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.
__________________________________________________ http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004302237_webhoax24m.html
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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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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3624431.ece
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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 Seattlepi.com 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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http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/135018.asp
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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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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/25/AR2008032503269.html
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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 TimesOnline.uk, 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.”
___________________________________________________ http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article3613881.ece
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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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http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080325-innocent-man-pinched-by-riaa-asks-scotus-for-attorneys-fees.html
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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 http://storiesonline.net/story/51703. 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: http://storiesonline.net/auth/Nick_Scipio

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

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