations and take diet pills.”

But a reader signing himself aljuk, London took a different tack: “Frankly who cares? It's a free world, people can do what they like. What I think is worse is the moralising histrionics of those who would set themselves up as some kind of thought-police. If the site doesn't appeal to you, or to your sense of parody, then don't visit it, but don't for a moment think that gives you some sort of judgmental high ground to climb.”
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So, if the RIAA and the record labels it represents drop a copyright infringement suit against a person should the RIAA and labels pay the man’s lawyers fees. Cliff Thompson, a San Antonio resident was sued by the RIAA in 2006 for allegedly using KaZaA to distribute music, but the labels dismissed their case against him once it became apparent that his adult daughter was the KaZaA user in question.

According to a story on the ars technica website by Eric Bangeman, Thompson sought an award of attorneys’ fees, arguing that since he was the prevailing party in the copyright infringement lawsuit, he was entitled to have his legal bills paid for by the RIAA. The problem is that different courts in copyright infringement cases do not handle attorneys’ fees uniformly. The judge in Virgin v. Thompson denied his request citing a “purported lack of responsiveness” and Thompson was thwarted once again in the Court of Appeals.

In the petition for certiorari filed with the Supreme Court, Thompson's attorney Ted Lee lays out the RIAA's legal strategy and notes what he describes as the "inherent unfairness" of the lawsuits. "Clearly, the industry has gambled that defendants will make the financially-rational decision of settling the lawsuits — regardless of culpability — rather than risk financial ruin in a knock-down, drag-out legal fight," reads Lee's petition. "More often than not this strategy works, as the vast majority of these defendants never see the inside of a courtroom in these lawsuits, simply because even if the innocent defendant were to win his case on the merits, he more than likely would lose in his pocket book."
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And there are fresh details about the proposed music tax coming from TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington. He writes, “we learned yesterday that Warner Music, the third largest music label, is gunning for a $5/month music tax on U.S. residents. Some of the details were in the article: they’ve hired industry veteran Jim Griffin to create a new entity around the project, presumably to get other labels involved. Griffin had thrown out the idea of a $5/month tax (which would be added to people’s ISP bill), generating $20 billion/year in revenues. The tax won’t be mandatory, he implies. And he also said that it isn’t really a “tax”: “we have no such interest in the government running this or having any part of it.” Users who are paying the tax will be able to download music from the Internet legally, through all the normal channels (BitTorrent, other P2P networks, etc.).

Nothing Griffin said is strictly untrue, cautions Arrington. But he reports a source with knowledge of the project clarified a number of points for him. Those details, combined with the vague outline provided by Griffin, show a scheme that is very similar to classic criminal protection rackets. “Pay us not to sue you.” The tax will not, in fact, be mandatory. But that is misleading – it won’t be mandatory for ISPs who provide Internet access to actual users. But if ISPs join the scheme, it will apply to all of their customers and be added to their bill as a surcharge. Why will ISP’s agree to this? Mainly to avoid liability. The core of the plan is a covenant not to sue anyone who pays the fee. Griffin touched on this in the article, saying ISPs will want to “discharge their risk” around file sharing that occurs over their networks.

The rollout plan will hit colleges and universities first, who will simply add the fee to tuition bills so they won’t have to worry about getting dragged into lawsuits. Then Griffin will approach consumer ISPs. If an ISP joins, their users will not have the option of not paying, even if they don’t download music from the Internet. So, basically, the tax is only voluntary if you define avoiding it as not going to college, or using the Internet.

So the plan essentially comes down to telling ISPs that they can avoid any copyright infringement liability if they pay the fee on behalf of customers. And while the government wouldn’t be directly involved, the willingness of law enforcement agencies and the judicial system to enforce civil and criminal copyright infringement laws is the stick by which Griffin will convince ISPs to jump on board. It’s government endorsed extortion, nothing more and nothing less. The effects on innovation in music would be disastrous if such a scheme were ever to become reality. It’s clearly good for the music labels, who are facing their imminent extinction. For everyone else, though, this is the worst possible thing that could happen.
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The music industry may be talking $5, but wait until the motion picture industry weighs in on it. Watch that fee double or even triple.

And in a completely unrelated matter, readers of Nick Scipio’s remarkable tale of growing up, Summer Camp, Book Four, Christy, will be happy to note that the long wait for chapter eleven is finally over. Chapter 10 was posted 12-28-07. He posted chapter 11 on 3-25-08. It may be found at The series is quite remarkable. If you enjoy stories which don’t cut off at the bedroom door, but relate their characters sex lives to the rest of their lives, the Summer Camp series is an excellent find. There are four books in all, three are complete, and book four is a work in progress. You can find a complete list of Nick’s stories at:

And on this happy note we take our leave and hope you’ll surf your way back here again next week, same URL. BFN,

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blog #28: Iraq War Turns 5, LE turns 82

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 marked the fifth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq and in commemoration of this (blood soaked) red letter day President Bush and vice president Cheney separately waltzed through the Alice in Wonderland magic looking glass, setting off a distortion field of Steve Jobs proportions. Bush claimed he was lo0king victory in Iraq squarely in the eye, and announced we were on the very cusp of that elusive commodity. And vice-president Cheney when confronted by a reporter with polls that showed two thirds of Americans oppose our presence in Iraq said, “So?” then went on the relate that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the public supports the continued US presence in Iraq. “I think you cannot be blown off course by fluctuations in opinion polls,” he said, as if the opinions of the people he and Bush were elected to serve meant absolutely nothing to him, which you better believe is correct. Then he went on to liken Bush’s leadership to that of Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War. Can you believe that? Damn, I wish he would pass around whatever it is he’s smoking. Fella, true scouts SHARE!

Stephen Colbert took note of Bush's videoconference with U.S. personnel in Afghanistan last week, in which Bush said: "I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you . . . in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."

Colbert responds with outrage – at the soldiers in Afghanistan: "Soldiers, shame on you for arousing our president's envy. You must stop making multiple tours of duty battling foreign militias in a faraway land look like so much fun. While you're romantically running around dodging roadside bombs and rounding up potential terrorists, the president is stuck in the White House, pushing glazed salmon around his dinner plate and pretending to pay attention while Condi plays the piano. . . .

"Stop enticing the president. We could lose him again. Remember the last time he got excited about a war? He joined the Alabama Air National Guard, and nobody could find him."
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If you would excuse me, I would like to reflect seriously for a few moments on politics, and in particular those as practiced by the Republican Party and the George W. Bush Administration. If you would think back to 2000, George Bush, with the quiet approval of the Republican Party establishment, was running for president. He smiled a lot, ran with the label “compassionate conservative” (although once elected the only taxpayers he was compassionate with were the super rich, which he gave a bye on taxes) and he effused the appearance of being the good ole boy down the street that Joe SixPack would enjoy having a beer with. However after being elected his true colors came out as he invaded Iraq, a war that since he had given the very rich a free pass, he left the rest of us to pay for. And our children, and their children.

Back when he was running for the office of president he claimed that as Texas governor he had worked with the Texas Democratic party, and he promised to do that again with Washington Democrats if he was elected president. He was going to, and I quote, “bring the country together. He was a uniter, not a divider.” He was telling the truth for a change, he did work with Texas Democrats, but only because at the time they controlled the state legislature, he could not have picked his nose without a nod of Democratic approval. But upon being elected president (and in a way that many of us feel was by Supreme Court fiat, not by a fair election victory) did he indeed carry out his solemn pledge to work with Democrats? Well, let us take an unblinking look.

During the first six years when Republicans ruled both houses, he and they not only excluded Democrats from the writing of bills, they excluded them from being present at their creation, as Republicans turned over the drafting of bill after bill to the lobbyists and special interests whom the bills would affect. AND although Republicans had screamed about Hillary Clinton’s secret meetings on health care in the 90’s, Cheney has managed to keep secret the oil industry leaders he met with who he allowed to dictate the Bush/Cheney energy policy, a group that had included the late, disgraced Ken Lay of Enron. Lesson: Democratic secrecy is Bad, Bad, Bad. Republican secrecy is Necessary. It’s none of the public’s damn business who Republicans meet with to formulate policies that will control the price of their gasoline and heating oil. The Cheney, G.O.P. magic formula for a smooth running government: Secret = PTW + CYA translation: (PTW = pull the wool, CYA = cover your ass.)

Bush did not even make the slightest attempt to work with Democrats until they got their razor slim majorities in 2006. In short it took Bush six years before he attempted to live up to his campaign pledge, and then it was only because he had no other choice. If he was to get anything done in during his final two years, he had to work with Democrats. So in your book how would you grade Mr. Bush? A president who gave his word and followed it to the letter? Or, just another president in a long line who said one thing before getting elected, and once in power did quite the opposite.

One way Mr. Bush is attempting to shore up his legacy is by seeking to justify his misguided invasion of Iraq by insuring a long term military presence remains in Iraq. Hillary Clinton among other Democrats is calling attention to his behind the scenes manipulation. The military brass who remain in the military support this attempt, of course. Admirals and generals who did not support the Bush Iraq policy have either retired unexpectedly or been pushed out, and many of them support a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Notice how Mr. Bush appears on television these past few days. Although the meetings he was chairing were on the US rapidly tanking economy, picture a nation of home owners losing their homes and a major banking entity going bellyup, Mr. Bush harbors that silly grin as if he thinks the mess he’s made of the economy is funny. Of course, there is no real glee in that smile, it is triggered by nervousness at the shambles his legacy is becoming, and he is obsessed with leaving a positive legacy in the wake of his presidency. If public skepticism keeps up at the rate it’s going the only entity that will agree to house the Bush Presidential Library will be your local city garbage dump. And hungry circling seagulls will be quite distracting to the handful of scholars perusing his papers as they try to ferret some sense out of his 8 year term of office.

John McCain is many things. A war hero who was captured and abused in Vietnam, a Republican maverick who used to not be afraid of going against the mainstream of the Republican party, that is until he decided to run for president. So after initially criticizing the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy (saying quite logically, that the rich didn’t need them), now he has come full circle vowing that if elected he will make those tax cuts permanent. What is it about running for the presidency that can turn an honest and principled man into a shabby politician? Next can we expect John McBush to come out in favor of the C.I.A.’s waterboarding policy? Despite his own experience with torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese and his previous courageous stand against America engaging in so dangerous and inhumane a practice? Fascist and Communist governments deal freely in torture to keep themselves in power, it is their bread and butter. They were alone with that mentality until Bush/Cheney began clandestine efforts to lead an unwitting America to keep the facists and commies company.
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Ever wonder what your kids are saying when they are texting one another. Even if you can intercept their messages, can you understand them? Laura M. Holson writing in the Bits blog in the N.Y. Times has an amusing overview of the problem, and a place where a solution for your problem can be found. Some of the terms she discusses follow: “Some of the more unique terms – not including the off-color references of which there are many– are: NIFOC (nude in front of computer), OFIS (on floor in stitches), TSDMC (tears streaming down my cheeks) and DITYID (did I tell you I’m distressed). My personal favorite is SAMAGAL (stop annoying me and get a life.)”

The key to you and I understanding their terms may be found in a website called: A curious parent can go there and type in the letters he is curious about, and the answer springs forth. Being really out of things myself (I am perhaps the only person on the planet who didn’t know what lol stood for until a few minute ago) I went to the site and typed in lol. It reported:

LOL - laugh out loud
LOLAROTG - Laughing out loud and rolling on the ground
loli - Lollipop
LOLLZ - Laugh out Loud Literally Zapped
lolol - saying "lol" out loud.
Well now, there’s yet another frontier we just conquered.
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PBS’ Charlie Rose tripped on a NY City pothole on his way to the studio, and fell. He was carrying his newly acquired MacBook Air. Which do you think he protected as he fell, his face or his MacBook Air? If you saw the program that night, and noted the bandaids on his face and forehead, you knew the answer – his MacBook Air.

And speaking of Apple, guess what company’s pc sales snagged 14% of the US market last month? (as opposed to 8% for the year before.) I’ll just bet that with a lead in like that you won’t have a bit of trouble guessing the name of the company? At any rate according to the market research firm NPD as reported on the AppleInsider website, “growth in Apple's personal computer business continued to outpace the industry average last month, with Macs accounting for a 14 percent unit share and 25 percent dollar share of all US-based PC retail sales. The results – first revealed in an investor note from Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves on Monday – represent 60 percent unit growth and 67 percent revenue growth over the same period one year ago. At the same time, overall US PC retail shipments grew just 9 percent on a 5 percent increase in revenues. Apple saw particular strength in notebook systems, which rose 64 percent in units and 67 percent in revenues, suggesting strong sell-through of the company's new MacBook Air, noted Hargreaves.

"Macbook Air sales appear to be additive to total sales, rather than replacing Macbook Pro sales," he said. "We believe a new set of corporate customers make up a meaningful portion of MacBook Air buyers." I guess it would be safe to add Charlie Rose to that list of corporate customers.

And now, inevitable news of the iPhone: “85 percent of iPhone users browse the mobile Web; iPhone is top device for news and information accessed on mobile browsers.” These headlines are from M:Metrics Press and the story follows:

“SEATTLE and LONDON — March 18, 2008 — Six months after the iPhone’s U.S. launch, has the device changed the mobile landscape? According to M:Metrics, the mobile media authority, the answer is yes. Today, the measurement firm reports that the iPhone is already the most popular device for accessing news and information on the mobile Web, with 85 percent of iPhone users accessing news and information in the month of January.

Mark Donovan, an analyst at M:Metrics, says a major factor in the iPhone’s success as a media platform can be credited to AT&T and its unlimited data plan for iPhone users. “Once you take away the uncertainty of data charging, you really incentivize people to use the device,” he said. But then he gushes about the iPhone, sounding a lot like another dyed-in-the-wool iPhone convert (which, he concedes, he is.) “Apple really made a device that is Internet-centric and really fits the kind of digital lifestyle that a lot of people who are jacked into the Internet all the time are used to,” he said. “They did a great job of cruising some of the sweet spots of mobile Internet usage.” There Steve Ballmer, another spoon of sugar for the tea of your nightmares.

And finally the Windows World has been up in arms about Apple’s audacity in it’s attempt to use it’s Windows iTunes updater to push the new Safari 3.1 for Windows. As if America’s favorite computer Monopoly hasn’t be strong arming Windows users for years thrusting Internet Explorer at them without mercy, among other things. At least Apple gave users a choice, if you don’t want Safari simply uncheck the box. Windows has been known to arbitrarily push it’s updates onto you at its convenience whether or not you wanted them.
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The Houston Rockets, the professional basketball team which we here at Little Eddy’s Blog been known to mention from time to time, made NBA history recently with a winning streak which reached 22 games, the second longest in NBA history, with their defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers last Sunday afternoon, in a game broadcast on national television on ABC. The streak ended Tuesday night with a 94-74 loss to the Boston Celtics, the team with the best overall record in the NBA. A trip to New Orleans to play the Hornets the next night found them tied at the end of three quarters, but losing the game 90-69, bringing their brand new losing streak to two. Friday night they finally broke their two game losing streak with a 109-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Keep your fingers crossed as tonight (Saturday) they go to Phoenix to play the Suns.

Meantime it turns out that a most interesting part of the Rockets story of the streak concerns not the players so much as the new general manager. Our story comes to us by way of the Toronto Star’s online website, in a story signed by Dave Feschuk. According to the story, Daryl Morey is 35, and this year assumed the general managership after serving an apprenticeship under former GM Carrol Dawson. He holds a a computer science degree from Northwestern University, and an MBA from M.I.T.

“But Morey is the first NBA GM to be heralded as a disciple of what's been termed the "Moneyball" approach to sports management. He's a self-professed stats geek who has studied the work of both Bill James, the baseball-versed pioneer of sports statistical analysis, and Billy Beane, the Oakland A's GM who famously (and successfully) applied some of James's principles to his team architecture.

“Now that the Rockets have become one of the great stories of the season – with an 83-75 victory over the Lakers on Sunday they were two games past the Milwaukee Bucks for the second-longest win streak in NBA history at 22 games – Morey's approach is likely to get a lot more attention. The skeptics have been waiting for Yao Ming's out-for-the-season absence to finally derail the juggernaut (although only the first 12 games of streak came before the Chinese center was felled by a stress fracture in his foot).

“They've been waiting for Rafer Alston to implode (although Alston has been an efficient stalwart as Houston's starting point man). They've been waiting for Tracy McGrady's usual injury problems, which already kept him out of 15 games before the streak, to sideline him again. And they're waiting for the Rockets to revert to the form that saw them open the season 15-17.

“As they wait, Morey has been heralded for fleshing out this season's supporting cast, most notably by acquiring starting power forward Luis Scola from the Spurs in the summer. It's far too early to tell not only how serious a championship threat the Rockets can be, but how influential Morey's stat-engrossed approach can become. He has said the Rockets have invested millions in everything from the massive computer servers required to store the hours and hours of digital video from which statistical trends are mined, to the analysts who do the prospecting. And if Morey has hit on something revolutionary, nobody is expecting him to share the wealth of proprietary data.

“What's en vogue all comes down to winning, of course. When the Rockets got off to their slow start this season after last year's first-round playoff flameout, there were those lamenting how, a couple of summers before, the Rockets had traded the rights to a lottery pick named Rudy Gay, among other assets, to Memphis for Shane Battier. But Battier, who has averaged about 10 points and five rebounds a game as an NBAer, may well be the quintessential Morey-type player, a performer whose value to the team goes far deeper than the conventional numbers. He is, in the vernacular, a glue guy. And Morey presumably has the esoteric numbers to prove it.

“Traditionalists will argue that you don't need an exhaustive database to make that kind of beyond-the-boxscore observation, which is why Battier was a sixth-overall pick in the NBA draft. Traditionalists will also understand that if the Rockets roll in the playoffs the way they've been succeeding in the past six weeks, exhaustive databases compiled by Morey clones are likely to quickly become a very fine idea in the minds of NBA CEOs.”
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Arthur C. Clarke, the scientist and science fiction author died on March 19, 2008 at the age of 90. We would like to honor his work by reprinting some quotations from the Wikipedia page of his writings.

* I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire alarm and have nothing to do but to wait. I do not think we will have to wait for long
o The Sentinel" (1948), original titled "Sentinel of Eternity" this is the short story which later provided the fundamental ideas for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) written by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.

* We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return ... The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation ... the childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.
o Exploration of Space (1952)

* It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
o The Exploration of Space (1951), p. 187

* All explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest.
o The City and the Stars (1956)

* Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
o "Maelstrom II" (1965)

* Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor — but they have few followers now.
o Across the Sea of Stars (1959), p. 262

* As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
o Voices from the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age (1967)

* Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
o 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) "Foreword"

* One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of mind. Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories. Two-thirds of 2001 is realistic — hardware and technology — to establish background for the metaphysical, philosophical, and religious meanings later.
o As quoted in The Making of Kubrick's 2001 (1970) by Jerome Agel, p. 300

* Perhaps our role on this planet is not to worship God — but to create Him.
o "The Mind of the Machine" in Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations (1972)
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If you read here regularly you know of our uncompromising view of Cary Sherman and his RIAA as RICO violators, shamelessly threatening to sue mostly college students who offer content to file sharing sites, unless they agree to make a $3000 settlement. Well, with the worm seeming to be turning, one state has even countersued the RIAA in court for trying to blackmail a university to turn over the names of its students, Nate Anderson reports on the ars technica website of a new idea floating around:

“With P2P file-swapping still proceeding almost unchecked and CD sales swirling down the toilet, music labels have shown an increased willingness to consider new business models over the last couple of years, even going so far as to drop their once-ubiquitous DRM. One intriguing idea that has been bandied about is levies: pay your ISP, say, five bucks a month,and you can legally listen to all the music you can find. Though such an arrangement raises plenty of questions (should the levy be compulsory, or can people opt out of it?), stakeholders across North America are at least open to the idea.

“Wired has a piece up on Jim Griffin, a proponent of the $5 ISP model, who appeared on a panel last week at SXSW in Austin to continue flogging his idea in public. P2P would suddenly become legal (for those who paid, anyway), with the cash doled out to labels and artists based on the number of times each artists' work was traded each month. Such a system sounds wide open to gaming, of course, but if that problem could be solved, the music industry at least has a good chance at converting millions of file-swappers into paying customers.

“Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page told Ars last year that he supported such a plan. "Not everyone's an artist," Page said, "but people can now express themselves like artists do, by sharing something that means something to them. If we had a system of compulsory licenses, they don't have to worry about going and getting a license to do it, or circumventing the system."
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And so another rant/rage blog winds down. We post weekly, on Saturday mornings, and hope you’ll come and visit us again any time next week. Meantime thanks for coming.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Blog #27: War’s real costs, Squabbles, Happy Birthday!

On March 20th, the first day of spring, I turn 82 year old. Whee! Who would’ve thunk it? Certainly not me. I can remember back when I thought 30 was the end of the line. Memory is indeed a fickle friend, sometimes a memory from my youth is as clear as if it happened yesterday, and the next minute I have trouble trying to recall what happened to me yesterday. Or an hour ago, for that matter. And you know how your mind flits here and there, and how often it is that what you are trying to recall is lying tantalizingly just beyond your reach. I had just such an experience the other day, but I was saved by the finest memory jogger I know, that remarkable tool called Google. Let me tell you about it.

I was fooling around with some songs for the third Nightsong Podcast. I have finished two one hour episodes and was busily working on the third. My mind suddenly began recalling a very unique female singer-songwriter who was active in the 1970’s, but I could not for the life of me remember her name. All I could recall about her was that she had been married to an orchestra conductor, but his name also drew a blank. What to do? I opened Camino (the poor man’s Safari and a Mac OS X cousin to Firefox), did a search for orchestra conductors in Wikipedia (just like in Alice’s Restaurant you can get anything you want in Wikipedia), and finally near the end I came across a name that rang a bell, Andre Previn. Voila! And it immediately came rushing back to me, the name of the lady was Dory Previn, she had been married to Andre at one time. Dory Previn’s song lyrics perfectly represented her era, she was a kind of musical Jules Feiffer, a lyrical Nichols and May. I googled her and went to her Wikipedia page. It was like meeting up with an old friend. In case you haven’t heard of her, I reprint the lyrics to her song Brando.

of course
i always told myself
you know how women get
i'll bet i could have
handled him
if only we had met
where other women failed him
when other women tried
i alone
could cater to
his passions and
his pride

talk about
deflated egos
that was the woman's thing
christ we only felt complete
at the feet
at the feet
of a king
of course
i'm liberated now
i see life as it is
i call my soul
my very own
and i no longer
covet his
no one else can get you through
i've learned
with some regret
i've outgrown all my heroes
i am cured of kings
and yet

and yet
the other night
by chance i saw him
there on the tv screen
overbearing arrogant
marvelous marvelous
and oh so mean
and that old addiction
gripped me
you know how women get
i'll bet i could have
handled him
if only we had met
oh i'll bet
i could have handled him
if only
we had met.

Rediscovering that lyric made my day. I hope reading it brightens yours. I’ve since found that a great deal of her work is available from Amazon, which is indeed another priceless entity, but unfortunately Amazon is a store. Items there cost money. And so before you could say Cary Sherman I was on bit torrent, where I found one blessed album. By 11:10 on Sunday night 39.3% of it had arrived. Hopefully it will be complete by morning, I said as I shut down my studio for the night. I checked the first thing the next morning but unfortunately it wasn’t complete, it was frozen at 43.7%. I guess my one seed had gone offline. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll keep it open and hope for the best. (Endnote: It was completed by day two.)
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The big secret that the Bush administration and the Republican party is desperately trying to hide from us is the true cost of this Iraq adventure. Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz had an article in Sunday’s Washington Post online reporting on the true cost that should be required reading for all Americans of voting age. Their article begins by saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can't spend $3 trillion – yes, $3 trillion -- on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.

“Some people will scoff at that number, but we've done the math. Senior Bush administration aides certainly pooh-poohed worrisome estimates in the run-up to the war. Former White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey reckoned that the conflict would cost $100 billion to $200 billion; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later called his estimate "baloney." Administration officials insisted that the costs would be more like $50 billion to $60 billion. In April 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, the thoughtful head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said on "Nightline" that reconstructing Iraq would cost the American taxpayer just $1.7 billion. Ted Koppel, in disbelief, pressed Natsios on the question, but Natsios stuck to his guns. Others in the administration, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, hoped that U.S. partners would chip in, as they had in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or that Iraq's oil would pay for the damages.

“The end result of all this wishful thinking? As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion, Iraq is not only the second longest war in U.S. history (after Vietnam), it is also the second most costly – surpassed only by World War II.”

Now I would come in here to remind you that it is those loudmouth Republicans who are always shrilly screaming about Tax and Spend Democrats (however it should be pointed out that Democrats usually tax and spend for the good of the country, not to fund some misguided holocaust on foreign shores.) Republicans claim to be the party of prudence in government, the minders of the nation’s fiscal store. What a joke! I would remind you that the Republican party is the one currently in power and gigging the national treasury to the tune of $3 Trillion which they are busily shoveling into that fiscal sink hole called Iraq. And the “no surrender” military types are insisting that we stay there, either until the “job is done” or I guess until our economy collapses of its own weight. Dare we find out which will come first?

Remember the Clinton years. It was during those years that we had a taste of *real* fiscal responsibility would be like. In his recently published memoirs even the Republican appointed ex Fed Chief Alan Greenspan couldn't help but praise Bill Clinton’s persistence in trimming the nation’s spending during his eight year term as president, while the Republican slander machine was working full time shamelessly trying to negate everything he was doing. Fortunately they couldn’t stop him. He guided us through our most recent period of tranquility, a period that saw no wars, brought diplomatic solutions to offshore problems, a period that saw the national debt shrink until it turned into a surplus.

That is the very reason that we at the Real Little Eddy Blog support Hillary Clinton for president. Obama’s campaign is all too human and flawed, as several recent glimpses have shown. An aide assuring a Canadian embassy worker that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying in Ohio about NAFTA, he had to take that position to win votes; a military adviser assuring the military that of course Obama would not move the troops out of Iraq until it was prudent to do so, which was exactly the position Clinton had taken from the beginning. And what was it that an Obama campaign manager called Hillary Clinton on the BBC, a “monster?” Well, methinks a “monster” is exactly what we’re going to need in the White House come January to try and right this listing American Ship of State, before it crashes into the rocks of bankruptcy, flounders, and sinks into the cold, cold depths of irrelevancy. To check out the Washington Post story for yourself, copy and paste the URL below into your browser window:
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Democratic inter-party squabbling had better come to an end soon or people are liable to get soured on both candidates and either sit this one out, or God forbid, vote for McCain. For one thing is for sure: McCain's not Able! One more thing, Florida and Michigan Democratic voters must be heard from, Howard Dean and the DNC are doing a credible imitation of the waitress in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (not to mention Nurse Ratched) in hard headedly depriving Florida and Michigan voters their votes as punishment for the states moving their primary dates forward. By refusing to pay anything towards giving those voters what they are constitutionally entitled to, their vote, they are on a sure course to alienate Democratic voters in two states of definite importance. And in Florida the Florida Democratic Party had nothing to do with the decision to move up the primary, it was made by a Republican governor and passed by a Republican legislature.

Whereas a mail-in ballot in both states is the cheapest solution, a practical one must be found and funded, and Howard Dean and the DMC hierarchy in their unholy hardheadedness, should contribute to it, as should the governments of both states. Of course the Hillary Clinton camp would undoubtedly be happy just to see the votes that were cast honored. Wink, wink. If Dean continues his obstinacy the Florida and Michigan Democrats should get together and treat Howard to their very own version of the famous Dean scream.
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Does today’s acceptance by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates of the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, who just one year ago was the first navy man to be named commander of the United States Central Command, indicate the intention on the part of the Bush administration to provoke a military confrontation with Iran. Of course both Gates and Fallon hotly deny it. But if military action *is* in the offing they sure as hell aren’t going to admit it. Back in 2004 Republican guru Karl Rove got King George reelected on the strength of the war in Iraq (accompanied by a boatload of SwiftBoat lies), and with their under whelming imaginations the Republican leadership probably thinks that expanding the conflagration to Iran is a move right out of the Rove playbook. So our best advice, keep a sharp eye on the middle east. And now back to the fantasy land of the Bush Administration.

“Admiral Fallon had rankled senior officials of the Bush administration with outspoken comments on such issues as dealing with Iran and on setting the pace of troop reductions from Iraq — even though his comments were well within the range of views expressed by Mr. Gates.

“Officials said the last straw, however, came in an article in Esquire magazine by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a respected military analyst, that profiled Admiral Fallon under the headline, “The Man Between War and Peace.” The article highlighted comments Admiral Fallon made to the Arab television station Al Jazeera last fall, in which he said that a “constant drumbeat of conflict” from Washington that was directed at Iran and Iraq was “not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”

It is interesting to note that this public airing of a disagreement in the policy of General Petraeus is being done just before the General returns in April to give his report card on the war in Iraq. Our exalted leader, our Most Omnipotent Shrub, doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about any side other than his own, and is widely known not to tolerate dissent from underlings for one minute, which is why all those Republican Attorneys Generals were fired a couple of years back, and why our Republic is floundering fiscally under the weight of a mountain of federal government incompetence and ineptitude. No wonder Republicans have only contempt for the federal government. The way they run it, not even a mother could love it. And will April bring a General Petraeus coming back to try to justify upcoming military strikes against Iran, thereby living up to’s original assessment of him as General Betrayus? We shall see what we shall see.
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And for those of you of a salacious nature we hereby reprint the Timeline of Client #9 according to reporting by Alan Feuer and Ian Urbina in the N.Y. Times which was published March 11, 2008:

“It was after 9 p.m. the night before Valentine’s Day when she arrived, a young brunette named Kristen. She was 5-foot-5, 105 pounds. Pretty and petite.

“This was at the Mayflower, one of Washington’s finer hotels. Her client for the evening had booked Room 871. He was a return customer. The hundreds of dollars he had promised to pay would cover all expenses: the room, the minibar, room service should they order it, the train ticket that had brought her from New York and, naturally, Kristen’s time.

“A 47-page federal affidavit from an F.B.I. agent investigating a prostitution ring lists the man at the hotel as “Client 9,” and includes considerable details about him, the prostitutes and his methods of paying for them. A law enforcement official and another person briefed on the prostitution case have identified Client 9 as Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York.

“Kristen, having already passed through the lobby, with its wing chairs and its gilded half-clad cherubs, arrived in a small room in a quiet corner of the “Club Floor,” a special wing for V.I.P.’s. A king-size bed commanded the carpeted floor. Two photos — of the Capitol and the Washington Monument — hung on the walls.

“As soon as she came in, Kristen called her boss, Temeka Lewis, who was the booking agent for the Emperor’s Club, an online prostitution ring, the affidavit said. Ms. Lewis told her that the client had arrived. He was headed for the room. An assignation of more than an hour ensued, according to the affidavit, which was unsealed Thursday morning in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

“Room 871 had been booked under the name George Fox, a pseudonym that Client 9 had been using, and one by which several people in the ring knew him, according to a law enforcement official. However, a few of the prostitutes had recently come to realize who the man really was, the official said.

“The affidavit said Client 9 approached the Emperor’s Club last month, requesting an appointment on Feb. 13 at 9 or 10 p.m. The appointment was to be in Washington, and he sent along what appears to have been a deposit of cash by mail.

“Apparently, it was not his first time using the service. The affidavit captures the almost mundane financial back-and-forth prior to the meeting, quoting Ms. Lewis as telling her boss, Mark Brener, the owner of the ring, that Client 9 had a $400 or $500 credit to his name and wished to use it toward his next appointment. When Ms. Lewis spoke to the client on Feb. 12, the affidavit said, she told him that his deposit had not yet arrived and asked if he had sent it to a business known as Qat.

“Yup, same as in the past,” the client said. “No question about it.”

“After these initial matters were discussed, Ms. Lewis reached out to Kristen, the affidavit said, writing in a text message : “If D.C. appt. happens u will need 2 leave NYC @ 4:45 p.m.” The next day she sent along a possible itinerary: Amtrak’s Train No. 129 departed Pennsylvania Station at 5:39 p.m. and arrived in Washington at 9.

“Minutes after sending this text message, Ms. Lewis took another call from Client 9 and told him that his “package” had arrived. In a prior conversation, Client 9 had already told her that he had booked a room and had paid for it in his own name and now asked who was coming. Ms. Lewis told him it would be Kristen and, according to the affidavit, he responded: “Great, O.K., wonderful.”

“Still, there were some “payment issues” to discuss. Ms. Lewis asked if he could give Kristen “extra funds” at the appointment and the client said that he would see what he could do. The agency did not like models to handle money for future meetings, Ms. Lewis said, but this time they would make an exception so they wouldn’t have to go through it again.

“The papers quote Kristen and the woman who sent her on the job talking about a man believed to be Client 9, who might make requests of prostitutes “you might not think were safe.” But Kristen, according to the papers, was prepared: “I have a way of dealing with that,” she is quoted as having told the woman. “I’d be like, ‘Listen, dude, you really want the sex?’ ... You know what I mean.”

Kristen was subsequently unmasked by the N.Y. Times. Born Ashley Youmans but now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupré, she is 22 years old and spoke softly and with good humor as she added with significant understatement: “This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated.” As indeed it was, and so ended the N.Y. Governor’s tenor of office. Personally I think it’s a damn shame that this country is so centered on Sex as Sin that a politician, a governor must leave office if caught having some on the side. That people will throw out the good a politician might happen to have accomplished along with the bathwater of his indiscretions is so hypocritical in my opinion. However in Number Nine’s case, he was exceptionally hypocritical in that as attorney general of the state he had been Mister Righteousness Personified and had come down heavily both on Wall Street wrongdoers and on prostitution rings. And so there will be very few tears shed for the come Monday ex-Governor of New York.
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To me one of the wonders of this life is the fear of death and the look a trapped animal will get as fate closes in on him. This lesson was brought home to me when I was twentyone and was working as an radio announcer on KPRC-FM, located in a butler’s pantry on the 16th floor of the Lamar Hotel in downtown Houston. One night after I got off I elevatored down to the hotel’s mezzanine floor where the main station was located. It was late at night, and when I got there there were only three people on hand, an announcer, an engineer, and a reporter from the KPRC newsroom. But excitement was flashing through the place, the newsman had cornered a large rat in one of the offices. He was confronting the animal with a broom, and he was joined by the announcer, who had no duties until the next stati0n break as the station was on the network and who was also holding a broom. I joined the group brandishing a mop.

Unlike the would be chef of Pixar’s charming Ratatouille, this rat wasn’t the least bit cute or attractive. He was huge and ugly, the type known as a wharf rat, with two beady eyes, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and a ragged, streaky coat of many shades of gray. Of course he was terrified, with good reason having three wild eyed radio types chasing him around the room waving utensils threatenly at him. The three of us closed in on him in one corner of the room, a corner with no cover. He was trapped. There was no escape. The most violent among us was the newsman, we announcer types are usually laid back, even in the face of invading rodents. Then there came this moment which even after all these years is still frozen in my memory. The newsman was in striking distance, his weapon upraised. The rat looked at him with sweat pouring from it’s brow, a look of sheer terror lighting up it’s face, eyes that were almost deafening as they silently pleaded for mercy. Who would have thought such an ugly creature would have loved it’s life and feared so for it’s end? It was striking. But there was no mercy to be had. The newsman slammed the broom on the rat’s head repeatedly, until this condition we call life had left the animal. We announcers stood and watched. I will admit I could not have brought myself to harm so pitiful looking a creature, and I guess the other guy felt the same way. Pacifists in a world of red blooded action.
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And we close this week’s blog with a little YouTube video giving you a glimpse into the future of controling computers with your fingertips.

Bye bye until next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blog #26 Of Candidates and Windmills and SDK's

Well friends, the Democratic presidential battle lines are clearly drawn. Ohio and Texas have spoken. Ohio spoke with a voice loud and clear, but Texas hath spoken with forked tongue, the primary popular vote naming two-thirds of the delegates to the Democratic convention was substantially for Hillary Clinton but the caucus vote which picks the other third of the delegates favored Barack Obama. And since Obama is running ahead in the delegate count he invites us to do the math, which he thinks hands him the nomination. But if you actually do the math you find you’ve only muddied the water, for it tells you that neither candidate can possibly reach the necessary total to insure victory by convention time. And so my friends we have a plain, old fashioned horse race. Although thanks to our ongoing trade embargo Cuban cigars will be in short supply, smoke filled rooms will surely abound during the Denver convention. For the first time in recent memory the Democratic candidate is likely to be chosen amid coughs and sputters. And at that altitude the delegates should find themselves on a true rocky-mountain high.

My son Joel, the doctor in residence, worries that such a long conflict will show both Democratic candidates in a bad light and might divert people to John McCain’s candidacy. McCain is looking tired and somewhat out of things, but he has flung off his competition and is marching towards the Republican convention in step with his own drummer. Before the Dems go any further, Joel’s solution is for each contender to guarantee that if they are the winner, they will ask the other one to join the ticket as vice president. Of course, that’s the ideal solution for all loyal Democrats, for no matter which candidate you favor, you respect the other one and would quickly support each occupying a place on the other’s ticket. Only problem, I doubt that either candidate would agree to name the other at this stage. But it is a helluva idea, and it would convey the message that without a doubt, each candidate respects the other and will go out of his or her way to share responsibility in the upcoming election.

Republicans giggle and sneer at the Democratic situation, figuring (hoping, hallucinating?) that our Democratic candidates will tear each other apart in the many months before the convention while their man cruises (make that stumbles) his way into the presidency with no problems. But if they say that then they are either dreaming or they’re smoking something they should immediately be required to share. It would seem they have no idea of the intensity of the anti-Republican feelings running rampart through Democratic and even Independent quarters these days. A desperation triggered by a Republican president constantly attempting to justify an unjustifiable and out-of-control war that is bleeding the American people of it’s youth and piling up a debt that is turning the ownership of much of our country over to foreign interests like China, as we bankrupt our economy in the irresponsible pursuit of an impossible victory in Iraq. George W. Bush is a modern day Don Quixote, with sidekick Dick Cheney at his side he is tilting swords at a bunch of Iraqi windmills which live only in his mind. And as he contemplates his legacy he is desperate to justify his unconscionable actions. And for those of you rocking along with him here’s Republican candidate John McCain offering you four more years of McBush, eight if we’d be foolish enough to reelect him.
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“And now,” as our old friends from Monty Python used to say, “for something completely different.” This different concerns the world of professional basketball. Our very own streaking Houston Rockets played their old nemesis the Dallas Mavericks on the second night of a back to back in Dallas Thursday night in a game broadcast nationally on TNT, and they won the game handily, 113-98. And this was in spite of NBA pundit Charles Barkley’s pregame declaration that the Rockets streak would end in Dallas, that the Rockets had absolutely no chance of winning. No way, boldly spoke Barkley.

So much for punditry, Barkley like most so-called experts completely underestimated the skills and resolve of these Rockets, who have not lost a game in 2008 and who have been forced to play their last five games without their high scorer, Yao Ming, who is out for the rest of this season with a stress fracture in his left foot. This streak betters by two the largest previous win streak of a Rockets team, the 1993-4 team which began the season with a 15 game win streak, and then went on to win the first of back to back championships.

Not that this Rocket team will be able to do that, at least not in the mind of its former coach and current ESPN analyst, Jeff Van Gundy. He told the Houston Chronicle recently that they might well win home court advantage in the playoffs, and perhaps even make it out of the first round. “But,” he said, “without Yao Ming they most certainly won’t win a championship.” He’s probably right, but nothing is certain in the wide wild world of professional basketball. After all, just last year in the west the lowest ranking Golden State Warriors beat out the Dallas Mavericks, the top ranked team in the entire NBA, in the first round of the playoffs. So anything is possible. As they’re always saying, that’s why they play the games.
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While we’re talking Dallas, I’m sure you’ll be anxious to learn that 2004’s Swiftboaters for Lies About Democrats are gearing up to once again practice their odd mixture of slander and malarkey. These well funded charlatans aim to put their fantasies out there in the public domain in the fond hope that, as in 2004, enough voters will believe them to swing the election their way. And because of Hillary Clinton’s history of helping children, this time they seem to be using kids in their attacks. When we were taken in 2004 we could honestly say a pox on them who would mislead us. If in 2008 we are once again taken in, all we’ll be able to say is a pox on ourselves for twice falling for it.

As a Texan I can report Dallas to be a hotbead of fanatic conservatism. Where else would you expect to have a leader as charismatic as was JFK meet an assassin’s bullet? The assassins of JFK were not Dallasites, but the people of Dallas had created an environment which allowed it to happen there. I can’t imagine anyone willingly wanting to check out the latest in sicko SwiftBoat fantasies, but just in case you do wish to here’s a URL you can check out:

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to it’s knees
Oh, but it’s alright, it’s alright
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
Road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong
– Paul Simon, American Tune
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The word is out: the upcoming edition of the Microsoft web browser, Internet Explorer 8, is finally going to play nice and adhere to current web standards. Whether this is to impress the European Union which has rather taken exception to Redman’s having previously ignored it’s 2004 antitrust ruling by fining it an additional $1.3 billion, or perhaps spring has come early in Redman and Microsoft finds itself embroiled in balmy spring days, but the big MS announced the other day that version 8 of their web browser, Internet Explorer, would finally (and for the first time) conform to current web standards.

IE’s previous attempts to go by its own standards was a vain attempt by Microsoft to extend their desktop monopoly to the web, hoping as they were to force surfers to either use IE or experience failure when trying to open MS approved sites. But as Redmond has focused on other technologies it has allowed IE to get further and further behind Firefox, and it’s browser lead has shrunk to only 80%. And that coupled with the European Union’s coming down heavily on them lately, evidently made a balmy Ballmer realize that alas, the web was even bigger than the mighty Microsoft, and if they want to stay in the browser race at all they had better quit their games and get on board.

However taking a lead from Apple computers which outfit their computers with a raft of useful free programs, Microsoft has announced that a brand new technology called WorldWide Telescope which it demonstrated at the recent TED conference, will be free when it goes beyond beta, but it will only work on Windows (Sorry OSX and Linux Freetards.) And so if astronomy is among your interests and you would covet a new computer program which to all accounts breathtakingly employs all sorts of telescopic data from the Hubble and other sources, then a computer running Windows will have to be your choice. Of course, these days Intel Macs run Windows by way of Boot Camp, so that widens your choice by a mile. Hubble fans might be interested in this, available to all.
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Peter Elkind, an editor at large of Fortune Magazine, has written an interesting assessment of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs which is found here:
I would like to publish a few excerpts from it to inspire you to read it:

“No less an authority than Jack Welch has called Jobs "the most successful CEO today." Jobs, at age 53, has even become a global cultural guru, shaping what entertainment we watch, how we listen to music, and what sort of objects we use to work and play. He has changed the game for entire industries.

“History, of course, is littered with tales of combustible geniuses. What's astounding is how well Jobs has performed atop a large public company - by its nature a collaborative enterprise. Pondering this issue, Stanford management science professor Robert Sutton discussed Jobs in his bestselling 2007 book, "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't." "As soon as people heard I was writing a book on assholes, they would come up to me and start telling a Steve Jobs story," says Sutton.

"The degree to which people in Silicon Valley are afraid of Jobs is unbelievable. He made people feel terrible; he made people cry. But he was almost always right, and even when he was wrong, it was so creative it was still amazing," says Palo Alto venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gasse, a former Apple executive who once worked with Jobs: "Democracies don't make great products. You need a competent tyrant."

The article focuses on Jobs’ bout with pancreatic cancer and how Jobs’ initial attempt to try and treat it with diet, all in complete secrecy, seems to want to cast doubt on Jobs with investors. However, the point is that Jobs finally did agree to an operation, and that the average person with this type of cancer lives for at least ten years afterwards, which more or less renders Elkind’s brooding contemplation moot.

As for Jobs’ peculiar brand of tyranny, this quality is done in service to the consumer. Take one tiny annoyance to the average computer user: fans in their computers. They are noisy, and given the amount of heat electric components give off these days, there is probably more than one in most modern computers. Jobs hated these, and when the original iMac was in the design stage he insisted that a heat convection system be worked out so that the machine could run silently without the need for noisy fans. And it was so designed, and the original iMacs ran so quietly you could hear the subdued clicks as the hard drive strove to access its data. And my bet is that one reason Jobs forsook the IBM power pc chip replacing it with Intel chips it was primarily because they ran a lot cooler, which was especially important in regards to laptops. The fact that Macs could now be dual-booted into Windows, and thereby execute virtually any computer program written, was simply a bonus, but one which I’m sure has increased Apple’s sales measurably.

And according to tech writer Tom Krazit’s blog at c/net Apple’s shareholds peppered Jobs and co. with a lot of questions at the company’s annual meeting, covering ground from the iPhone to its plans for succession in the case off Steve Jobs’ retirement or illness.

“It's been an open question for years: what will Apple do if Jobs decides to retire or falls ill? It's hard to imagine another company – at least in the tech industry – whose image is tied so closely to that of its CEO.

“Jobs avoided directly answering a question about Apple's succession plan. However, "we talk about it a lot," he said, and noted that it's the board of directors job to "make sure everybody is a potential successor to me," referring to Apple's senior management. COO Tim Cook generally operates as the No. 2 at Apple, running the company's logistics, answering questions during earnings calls, and speaking on its behalf at investor conferences. But he lacks Jobs' stage presence, and it's difficult to envision him keynoting Macworld with anything like Jobs' penchant for the spotlight.”

“A question somewhat tangentially related to the MacHeads movie asked Jobs whether the company's runaway success of the past several years has broken the bonds between the company and the longtime Mac community, and whether Apple "still cares" about these people. Some of these folks see Apple as the local rock band that made it big, losing some of its innocence and humility along the way.

“Jobs acknowledged, "We have a lot more customers now." There has been some angst among longtime Apple users that the company is getting away from its Mac roots with projects like the iPod and the iPhone, which manifested itself during some early problems with Leopard, the latest version of Mac OS X.

“But "we do care ... We drop the ball sometimes, when some of those customers have a problem, but the vast majority do well with their Apple experience," he said, citing high customer satisfaction ratings.

“Only one question was posed about the recent swoon, from an investor who wanted to know why Jobs didn't release a letter to shareholders like the one he did to employees, urging them to keep their heads up in the face of a sharp decline in Apple's stock. Jobs said he believed his management team's job was to focus on managing the company's employees, not its shareholders.

“And truth be told, the drop in Apple's stock price seems to have more to do with the health of the overall economy than anything Apple is doing, other than some recent concern over iPhone sales. Jobs may be one of the most powerful executives in technology, but there's not much he could have done about the effects of subprime mortgage crisis that are causing much of the current concern.”

And the other news from Apple concerned the iPhone and iTouch. Hoping that Microsoft’s improved search results might lure Steve Ballmer to our Google blog, it gives us great pleasure to offer a little sugar for Ballmer's tea by reporting on what Jason wrote in the weblog Signals vs. Noise about Apple’s introducing SDK for iPhone/iTouch developers:

“What we saw today was the spark. The explosion will continue for twenty years. We will all feel the warmth. What we saw today was the beginning of two-decades of mobile domination by Apple. What Microsoft and Windows was to the desktop, Apple and iTouch will be to mobile.

“And while mobile platforms have been around for a while, they never really gained passionate traction. Palm sorta had it for a while. Windows Mobile has been getting better. RIM is the current choice for business email on the go. But just like there were a lot of players in the portable music space, there were no clear leaders. Until Apple came to town.

“The same thing is happening today in the mobile space. Palm, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian. They’ve been players, but no one has broken out big. No one has managed to grab both the business and consumer markets like Windows did on the desktop. Until Apple came to town. At least that’s my prediction.

“Apple has the superior product, the big momentum, the cool, the lust, the business hooks, the consumer hooks, the customer experience, the interface, the design (interface and industrial), the smooth development environment, the vision. And, maybe the secret key to it all, they have the commercial platform that makes it possible for a developer to actually sell, distribute, and update their software with the flip of a switch. And don’t forget the customer experience revolution — buying and it-just-works – installation of iPhone software will be as one-click easy as buying music from the iTunes store. It’s all wrapped into one beautiful package. A package that only Apple can deliver.

This is brand new big shit. It all started today.
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And for you music loving downloaders out there whose consciences have been carrying a certain amount of guilt recently, here is good news from Nine Inch Nails. According to Matt Rosoff, who writes a blog called Digital Noise for C/NET Blogs, “the release of Ghosts I-IV in five different formats is the perfect example of how recorded music can, and should, and will inevitably be sold in a world where free has become the norm.

He goes on to write: “I suggested several business models for recorded music in my post the other day, which was a response to Chris Anderson's Wired article about "free" as the future of business. Ghosts employs at least two of them.

First and foremost, it's a great example of the "freemium" model, in which the hardcore NIN fans subsidize the cheaper offerings – the highest-priced $300 edition is personally signed by Trent Reznor and includes the regular CDs, a data DVD with the entire album in .wav files, a Blu-ray DVD with a high-definition (24-bit, 96kHz) version and slideshow, four vinyl LPs, and more.

Implicitly, NIN is also using the cross-subsidy model. All the offerings include non-DRM-protected data files, and some even include lossless files, which offer the same quality as a CD. Trent Reznor isn't dumb – he knows that somebody will post these files online within seconds of receiving them. In fact, the band has even posted the first nine tracks (the free MP3 versions) to several BitTorrent trackers. But he hopes that casual listeners or one-time fans who haven't checked out NIN's recent work will be sufficiently attracted by these free files to check the band out when it comes through town, and may eventually become big enough fans to pay for future releases.

“It looks foolproof to me. NIN minimizes the risk of unsold physical inventory by taking advance orders, and with downloads, there's almost no incremental cost of distribution. The only potential problem would be if the band doesn't sell enough to cover the cost of recording the album, which seems unlikely. Any label lucky enough to have an artist with a devoted following and decent live show should be paying attention – although they might find that selling a two-CD set for $10 makes it hard to pay for the upkeep on those private jets.”
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And for all of you who suffer from memory quirks, there is a new computer program about to come to our aid. What you’re about to read comes from Chris Morrison who writes for Venture Beat.

“Information overload” is the call-word for the modern lifestyle. Even with the help of calendars, alarms, notes and other memory aids, it’s easy to lose track of what you need to do in the swirl of what’s going on. The latest tool I’ve found to help out is called ReQall.

“The brain-child of Sunil Vemuri, an MIT Ph.D. who focused his dissertation on memory, ReQall keeps track of notes you send to it by email, instant message or, best of all, a dial-in number from your phone that allows you to just state the task. The notes can be retrieved by the same methods or be set to automatically ping you when a task needs to be done.

“ReQall could be useful for any number of things, from reminders to pick up something at the grocery store to keeping tabs on what you need to do at work. Helpfully, it can also send reminders to others — for instance, if someone on your team also has an account, you can leave a note or reminder for them.

“All is not perfect. Pictures are an essential memory aid, but so far, ReQall only integrates with Picasa albums; it needs its own picture storage to shine. The interface, also, could take a while to become familiar with, as it requires specific wordings to get ReQall to distinguish between different kinds of notes. As bad as our memories seem to be, they’re actually good enough that building a truly effective alternative is a challenging task.

“The most difficult point for a memory program may be tying all our aids — calendars, notes, pictures and so forth — into one effective utility. ReQall already plugs into iCal and offers an RSS feed; in the future, Vemuri plans on opening an API so other developers can plug into the data.
“ReQall has some serious competition, too. One of the best is Evernote, a note- and record-keeping tool that I reviewed last year. Evernote has so far been a Windows-only download, but is opening a web-based version in late March. Vemuri claims that his greatest competition is actually the post-it note, but if someone could merge the best features of both ReQall and Evernote, we might just have the perfect memory aid.

“ReQall took a seed investment of $2.5 million back in 2006, from IT Ventures and Edge Ventures. It is based in India, with offices in China and the USA.
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My how time flies. In the interests of remembering to sign off, we hereby leave you for another week. We hope to see you again next week, any time, at your convenience. Bye bye.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Blog #25 Bush and the Price of Gasoline

Did you see George Bush’s incredible unbelieving expression when he was asked by a reporter about the possibility of ‘surging’ oil prices possibly reaching $4 a gallon? Obviously our soon to be erstwhile leader had not a clue as to the current price of gasoline. Just like his father (who had no clue as to the 1992 price of a quart of milk or a dozen eggs) Bush the son is completely shielded from the predicament of the average American. And from the jovial sneer that lit up his face it was quite evident he is quite happy in his blissful state.
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The Bush/Cheney/McCain triumvirate is making a lot of noise at Barack Obama about cutting and running in Iraq, providing he should get the nomination and then go on to win the presidency. And they are trotting out the so-called retired general experts who echo their “win at all costs” doctrine. Naturally the military can only accept winning, losing is a word not found in the lexicon of the military. But the reality is that even the best armies lose wars. We pulled out and lost Vietnam, had to cut and run, leaving a lot of locals who had helped us in the lurch. We settled the Korean conflict at the very parallel from whence the confrontation had begun. The only war that this country has won in my lifetime was World War II, and we won that one because all of the American people were asked to make sacrifices to help win it. The draft snared most of the male population. Goods that were scarce were rationed. Women worked the assembly line in war plants. Rosie the Welder was a folk legend of the times. And as individuals we actually invested financially in the conflict with the purchase of War Bonds.

McCain does not dare tackle Obama’s charge that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake which we should retreat from poste haste. Most conveniently from the perspective of the war monger McCain says we should look only forward, not backward. “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die. . .” Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? But if this country is going to return to government by reason and sanity, return to a government that truly represents the people it is supposed to serve, we have to examine what got us into that quicksand that is Iraq, and what restrictions we need to put in place to avoid future presidents involving us in adventures like Iraq. For it seems to be human nature that the types who run for president will get all caught up in international relations, which obviously is where the rush of power lies, to the total neglect of our own country.

I’m certainly not worried about either Clinton or Obama involving America into any kind of conflagration, they are both healers, and will work full time attempting to restore this country to where it had been before the disastrous Bush regime pumped the nation up with falsehoods and then invaded a country which had not attacked us. And I really believe that the chances are excellent that either Clinton or Obama will lead this country for the next eight years. But Congress and the Democrats must delve deeply into the details of how we got dragged into this mess, and then adopt such measures as are necessary to prevent future presidents from leading us so astray.

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Little Eddy’s Blog would like to take a moment here to grieve for the Houston Rockets’ basketball team and their loss of All Star center Yao Ming for the rest of the season to an stress fracture ankle injury. Houston had won 12 games in a row, tying a season winning streak that Portland had blazed earlier this year. When the announcement was made to the team that Yao Ming would be out for the remainder of the season the announcment was greeted with stark silence. The Rockets had a game with the Washington Wizards that very night, and they did not show the loss they must have felt, humbling the Wizards 94-69 and winning their 13th game in a row.

Will they be able to continue their streak? The prevailing opinion is probably not, however I really don’t think anyone had predicted their overwhelming victory over Washington Tuesday but it happened. The fact is that rookies like Argentina’s Luis Scola, Carl Landry, and Aaron Brooks along with Shane Battier, Luther Head, Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady are playing the best basketball of their careers, and together they make for a tremendous team, and it will be interesting to see just how far this momentum will carry them. What was doubly ironic about this turn of events was that Yao had been one of the prime factors in challenging the team to be better, and the winning streak had actually begun with McGrady on the bench for the first few wins. The Rockets ended up beating the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night 116 – 95, sending their winning streak to 14 games, a feat which gave them a perfect month of February.
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“If you want to play in our sandbox, you will learn to play nice.” So seems to have been the European Union’s message to the Microsoft Corporation. The EU has done what America’s Judicial system had not the stomach to do, and that is to deliver a decisive blow to Microsoft where it hurts them the most, in the pocketbook. It has sent a clear message, in a language Microsoft cannot fail to understand. According to a report by Matthew Newman published at, the EU has fined Microsoft 899 million euros ($1.35 billion) for failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust order to stop overcharging for using its patents to connect to Windows. “Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision,” European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement today in Brussels. “I hope that today's decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft's record of non-compliance.”

You might remember Tim Brays, one of the original developers of XML who authored the piece telling of some of the people who worked on the project that we reprinted a portion of two weeks ago. His description of Microsoft was right on, and in case you missed it here it is in part again. “Mick (Microsoft) is a domineering, ruthless, greedy, egotistical, self-centered, paranoid bastard. Whether or not he’s actually a crook is, as they say, currently the subject of litigation; but he’s not good company or a good friend. The ruthlessness and greed would not be so irritating (we swim, after all, in late-capitalist waters) were they not accompanied, at all times, by Mick’s claim to speak not in his own interest, but selflessly on behalf of his millions of customers, whose needs only he understands. Thus, anyone who disagrees is conspiring against the interests of the world’s computer users.

“Mick’s other really irritating habit is constant grating prating about “great” products and “innovation.” Certain Microsoft executives are going to spend eternity fleeing around the bolgias of Hell from demons wielding branding irons on which “great software” and “innovation” glow white-hot. A very large majority in the computing trades think their products are mostly pretty poor, and see the company as the single greatest roadblock to innovation in our profession.”

While today's ruling ends the 2004 antitrust case, for which the company was also fined the previous record 497 million euros, the EU has two new investigations under way over Microsoft's business practices. The fine brings the total penalty to 1.68 billion euros in the case. Microsoft shares fell 7 cents to $28.31 at 10:38 a.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

In a statement, the Redmond, Washington-based software maker said it would review the decision, which found Microsoft overcharged for patent licenses that rivals needed to connect products to the Windows platform.
“These fines are about the past issues that have been resolved,” the company said. “We demonstrated last week our new interoperability principles and specific actions to increase the openness of our products, we are focusing on steps that will improve things for the future.”

Last month, EU regulators opened investigations into whether Microsoft is using its dominance in word processing and spreadsheets to thwart rivals and whether the company illegally tied an Internet browser to Windows. Today's fine isn't related to the new probes. Kroes said at a press conference that the commission would take into consideration “any changes” Microsoft makes to its business practices that are relevant to the two new cases. She said that it's the fifth time that Microsoft has made an announcement about improving interoperability. “Talk is cheap,'' Kroes said. “Let's wait and let's find the reality in this case. They have to deliver and implement.”
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Jesus lived in troubled times
the religious right was on the rise
Oh what could have saved him from his terrible fate?
Separation of church and state.
So let's all sing out praises to
That longhaired radical socialist Jew

Hugh Blumenfeld, Longhaired Radical Socialist Jew (The Gospel Song).

"When an angel woos the clay,
he'll lose his wings at the close of the day."
RAGLAN ROAD, traditional Irish song

"Some people say a man is made outa mud;
but a poor man's made outa muscle and blood;
"Muscle and blood, skin and bone,
a mind that's weak and a back that's strong!"
– Merle Travis, "Sixteen Tons"

"Whiskey won't you come and take my trouble; I can't seem to do it on my own." Trampled by Turtles

"In the early morning rain with a dollar in my hand and an aching in my heart and my pockets full of sand." This first line from a Gordon Lightfoot song paints a perfect picture of sad, empty, lonliness.

If Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" counts as a folk song, it has the best line from one: "I'd trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday."

Pete Seeger's song: ...and the big fool said to push on!.... From " waist deep in in the big muddy" Forgive my inaccuracies. It's been forty years ago and it still haunts me. — bwl, New Mexico

Trouble oh it's trouble, a rollin' through my breast,
as long as I'm a livin' boys, they ain't a gonna let me rest.
"Tom Dooley" by Doc Watson

Friday’s NYTimes had an article filled with submissions of favorite folk and bluegrass lines like those above. It reminded me of why I was involved in folk music, promoting and performing in concerts in Houston in the early sixties, and in the mid sixties in NYC when I was managing editor of Sing Out! The Folksong Magazine. Many more of these gems can be found at:
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Religious affiliation these days stands on shifting sands. According to a report by Neela Banerjee in the NYTimes, the statistic that hardly anyone talks about openly these days is the fact that more than a quarter of Americans have left the faith of their childhood. This is according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The report titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

Figures like the above would seem to belie the religious right wing’s constant assertions that they are the sole holders of America’s moral compass. With a quarter of the male population not believing, and the rest split among many Christian sects, Christian Right assertions are subject to question. Since it’s only majority is in the loudness of it voice, the question would seem to be, why don’t we challenge those who would attempt to cram their morality down our throats? A question for the times, don’t you think?
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In my past discussions with men who wear the collar I was invariably told that I could only call myself an agnostic, not an atheist, for I could not say for a fact that God does not exist. Of course I was quick to point out that by that way of thinking neither could they label themselves Christians because they could no more prove the existence of their God than could I prove its nonexistence. Faith is a strange commodity, it is obviously something many people need, but it must be taken on faith for it does not stack up to the test of reason. Below are some of my favorite quotes on the subject, from one of my favorite authors.

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only
animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his (neighbor’s) throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven .... The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.
– "The Lowest Animal"

The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. I would not interfere with any one's religion, either to strengthen it or to weaken it. I am not able to believe one's religion can affect his hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion may be. But it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life – hence it is a valuable possession to him.
– Mark Twain, a Biography

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing. – Autobiography of Mark Twain

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
– Mark Twain in Eruption

A religion that comes of thought, and study, and deliberate conviction, sticks best. The revivalized convert who is scared in the direction of heaven because he sees hell yawn suddenly behind him, not only regains confidence when his scare is over, but is ashamed of himself for being scared, and often becomes more hopelessly and malignantly wicked than he was before. – Letter San Francisco Alta California, November 15,1868

We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us. – Following the Equator

So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code. – Mark Twain, a Biography

Thus ruminated the inestimable Samuel Langhorne Clements, or as he was known in literary circles, Mark Twain, the man who William Faulkner has called the father of American literature. In between the publication of Tom Sawyer and the beginning of Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote his attempt at reflecting court manners of Victorian England. "He determined," said Albert Bigelow Paine in 'Mark Twain, A Biography',"to try his hand on an imaginary record of conversation and court manners of a bygone day, written in the phrase of the period. The result was 'Fireside Conversation in the Time of Queen Elizabeth', or as he later called it, '1601'. "It was written as a letter to that robust divine, Rev. Joseph Twichell, who, unlike critic William Dean Howells, had no scruples about Mark's 'Elizabethan breadth of parlance.'"

The Rev. Joseph Twichell was Mark Twain's most intimate friend for over forty years, he was pastor of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church of Hartford, which because of its wealthy parishioners Mark facetiously named the "Church of the Holy Speculators.” Here Mark had first met "Joe" at a social, and their meeting ripened into a glorious, life long friendship. Twichell was a man of about Mark's own age, a profound scholar, a devout Christian, "yet a man with an exuberant sense of humor, and a profound understanding of the frailties of mankind."

The Rev. Mr. Twichell performed the marriage ceremony for Mark Twain and solemnized the births of his children; "Joe," his friend, counseled him on literary as well as personal matters for the remainder of Mark's life. It is important to catch this brief glimpse of the man for whom this masterpiece was written, for without it one can not fully understand the spirit in which 1601 was written, or the keen enjoyment which Mark and "Joe" derived from it.

In addition to his aversion to “manners” Twain was equally disdainful of America’s imperialistic tendencies of the times. It’s a shame that George W. was too busy when he was at Yale to read Twain, for had he it might possibly have made an impression, it might have caused him to take a different direction rather than invading Iraq. Here is what Twain wrote about our turn of the century Philippines adventure:

“I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific ... Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? ... I said to myself, Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves. But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris [which ended the Spanish-American War], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
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And there is news in the ongoing Wikileaks vs. Julius Baer Bank and Trust company and its Cayman Islands facility. The owner of the Wikileaks domain name is John Shipton, “a citizen of Australia currently residing in Kenya,” according to a document filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco. In the document, Mr. Shipton’s lawyers endorsed arguments made in briefs filed by various groups — including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press — contending that an order from Federal District Judge Jeffrey S. White hindering access to the Wikileaks Web site should be withdrawn and the lawsuit should be thrown out.

The hearing, scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. in San Francisco, was supposed to address whether to make permanent a second order that the judge signed, prohibiting “displaying, posting, publishing, distributing, linking to and/or otherwise providing any information for the access or other dissemination of copies of and/or images of” the documents sought by the bank. Now the hearing may cover much more as a result of the many motions raising First Amendment concerns. And late Thursday, Judge White issued a list of questions suggesting he had worries of his own. Among other things, the judge asked whether the bank should be suing Dynadot and Wikileaks at all, whether a “right to privacy trumps the freedom of access to information,” and whether an order extending the prohibition on displaying the bank’s documents could be enforceable.

The judge’s skepticism may be good news for Wikileaks’ case, though Matthew Zimmerman, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was cautious in evaluating their significance. “I’m going to be superstitious here and not do any tea leaf reading,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “There’re questions for both sides here, but he’s asking the right questions. I don’t know that he’s leaning one way or the other.”

Of course, if an assertion in an amicus brief filed by Public Citizen and the California First Amendment Coalition is correct, then many of the judge’s questions may be moot; the two groups argue that the court lacked jurisdiction in the first place.

A reader named Dave Kliman posted the following comment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Just a reminder of what we’re supposed to have in this country. Let’s not forget that.

PostScript: On Friday, February 29, Judge White withdrew his order of Feb. 15 that disabled a website that allows documents to discourage unethical behavior on the part of governments and corporations. In reversing himself, Judge White acknowledged that the bank’s request posed serious First Amendment questions and might constitute unjustified prior restraint. He also appeared visibly frustrated that technology might have outrun the law and that, as a result, the court might not be able to rein in information once it had been disclosed online.

Critics of Judge White’s previous order had said one problem was its breadth: It obstructed access to documents beyond those that the bank said contained confidential information. But he noted that as a practical matter, no ruling might achieve what the bank wanted.
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And so we take our leave of you for another week. We hope to see you again next week, until then have a good one, and if you live in Texas or Ohio, vote on Tuesday. You know how and why.

The Real Little Eddy