Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blog #33: Can You Say Hoax?

The frantic, whispered calls that triggered the removal of more than 400 children from a West Texas polygamist sect came from a phone linked to a Colorado Springs woman with a long history of making false abuse reports, according to a court document unsealed Wednesday. Two prepaid mobile phones that were used to make calls late last month to a domestic violence shelter in San Angelo had previously been used by Rozita Swinton in calls to abuse hot lines and authorities in Colorado and Washington, the affidavit said.

Swinton "is a known repeat victim who repeatedly reports sexual abuse with the Colorado Springs Police Department," the affidavit said. The records also revealed that the 33-year-old pleaded guilty in June 2007 to false reporting and was placed on probation for one year. She was charged last week with misdemeanor false reporting to authorities in Colorado Springs, and is being investigated by the Texas Rangers in connection with the calls that prompted the April 3 raid of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado.

"We are still examining evidence that was seized from her residence and do not expect that investigation to be completed for a while," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange. Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the fact the state launched the raid on what appears to have been a hoax tip without checking it out makes a "sham" out of constitutional protections against wrongful searches. "To me, this is either gross incompetence or this is a religious vendetta," Harrington said.
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What we have going on down here deep in the heart of West Texas is a case of human nature turned on its ear, running berserk, then reproducing its ghastly misshapen madness four hundred and sixty-some-odd times, in a court of law, under a system of supposed justice. And as it becomes more and more evident that the call from the supposed teenage girl complaining of being forced into marriage at puberty and being beaten was a complete fabrication (perpetrated a 33 year old black woman in Colorado named Rozita Swinton, who has a history of making such calls in a tiny voice), then the decision makers who rashly ordered this West Texas raid are (as our erstwhile president Herbert Walker Bush might have put it) in deep doodoo.

And being thereby threatened with exposure for being the rash and hysterical incompetents that they are, these initiators have been therefore pushing for the continued separation of these children from their parents in a vain attempt at justifying their original misguided decision. Such a magnificent stretch of credulity is indeed worthy of the state of mind one finds as typical under the leadership of the current misadministration in Washington. In a way it’s a shame that the current government is going to be so short lived, for whoever it was who ordered this travesty would have had a bright future in a George W. Bush administration.

God only knows what this folly is going to end up costing in money to those of us who are citizens of Texas; dna testing of all of those children and all of the parents connected with them surely ain’t gonna come cheap? And I haven’t read of a lineup of dna testing laboratories offering their services for free or even at a discounted rate. And of course the state has to pay for the feeding and upkeep of every one of those four hundred and whatever children that it has forcibly removed from their parents, as it must do for all cases of state ordered foster care. And this does not take into account the potential psychological damage this raid and the egregious separation of of those families will ultimately have on both the children and their natural parents. At last reports the judge is at least considering allowing nursing mothers remain near their children. Does “magnanimous” in relation to the judge sound a bit sarcastic?

Evidence. That’s the magic word that has been missing from the very beginning of this unmitigated boondoggle. How much evidence is needed for the state to enter a private residence and arrest its inhabitants? Is an anonymous voice on the telephone making outlandish, completely unsubstantiated charges really all it takes to send the police off on such an adventure? And on just whose authority were these particular police ordered into that complex? What judge and court of law sanctioned it? Would the initiators please come front and center and take proper credit? These are questions which I have not seen answers to yet. In fact I have not read of anyone even asking these most appropriate questions.

In spite of their protestations to the contrary the CPS and prosecutors are sallying forth in this travesty not with concerns for the well being of these children in their minds, for if their primary interest had been in their well being they would have followed the counsel of their own expert, Dr. Bruce Perry (who counseled children survivors of the Branch Davidian disaster in 1993) and who had warned the court that taking these very sheltered children away from the only life they had ever known and flinging them headlong into the outside world would very likely be highly destructive to them. So much for expert advice. The court in it’s omnipotence filed that suggestion in File 13. No, the bureaucratic monstrosities who orchestrated this farce obviously care only for the protection of their respective and (in our opinion) near worthless hindquarters.

I’m no fan of religious communes, but I am a true believer in the phrase “to each his own.” Hysteria is a fact of life in our human species. However, surely society can hold out for better safeguards than were used against the sect near San Angelo. Could it really be true that just the use of two spoken images, underaged pubescent girls being forced into marriage with older husbands, and then being beaten for disobedience, was all that was needed to instigate this invasion, normal requirements for proof and/or evidence seem to have been flushed down the toilet or left blowing in the wind? After the fact these so-called authorities have attempted to further justify their initial decision by citing the finding of pregnant underage girls there. But again that’s a statement lacking an iota of demonstrable proof. They offer only their word, for whatever that’s worth?

Of course the real 800 pound gorilla motivating this gross excrescence of the human spirit is out and out prejudice, a prejudice bordering on hatred. What else would cause whoever ordered this farce to fly into action on such an massive scale with only an anonymous telephone tip as motivation and without obtaining a scintilla of proof? Let’s face it, freedom is a limited commodity in our so-called “free” society. We don’t have an awful lot of it. Men aren’t allowed to have multiple wives, nor are they allowed to marry females under a certain age, an age which varies from state to state. I suppose when all is said and done the inhabitants of the Yearning for Zion Ranch were lucky to have lived under the radar screen for as long as they had. There is simply too much envy and hatred in our society for such a peace to last indefinitely. And the insanity of the outside world’s reaction once the facts became known demonstrated the true extent of the feelings running against them.

The state of Texas has inflicted a monstrous wrong on this obviously peace loving community. And the problem here is that there is no entity to oversee the rights of these people who have been so wronged. Our society has no ombudsman with which to challenge the instigators of this mockery of justice and force those responsible to properly account for their actions. For in this case the perpetrators (how law enforcement loves that word), I say, the perpetrators of this monstrosity are agents of the State of Texas and its so-called legal system. Ladies and Gentlemen, you have just witnessed the ultimate Catch 22, passed down from the military in a particularly virulent form. It is said that this offshoot group from the Mormon Church is well-heeled. If they sue for false arrest, and if there is enough justice left in the Texas legal system for them to get their just deserts, they will probably end up owning the state of Texas lock, stock and barrel. And that would be slim compensation for what they have been forced to endure.

In the meantime Little Eddy wishes every one of those children and their parents the very best of luck. They’ll sure as hell be needing every scrap of good luck they can get their hands on.
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When I was a kid a popular slogan was “what the world needs is a good five-cent cigar.” Well, countless cases of lung cancer deaths have long since inexorably proven that a good five-cent cigar is exactly what this nation does NOT need. Everyone I have known who continued smoking regularly has died long before his or her time. I was very lucky in that I smoked like a chimney for thirty years, then had the moral fortitude to quit once and for all. And evidently that has been good enough since I quit at age forty five and I’m still moseying along at age 82. How I escaped the curse I’ll never know. But I used some pretty unorthodox methods to try and nullify the damage that my thirty years of idiocy had aggravated.

For instance, I have bronchitis. Have had it most all of my life. But when I look back on it, I can see that it began when I was sixteen years old which was when I first began smoking. I had worked in movie theaters back then, and on days and times off I could get free admission to other theaters. And balconies in those theaters were closed during the daytime and so I could sit up there and freely smoke and eat popcorn (which was free.) Frequently the theater’s projectionist and I would sit outside the booth and we would talk together while we smoked.

During the years after quitting smoking I spent summers working at a children’s camp in Maine. And the only time I would light a cigarette in those days was on an occasional camping trip when a child would get a fresh water leech attached to his body. Leeches are cleverly outfitted wormlike creatures which nature has blessed with the ability to produce a natural anesthetic which insures that their host is completely unaware of their parasitic presence until it has become well entrenched. Then, if in panic the child or an adult should try ripping the creature off, which is the natural inclination, it takes off a definite layer of the child’s skin along with it.

The solution is to make the creature turn loose of its own accord, which may be done one of two ways. You can either cover the worm-like creature with salt, which prevents it from breathing through its skin. Or, you can apply heat with a match or a lighted cigarette. That was our preferred method, as back in those days we always had counselors who smoked. However, none of the counselors ever wanted to remove the creature, so he or she would come to me and hand me a cigarette, which they would proceed to light for me. I would apply the lighted end to the body of the leech, and sure enough it would turn loose poste haste. And thanks to the anesthetic it had left at the place of its attachment, the child would not feel a thing.

I suppose for medicinal purposes we should have applied some kind of antiseptic to prevent infection, but we never did, and no child so de-leeched ever seemed to suffer any consequences from his brief exposure. I would always take one final drag on the cigarette for old times sake before handing it back to the counselor. But the interesting thing was, after the leech had let go, I never failed to give the cigarette back to the person who had given it to me. It had been a painful separation, that summer and fall I had cold turkeyed my cigarette addiction. Nicotine was the most addictive substance I have ever had to deal with. More than once I had beaten on the walls of my apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y. in frustration. But once I had quit for good I never had the desire to return to smoking cigarettes or cigars.

Many years later, long after I had quit smoking, I read that one of smoking’s most common diseases, emphysema, was caused by heavier than air carbon dioxide being trapped in the bottom of the lungs, for as they aged the lungs were no longer able to expel the CO2 in our normal upright position. Using my usual offbeat ingenuity I bought myself a gravity exerciser and proceeded to hang upside down, while doing some breathing exercises to expel some of that CO2 from my lungs with the help of gravity. I did this over a period of several years, and although I have heard people who should know say that that what I did probably didn’t help my condition, I am pretty certain that it did. I have known a couple of people with emphysema, and I’m certain that I do not have have a severe case of it, which considering the amount of smoking I did over 30 years I would have every right to expect me to have.

Of course, although I quit smoking at age 45, I have to tell you that my dear mother smoked her two or more packs daily well into her 80’s and I have to admit that she showed no signs of ill effects from her addiction. She only quit about a year before she died, at which point she felt too unsteady to safely handle the cigarette, and was afraid she might set the house on fire if she continued. So much for my family's bout with nicotine addiction.
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Yoko Ono who oversees the John Lennon estate is suing the producers of a movie challenging the Darwinian theory of evolution, saying that they used Lennon’s song “Imagine” without her permission and that this use has led the blogosphere to accuse her of “selling out.” In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan, Ono accuses the producers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" of suggesting to viewers that those who guard John Lennon's legacy somehow authorized or sponsored the film. The producers of the film, which features Ben Stein challenging Darwinian theories that prevail in academic circles and suggesting that life could have emerged through intelligent design, said they used only "a very small portion of the song." Stein is an actor and a former game show host of little or no consequence.

Meantime from Austin — saying that a belief in creationism — the theory that God created the Earth in six literal days, as recounted in the Bible — falls outside the realm of science, the state's commissioner for higher education has recommended that a Dallas-based organization not be authorized to offer a master's degree in science education. A committee of the Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously backed the recommendation by Commissioner Raymund Paredes on Wednesday. "Religious belief is not science," the commissioner said. "Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing."

What is it that makes Creationist believers feel the need to legitimize their beliefs using the facade of legitimate science? Are they really all that insecure? The commissioner is right. Religion is not science, and science is not religion. And ne’er the twain shall meet.
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As both of you regular readers of this space know I am an unapologetic supporter of Apple computers and always delight in bringing you the best news that the denizens of Cupertino, California have to offer. There are several stories this week which I found of interest. Hoping you’ll feel the same, I quote from them here.

The NY Times’ John Markoff reports from San Francisco, that “signs of a consumer slowdown abound in the United States, but Apple customers appear not to have noticed. Buoyed by unusually strong Macintosh sales, the company grew notably faster than the rest of the computer market worldwide in the first three months of the year. Revenue increased 43 percent from the same period a year ago, the company reported. Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, characterized the quarter as the strongest in Apple’s history.

He attributed the growth to higher traffic in the company’s 181 stores in the United States. The company reported that it had 33.7 million visitors to its stores in the United States, up 57 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Mr. Jobs said that belied the gloom that was being expressed about the American economy. “We’re not economists, so we don’t have any more insight than everyone else, but there were sure a lot of people in our stores last quarter,” Mr. Jobs said in an interview.

Despite new products like the iPhone, variations of the iPod and the Apple TV set-top box, this was a Macintosh quarter. Apple shipped 2.3 million Mac computers in the quarter, 51 percent more than in the quarter a year ago. Revenue on those computers increased 54 percent.
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In another piece of news from Cupertino, Apple has quietly bought a chip designing company. - “Late Tuesday, in response to questions from, an Apple spokesman said Apple has agreed to buy a boutique microprocessor design company called PA Semi. The company, which is known for its design of sophisticated, low-power chips, could spell a new future for Apple's flagship iPhone, and possibly iPod products as well.

“The 150-person chip company, P.A. Semi, was founded in 2003 by Dan Dobberpuhl, who was a lead designer for the well-regarded Alpha and Strong ARM microprocessors developed by Digital Equipment in the 1990s.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans," said Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) spokesman Steve Dowling. He declined to comment on the value of the deal, which a person familiar with the deal suggested was done for $278 million in cash. Apple announced its quarterly earnings Wednesday.

And also according to Forbes, “Forget Steve Jobs. The time to get the scoop on Apple's next move is not when its charismatic founder is pitching the faithful on the computer and gadget maker's next product. It's when his minions – Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer – meet with Wall Street analysts every quarter to talk over the Cupertino, Calif., company's financial results.

"Will Apple introduce a next-generation iPhone in June? Is the company about to overhaul its lineup of hot-selling laptops? Is something even more exotic on the way? Pay attention, because Cook and Oppenheimer will almost surely drop some hints Wednesday.

“Of course, they'll almost surely drop some good news about Apple's latest quarter too. Strong demand for the iPhone and Apple's notebook and desktop computers will send Apple's earnings surging 26.3% in the quarter ending in March, according to analysts polled by Thomson. Net income is expected to rise to $972.8 million, or $1.07 per share, from $770 million, or 87 cents, in the corresponding period a year earlier.

“This quarter's star will be Apple's OS X Leopard operating system. The new software is powering sales of Apple laptop and desktop computers ahead, thanks in part to software giant Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) troubles with Vista, the latest version of the ubiquitous Windows operating system. Apple's market share is growing too. The computer maker grabbed 6% of the U.S. personal computer market in the first quarter, according to IDC, up from 4.9% the year before.
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And Michelle Higgins reports in Saturday’s NY Times online about the way to go if you enjoy traveling light. Nude vacations.

“WHEN Larry Massa says he likes to travel light, he means it," she writes. "No need for a jacket and tie at dinner, a pristine set of tennis whites when he hits the court, or even a bathrobe to wear when heading from his hotel room to the pool or the spa.

“For when Mr. Massa, 74, a retired Navy commander and computer science engineer from Virginia Beach, and his wife, Darlene, go on vacation, they do it in the nude. “If you haven’t tried it, there’s no way I can tell you what a fun thing it is, what an added dimension to a vacation it can be,” said Mr. Massa, who has been taking “clothing-optional” vacations since 2001 and whose most recent trip was to an all-nude resort in Mexico. “I’ll never forget the day,” said Mr. Massa, recalling the couple’s first nudist vacation at a Caribbean resort. “The place was full. We went to the far end of the pool and Dar said, ‘I’m going to take my top off.’ I thought I’m not going to wear these stupid swim trunks in the pool. So I jumped in naked. She looked down at me and dropped her bottoms and we never looked back.”

“To many, the mention of a nudist resort conjures up images of isolated beach colonies with volleyball courts, hippie-style gatherings in a secluded campground or R.V. parks tucked away in the woods for vacationers who still talk reverently about the Summer of Love. And while those kinds of offerings still exist for Mr. Massa and his fellow naturalists, as they prefer to be called, the real boom in nude vacations is coming at the high end of the business, as upscale hotels and resorts, and even some luxury cruise lines, have begun to see the economic potential in the no-clothes crowd — particularly those who want to shed their clothes but not their pampered lifestyles.”

And thereby comes the rub, for instead of such an experience being economical, something we could all afford, it has ended up on the high end of the economic scale. It’s truly a case where the luxury of being able to vacation sans clothing has become a true luxury.
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And so we come to the end of another one. If you are the praying kind say one for those poor folks from West Texas split from their children through a massive overdose of state wide legal hysteria. And pray particularly for the children. In regards to the State of Texas the words “they know not what they do” never seemed more prophetic. And do come back again next week.

The Real Little Eddy


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blog #32 A pinch of Orwell, a spoonful of Carroll

Well, the State of Texas sure as hell bit off more than it could possibly chew when they raided that Polygamist Retreat near San Angelo and took all the women and children into detention? All on the basis of a single telephone call from a supposedly sixteen year old girl who they have not been able to find since. They soon released the women, but lawyers from all over the state have come in droves to defend the rights of these 416 children who have been forcibly removed from their parents and put into foster care on the strength of that one telephone call. Can you say PANIC? Of course, the caller had used the magic words, forced into marriage upon puberty, young girls being forced to have sex with older men. And adding a layer of hysteria not previously known in the state of Texas, child protection services are fighting having to give the boys back to their parents claiming the boys were being trained as perpetrators in future child molestation. How is that for legal fantasizing?

Good luck to all in that Orwellian, Lewis Carrollian disarray. Word from San Angelo reports that the first days proceeding could be summed up in one world: chaos, as hundreds of lawyers fought Texas Child Protective Services attorneys tooth and nail on every legal point. Within minutes after state District Judge Barbara Walther took her seat, at least 250 attorneys kept her hopping, challenging everything from the fact that all the children's cases were being heard in one proceeding instead of separate ones to whether an investigator could read from her notes. Despite the absurd atmosphere, Susan Hays, a Dallas attorney for a 2-year-old FLDS girl, thought Walther was handling the pressure well. "I think the judge is doing an unbelievable job," Hays said.

The tours of the living quarters given to CNN showed them to be quite drab and sterile and made you pity the child who has to live in them, but on the other hand these are the children of these parents, and they have been forcibly taken away from them by charges completely unsubstantiated. I guess the occupants can thank their lucky stars that the state of Texas didn’t go in with tanks and guns blazing, as had happened in February 1993 against the Branch Davidian compound near Waco. It makes you wonder, though, just how “free” we are really allowed to be in our so-called “free country.”

Friday afternoon brought a temporary resolvement of the program. Of course the judge ruled the children will remain in the custody of the state until dna testing can reveal each child’s parentage, and then each case will be decided individually. This ruling comes despite testimony from the state’s star witness, Dr. Bruce Perry (who counseled children who survived the Branch Davidian disaster), that the majority of the children would not face immediate sexual or physical harm if returned to their parents. “And also the children, older girls excluded, would likely be more damaged by being placed into foster homes as opposed to returning to their parents,” Perry said. "The traditional foster care family would be destructive to these kids," Perry told the court. “Attending public school and exposure to modern ways would be overwhelming for children raised behind high walls in a deeply conservative, highly authoritarian sect.” But the judge ruled against the parents anyway, at least in the short term. Why? Because the whole Texas house of cards might collapse if she had ruled against the CPS.
And the lucky Texas Legislature. They are going to get the chance to figure how to pay for this debacle, whose legal costs will soar into the stratosphere.

And then came the final straw from Colorado Springs, Colo. Police there Wednesday arrested Rozita Swinton, a 33-year-old black woman. She was charged with falsely reporting abuse to authorities in connection with a polygamist incident in Colorado Springs two months ago. She reported the incident in a child’s voice, and Texas authorities say Swinton is a person of interest in their search for the girl whose call prompted them to raid the Yearning for Zion Ranch in the first place. And so it may well turn out that the second most intrusive disruption of a religious sect in the state of Texas may well have been founded on complete, unmitigated fraud. Who would have thunk it?
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Well folks, I hate to have to report this but the cost of staying alive for the chronically ill just took a sharp turn upwards. It happened very quietly, as do most things which change our lives for the worse. It all boils down to this, health insurance companies are rapidly adopting a new pricing system for very expensive drugs, asking patients to pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for prescriptions for medications which may either save their lives or at the very least slow the progress of serious diseases. The full report is at:

“With the new pricing system, insurers abandoned the traditional arrangement that had patients pay a fixed amount, like $10, $20 or $30 for a prescription, no matter what the drug’s actual cost. Instead, they are charging patients a percentage of the cost of certain high-priced drugs, usually 20 to 33 percent, an amount which can run to thousands of dollars a month. The upshot of all of this means that the burden of expensive health care can now affect insured people, too. No one knows how many patients are affected, but hundreds of drugs are being priced this new way. Drugs that are used to treat diseases that may be fairly common, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, hepatitis C and some cancers. There are no cheaper equivalents for these drugs, so patients are forced to pay the price or do without.”

“Insurers say the new system keeps everyone’s premiums down at a time when some of the most innovative and promising new treatments for conditions like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis can cost $100,000 and more a year. But the result is that patients may have to spend more for a drug than they pay for their mortgages, more, in some cases, than their monthly incomes. The system, often called Tier 4, began in earnest with Medicare drug plans and spread rapidly. It is now incorporated into 86 percent of those plans. Some have even higher co-payments for certain drugs, called a Tier 5.”

“Very interesting,” says the german accented voice in the old LaughIn series. I had my own personal brush with the high price of a drug when I was diagnosed as having chronic myeloid leukemia back in 2002. This was determined after a (painful) bone marrow sample was taken. It turns out that the only drug that successfully treats this form of leukemia is called Gleevec and costs $3,000 for a monthly dose. Of course this was out of the question for me in my financial state. The doctor’s office gave me an application form to apply for assistance, but upon reading it it turned out that I was ineligible because I had Medicare. My son Joel, the doctor in residence, gave me the idea of going to the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Houston to apply for assistance there. He went with me, and we found out that indeed, my Army Air Force service was verified in the VA’s computer system, after all of these years I had even remembered my army serial number correctly, 18228386. Joel was convinced that the VA would get me this miracle drug, $3,000 a month be damned. I have to admit that I was skeptical, but what the hell, it was certainly worth a try.

However, it turned out that I was to never find out. The VA oncologist took another bone marrow sample, and upon further deliberation he determined that I did not have leukemia after all. Later I received a refund check for $54 from the physician’s group of which the doctor who originally misdiagnosed me was a member. Whether this was a refund for my part of the misread bone marrow scan I have no way of knowing. Needless to say $54 did not even begin to approach the inconvenience of having been improperly diagnosed in the first place. However, I cheerfully deposited the check, no questions asked. It is not often you get a refund from a medical facility which had misdiagnosed you, though perhaps I was hasty and should have had the check framed on my wall for constant viewing and worshipping.

In my unprofessional and highly personal opinion I believe that the entire “for profit” system that American medicine is built upon is wrong. Health care should never be for profit. It should pay its practitioners a living, of course, but they should not be allowed to make a killing. However, as we have noted before, the only entity which has muscle enough to change the system is the federal government. And as long as Republicans have a thread of power they will never seek so drastic a change. They honestly believe, no believe is too mild a word, they worship a “for profit” system.

And so while other countries have state run health systems (Canada, England, France, the list goes on) we in our so-called free America think we have the best system in the world, albeit that 30 to 40% of us can’t afford care under the system. And one serious accident or illness can bankrupt a family. We pass along fantasies that have Canadians coming over to America for health care to avoid the long wait they would have in the Canadian system. But we don’t tell about the American citizens who manage to cross the border and access the Canadian system (Michael Moore’s excellent movie “Sicko” documented one such case), and we don’t deal with the fact that the quality of America's health care rates far lower than that in most other industrialized countries.

And of course, we do not face up to the basic problem of a “for profit” system, Health Care Providers can only make money by taking in premiums and then denying care. There is no other way for them to profit under a system that has driven up hospital care to such heights. And although most Americans are stuck with having to deal with the American system in their health care, at least many Americans have discovered that ordering their prescription drugs online from Canadian pharmacies allows them to avoid their outrageously overpriced American bought equivalents.

A recent survey we reported on found that for the first time a majority of American doctors are favoring some kind of government run health care system, admitting for the first time that our present system isn’t serving their patients very well. It is so necessary that the Democratic Party, should it win the presidency and substantial majorities in both houses, retool the health care industry from scratch, preferably dropping the term industry and substituting it for a term more consistent with the hippocratic oath administered to all physicians. Nomenclature that emphasizes service and care.
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One of the most difficult things we modern day consumers have to deal with are the telephone representatives of companies whose products have failed us. It is no simple task to talk such a trained company representative out of something you think is fair, but which the company initially refuses to 0ffer. The most interesting advice I have ever read in handling of service personnel comes from a blog called the Consumerist. In the interest of those who might have to deal with such a representative I would like to reprint it here.

“Still think using the Geek Squad might be a good idea? That's what reader Nicole thought when she took her laptop in for a warranty covered repair. The laptop was sent off to a service center, "repaired", then sent back. She immediately noticed it had the same exact problem and sent it back 48 hours later. This time, she was told the warranty wouldn't cover it, as the Blue Screen of Death was now being caused by water damage. Nicole pointed out that there wasn't water damage the first time it was repaired for the exact same problem two days ago. Geek Squad responded by quoting her $775 for the repair. She said that even though the manager was a very nice man and agreed with her, he said nothing could be done.

To which the all knowing Consumerist told her: “Nicole, don't buy for a second the idea that "no one can override the repair center." Unless you've got one of those special repair centers staffed by the Board of Directors themselves, there's always someone in a position of authority to countermand the grunts on the ground. They just don't want to talk to you. Luckily, you have access to the internet, a phone, and this lovely article on How To Mind Control Customer Service Reps. Keep dialing until you get someone who will listen." The article he referred to:

"Keep in mind, please, that these rules require that you keep a calm, even head, or at least the appearance and sound of one, and you must have the audacity not to ASK for anything. You will be rude, and you will seem to have entitlement issues. But you will get the job done.

“Here are the basic guidelines. The longer and more often you end up doing this, you will find yourself using your own language and tricks. Eventually, you will be able to determine within a few seconds whether the person you have on the phone is the correct person to speak to.

“If all of this fails and you happen to be female, try asking a male relative or friend to do it, following the same steps. It sounds wrong, but people respond to voices, and in today's society, a male voice will sometimes go farther. I am female, however, and if you have a strong enough tone and voice, in most cases, you won't need to resort to that.

“1. Always maintain a calm, collected tone. Keep your voice even, keep your tone low, and do not lose your temper. If you find yourself getting upset, place the person on hold for a moment, take a slow, deep breath, and pick the phone back up. If they have hung up on you, mention it when you call back.

“2 . Before you call, outline the situation for yourself, and decide how you want it solved. Write down several options you would be willing to accept, and keep the page in front of you when you call.

“3. Always get the name of the person who answered the phone, even if you speak to them for only a moment. Write the name down, as well as any other person you connect to. Keep notes of who said what.

“4. When you get a CSR on the phone, immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. When/if they insist that they can help you, keeping your tone low and even, state again that you need to speak to a supervisor. Not want, need. If they again insist, state in a clear and calm, low tone, that they WILL connect you to a supervisor, now. Do not yell, shout, or raise your voice or tone. "No. You are going to get a supervisor for me. Thank you. I'll wait." Say "thank you" immediately. Do not wait for them to answer your request first. If they again insist, hang up immediately. Call back. If you get the same person, make the request again, and if they again refuse, hang up, wait one hour for a shift change, and then call back. Do not give the initial person your name. They do not need it.

“5. Once you are connected with a supervisor, introduce yourself, and then inform the person that you have a situation that they are going to fix. Do not say "that you need to fix" or "that I want fixed" or "that I need fixed." You know they will fix it. "I have a situation that you are going to fix for me today. I appreciate your patience." If they say they will try, state again that you're sure they will fix it for you. "No, you'll fix it. Don't worry." Reassure THEM. It will confuse them enough that they will allow you to explain your situation.

“6. Explain your situation in a calm, even tone. Do not pause for them to respond until the entire situation/story has been told. Simply tell it as if you are dictating a letter. Once the entire situation has been explained, do not pause. Immediately give them the first option of how it should be fixed, in a simple, declarative sentence. "...this is the situation as it stands at this moment, and the reason I am calling. So what you will be doing for me today is ..." or ".. so what we need to do today is ..."

“7. If the supervisor insists that your solution is outside of policy, ask for the full policy. Do not accept "It's just not policy to do this." You want a full description of the policy. This does not mean twenty pages, faxed. A simple description of the section they feel affects your situation is what you need from them. IF they again simply say "It isn't policy to __", you say "That isn't a policy. What, exactly, is your policy in this situation?" If they refuse to give you the policy, ask for their supervisor, or a corporate number - if you choose to or must call corporate, refer to *A - however, this will most likely not be necessary. If they give you the policy, continue to step 8.

“8. Listen carefully to the policy, then scan your list for solutions that fall within it. If none of your solutions fall within their policy, inform them of your viable choices, and ask them how they are going to solve your problem. Do not ask if they will. Ask how. "So, how are we going to resolve this issue?" not "Isn't there anything you can do?" or "there must be something you can do." There is always something they can do. Do not ask. It is fact. If they inform you that there is nothing they can do, again ask for their supervisor or a corporate number.

“9. At this point the person should be working with you for a solution. Continue to keep a calm tone until you reach an acceptable solution
Be sure to refer to the person by name at least twice, to make sure they know you remember it. If they say they will call back, ask for their direct line. If they do not have one, again ask for their supervisor or a corporate number.

“10. You SHOULD now have a solution. Write down the details, making sure to read it back to the person on the other end of the line, and make sure to repeat their name, as well as writing it next to the solution that has been reached. If it is not an immediately solvable problem (returns, or delivery, etc) get a time estimate. "And this will be here by....". You can, at this point as well, ask for a direct line, in case you have issues and need to speak to them again. Then thank them for their time and hang up.

“11. If longer than the specified time goes past and the solution has not gone into effect, call the same number and ask for the person by name. If this person is unavailable or does not exist (there is always the chance) go back through your notes and ask for the person you spoke to immediately previous. Throughout this conversation remember to keep your tone calm and even. If the person you spoke to is unreachable, again, ask for a supervisor, and then immediately ask that supervisor for a corporate number. If the supervisor offers to help you, you may either attempt to work with this person, or simply call corporate.

*A - Calling Corporate
“12. Keep your tone even. Introduce yourself immediately and ask to speak to a person who can solve your problem. Use those words. "Hello, my name is ___. I have an issue. Please connect me to someone who can solve it today."

“13. When you are connected, introduce yourself again. Repeat step 6
More than likely, the person you are speaking to will either do what you've suggested, or will offer an alternative. At this point, if you continue to follow these basic guides, you should reach a solution fairly quickly. Remember to continue to escalate until you reach someone who will solve your problem.

“This works even if the problem is not your own, and you are dealing with the infamous Best Buy. I have a success story to share now. Currently living with me is my sister-in-law. She moved from Texas. A year or so before she moved to California, there was an issue with her computer. Her parents are fairly computer illiterate, but had purchased the PC as a gift for her, and therefore did it on their own. They purchased a floor model, and were not informed, and did not know to ask, that the OS disk was not included. They were not informed that they would need to make a boot disk themselves, and neither was my sister.

“Six months later, my sister's computer ran out of space, and she followed the on-screen instructions to free some up, running Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup removed essential files from the OS, causing the computer to brick. A full re-install was necessary. She called Best Buy and they told her it would cost over $100 to reload the computer. She called me in a panic, as she and her parents were living off her father's Army pension at the time and could not afford the fee.

“I called the Best Buy store's direct number, and asked to speak to a manager. I was told none was there. I waited one hour, and called back. This time I got Jose. I introduced myself and let him know that I was calling on behalf of a friend that was having an issue, and thanked him for solving it for me today. I then explained to him that my friend had been given a computer without an OS disk, and now needed to reload the computer, but had been told it would cost quite a bit of money. He informed me that she was told when the computer was purchased that she needed to create a boot disk. I informed him that she was not, and that he would need to reload the computer without charge.

He said he could not do that. I calmly pointed out that it is very bad policy to charge a customer for something he should never have done in the first place, and that the operating system was sold with the computer, and since the disk was not included, we basically had two options available to us - he could either issue her a free copy of Windows XP, or reload the computer free of charge. I asked him which solution he felt would be best for her. He told me that they could do neither, and I asked him how he would be solving it. He asked me to hold for a moment, then came back on the line, and told me to have her come in, and he would take care of it.

“I called my sister and gave her Jose's name and told her to ask for him directly once in the store, because he would be taking care of her problem. She and her mother went, and he met them. Again, they were informed that it would cost to reload the computer. The exact charge came to $97.53 with taxes. In a panic, my sister called me, and I told her that he was not going to charge her. She said he was. I asked her to put him on the phone.

“Here's the clincher - when faced with having to speak to me again, he quickly changed his mind and offered an acceptable solution to the problem: he would issue them a gift card for the exact amount, and they would use that to pay for the service. We all agreed to the terms, and he came back exactly two minutes later with a gift card for the exact charge, and handed it to the cashier.

“At no point did I yell, or in any way raise my voice. I did not threaten him, or mention lawyers or the business bureau. I simply informed him of what he would be doing, and he did it. While it took a bit of reinforcement, eventually he did come up with a solution that was both within his policy, and right by the consumer. This is not a 'talent', it is a skill, and by following these steps you can usually avoid the horrific experiences many consumers have.

Cheers to Lona, and thanks to her and The Consumerist for sharing that story. Dealing with technology telephone consultants has to be about the most unpleasant task imaginable. Usually you are kept waiting for many minutes, and by the time you finally get connected you are almost ready to abandon your quest. Read the advice above carefully. And good luck.
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And so another week’s blog fades slowly into the sunset. Who knows what ridiculous mahem will dominate our musings next week? But we invite you to return to find out. Meantime have a good week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blog #31: the Petraeus Dog and Pony Show

Well the big day came and went. Tuesday was THE Red Letter Day, the day that brought testimony in front of two Senate committees from General David H. Petraeus, the army’s commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, and on Wednesday the two House committees had their turn. The testimony was billed as a progress report, and SURPRISE, SURPRISE!, the “SURGE” has been SUCCESSFUL! However, don’t let your enthusiasm RUN AMOK. The success is VERY, VERY FRAGILE. Like Fred Astaire dancing on egg shells, the general and the ambassador never strayed from the basic Bush message, a continual troop presence is needed in Iraq to continue to provide stability.

And despite polls that show two thirds of Americans feel that the war was a mistake and we should not be there, neither man would entertain ideas of any kind of a drawdown any time soon, nor would or could they even indicate any kind of condition it would take in which the troops could begin returning home. It is quite obvious that during the Bush/Cheney watch there will be no troop reductions. Whether or not the general lived up to his nickname of General Betrayus of course, depends on your point of view about the war and the Bush administration. This much is clear, he most certainly did not betray Bush. Far from it, he didn’t waver an iota from Bush’s line. Show just enough success to show the world there has been progress enough to justify the surge, but not enough for people to get the idea that there could be any kind of meaningful troop reduction, even in a small, limited way, any time soon.

The Democritics who have experienced total failure in repeated attempts to alter the nation’s war policy (despite the polls) this time around tried questioning our continuing funding the war in the face of Iraq having billions stashed away in various banks throughout the world, its newfound riches thanks to the high price of oil. It turns out Iraq has over thirty billion stashed away in US banks alone, and at least fifty billion in other banks, Germany for one, and yet we US taxpayers are still funding basic Iraq programs, like the training and equipping of its army, the running Iraq’s electric power plants, etc. When senators asked the general and the ambassador when Iraqis might begin paying their share of the expenses, they both said they could understand the senator’s concerns and would press the Iraqi government for answers upon their return. But of course they could and did promise nothing.

All three presidential candidates used their time period for questions to promote their own view of the war. Each potential presidential candidate got a crack at the Iraqi roadshow. Republican John McCain, an unblushing believer in the conflict, tried the delicate distinction of approving of the war’s direction while trying to distance himself from the many failed policies of the Bush administration. Senator McCain pointed to the “success” of the surge (which he had called for in advance of its being instituted), but as usual warned against “cutting and running” as that would endanger the stability of the entire operation. Senator Hillary Clinton pointed out that recent outbreaks of fighting in Basra and Bagdad call into question once again the wisdom of the strategy, and asked how long such a failed policy should be carried on before some kind of change of course is called for? Obama also stressed the lack of progress and the futility of the operation, and reiterated that upon election he would take steps to remove American forces by seeking talks with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran, to help stabilize the region so we could leave.

In short nothing has changed. The situation in Iraq, according to Petraeus, is “fragile and reversable”, and he sees absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. His basic recommendation after the surge is drawn down would leave 140,000 American troops in Bagdad, he didn’t put a time limit on it, but it could quite possibly be forever. After all, we still have troops in Germany and in Korea, and bases in Japan. So why n0t Iraq? Besides such a long term military commitment insures the future relevance and power of the military. The only possible deterrent to a Republican outcome is the possibility that with over sixty-six percent of the American people seeing the economy as a priority and our Iraq involvement as a mistake, that these two-thirds of us just might go to the polls in November and vote the rascals out. We at the Real Little Eddy Blog of course second that motion, and we’ll even offer Senators Clinton and Obama a campaign slogan, “American Dollars for the American People! For a Real Change.”

A communist government uses its dictatorial powers supposedly for the benefit of the workers, the masses. A fascist state uses its dictatorial powers for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Both types of governments attempt to make a religion 0f the military, as the military is instrumental in keeping those governments in power, as well as extending their influence to other parts of the world. The Bush attempt to portray General Petraeus as all wise and all knowing, as well as the way it has conducted the war in general, substituting an understaffed military with highly paid civilian private contractors certainly puts the Bush administration in the realm of the fascist state. The various illegal forays into the gathering of information on American citizens under the pretense of trolling for terrorists, drives it even deeper into the corner with the likes of Hitler and Stalin. However, there is one characteristic of the Bush/Cheney governance that has probably saved our country from completely going over the edge. At least so far. And that is the extreme measure of incompetence which characterizes their operation. God help us, if they had any measure of efficiency to go along with their ideas.
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Before we leave the Petraeus/Crocker dog and pony show, I would like to point you to Dick Cavett’s caustic assessment in Saturday morning’s NYTimes online. Cavett minces no words as he dissects both gentlemen’s language like a middle school English teacher on steriods. Cavett sums up the general thusly: “Petraeus uses “challenge” for a rich variety of things. It covers ominous developments, threats, defeats on the battlefield and unfound solutions to ghastly happenings. And of course there’s that biggest of challenges, that slapstick band of silent-movie comics called, flatteringly, the Iraqi “fighting forces.” (A perilous one letter away from “fighting farces.”) The ones who are supposed to allow us to bring troops home but never do.”

“But I must hand it to his generalship. He did say something quite clearly and admirably and I am grateful for his frankness. He told us that our gains are largely imaginary: that our alleged “progress” is “fragile and reversible.” (Quite an accomplishment in our sixth year of war.) This provides, of course, a bit of pre-emptive covering of the general’s hindquarters next time that, true to Murphy’s Law, things turn sour again.

But Cavett saved his most vituperative cut for the General’s hapless sidekick: “Back to poor Crocker. His brows are knitted. And he has a perpetually alarmed expression, as if, perhaps, he feels something crawling up his leg.

"Could it be he is being overtaken by the thought that an honorable career has been besmirched by his obediently doing the dirty work of the tinpot Genghis Khan of Crawford, Texas? The one whose foolish military misadventure seems to increasingly resemble that of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn? Not an apt comparison, I admit. Custer only sent 258 soldiers to their deaths.”

For the entire Cavett experience copy and paste the URL below:
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As for an instance of a possible piece of government bungling, here is a story to curl your hair. According to an Associated Press report written by Larry Margasak, the Bush administration is contemplating moving its research on one of the most contagious of animal diseases from an isolated island laboratory onto the U. S. mainland, possibly near herds of livestock, raising concerns about a catastrophic outbreak.

“Skeptical Democrats in Congress are demanding to see internal documents they believe highlight the risks and consequences of the decision. An epidemic of the disease, foot and mouth, which only affects animals, could devastate the livestock industry. One such government report, produced last year and already turned over to lawmakers by the Homeland Security Department, combined commercial satellite images and federal farm data to show the proximity to livestock herds of locations that have been considered for the new lab. "Would an accidental laboratory release at these locations have the potential to affect nearby livestock?" asked the nine-page document. It did not directly answer the question.

“Manhattan, Kan., is one of five mainland locations under consideration. "It will mean jobs" and spur research and development, it was said. The other possible locations for the new National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility are Athens, Ga.; Butner, N.C.; San Antonio; and Flora, Miss. The new site could be selected later this year, and the lab would open by 2014. The numbers of livestock in the counties and surrounding areas of the finalists range from 542,507 in Kansas to 132,900 in Georgia, according to the Homeland Security study.

“Foot-and-mouth virus can be carried on a worker's breath or clothes, or vehicles leaving a lab, and is so contagious it has been confined to Plum Island, N.Y., for more than a half-century — far from commercial livestock. The existing lab is 100 miles northeast of New York City in the Long Island Sound, accessible only by ferry or helicopter. Researchers there who work with the live virus are not permitted to own animals at home that would be susceptible, and they must wait at least a week before attending outside events where such animals might perform, such as a circus. The White House says modern safety rules at labs are sufficient to avoid any outbreak. But incidents in Britain have demonstrated that the foot-and-mouth virus can cause remarkable economic havoc — and that the virus can escape from a facility. An epidemic in 2001 devastated Britain's livestock industry, as the government slaughtered 6 million sheep, cows and pigs. Last year, in a less serious outbreak, Britain's health and safety agency concluded the virus probably escaped from a site shared by a government research center and a vaccine maker. Other outbreaks have occurred in Taiwan in 1997 and China last year and in 2006.

“If even a single cow signals an outbreak in the U.S., emergency plans permit the government to shut down all exports and movement of livestock. Herds would be quarantined, and a controlled slaughter could be started to stop the disease from spreading. Infected animals weaken and lose weight. Milk cows don't produce milk. They remain highly infectious, even if they survive the virus.

“The Homeland Security Department is convinced it can safely operate the lab on the mainland, saying containment procedures at high-security labs have improved. The livestock industry is divided. Some experts, including the former director at the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center, say research ought to be kept away from cattle populations — and, ideally, placed where the public already has accepted dangerous research.

“The former director, Dr. Roger Breeze, suggested the facility could be safely located at the Atlanta campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., home of The United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases. Another possibility, Breeze said, is on Long Island, where there is no commercial livestock industry. That would allow retention of most of the current Plum Island employees. Asked about the administration's finalist sites located near livestock, Breeze said: "It seems a little odd. It goes against the ... safety program of the last 50 years. The former head of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service said Americans are not prepared for a foot-and-mouth outbreak that has been avoided on the mainland since 1929.

"The horrific prospect of exterminating potentially millions of animals is not something this country's ready for," said Dr. Floyd Horn. The Agriculture Department ran the Plum Island lab until 2003. It was turned over to the Homeland Security Department because preventing an outbreak is now part of the nation's biological defense program. Plum Island researchers work on detection of the disease, strategies to control epidemics including vaccines and drugs, tests of imported animals to ensure they are free of the virus and training of professionals. The new facility will add research on diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans. The Plum Island facility is not secure enough to handle that higher-level research.

“Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee also are worried about the lab's likely move to the mainland. The chairman, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and the head of the investigations subcommittee, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., are threatening to subpoena records they say Homeland Security is withholding from Congress. Those records include reports about "Crimson Sky," an internal review about a publicized 1978 accidental release of foot-and-mouth disease on Plum Island and reports about any previously undisclosed virus releases on the island during the past half century.

“The lawmakers set a deadline of today for the administration to turn over reports they requested. Otherwise, they warned in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, they will arrange a vote next week to issue a congressional subpoena. A new facility at Plum Island is technically a possibility. Signs point to a mainland site, however, after the administration spent considerable time and money scouting new locations. Also, there are financial concerns about operating from a location accessible only by ferry or helicopter.”

Think about it, friends. Do you really trust a Bush administration with a track record like it sports to make a decision as vital as this? Scary, isn’t it? Makes it all the more important that we usher in a government with a new way of thinking and level of competence in November.
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The Smoking Gun website reports on an interesting problem. Does the new Google service “Street View” violate a couple’s privacy just by showing images of their house as the Google automobile drives by. A Pittsburg, Pa couple claims it does and has taken the matter to court. APRIL 4 – “A Pittsburgh couple is suing Google for invasion of privacy, claiming that the web giant's popular "Street View" mapping feature has made a photo of their home available to online searchers. Aaron and Christine Boring accuse Google of an "intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion" of their seclusion and privacy since they live on a street that is "clearly marked with a 'Private Road' sign," according to a lawsuit the couple filed this week in Allegheny County's Court of Common Pleas. According to the Borings, they purchased their Oakridge Lane home in late-2006 for "a considerable sum of money," noting that a "major component of their purchase decision was a desire for privacy."

“But when Pittsburgh was added last October to the roster of cities covered by Google's "Street View" feature, the Borings allege, their "private information was made known to the public," causing them "mental suffering" and diminishing the value of their home (which cost the couple $163,000, according to property records). The Borings are seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages and want a court order directing Google to destroy images of their home. You can go to Smoking Gun’s archive page:
Click there for some photos of the Boring property, which is now even easier to locate via Google Maps, since the plaintiffs included their home address on the lawsuit's first page. And while they are litigating, perhaps the Borings should consider suing Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessments, which includes a photo of their home (which was built in 1916 and sits on 1.82 acres) on its web site.

It seems to us that the couple has no case. If they wish to keep their house private they should block the view from the street by means of a fence or shubbery, but otherwise if a passing motorist or pedestrian has a clear view there is no reason why Google “Street View” shouldn’t also have a view. Just another attempt to sue for some imagined or manufactured grievance.
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A pair of Gartner analysts described Windows as “collapsing” and said that Microsoft Corp. must make radical changes or risk becoming a has-been. This is found in a report written by Gregg Keizer which was published in In a presentation at a Gartner-sponsored conference in Las Vegas, analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald said Microsoft has not responded to the market, is overburdened by nearly two decades of legacy code and decisions, and faces serious competition on a whole host of fronts that will make Windows moot unless the software developer acts.

"For Microsoft, its ecosystem and its customers, the situation is untenable," said Silver and MacDonald in their prepared presentation, titled "Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve."
Among Microsoft's problems, the pair said, is Windows' rapidly-expanding code base, which makes it virtually impossible to quickly craft a new version with meaningful changes. That was proved by Vista, they said, when Microsoft – frustrated by lack of progress during the five-year development effort on the new operating – hit the "reset" button and dropped back to the more stable code of Windows Server 2003 as the foundation of Vista.

"This is a large part of the reason [why] Windows Vista delivered primarily incremental improvements," they said. In turn, that became one of the reasons why businesses pushed back Vista deployment plans. "Most users do not understand the benefits of Windows Vista or do not see Vista as being better enough than Windows XP to make incurring the cost and pain of migration worthwhile."

“Other analysts, including those at Gartner rival Forrester Research Inc., have highlighted the slow move toward Vista. Last month, Forrester said that by the end of 2007 only 6.3% of 50,000 enterprise computer users it surveyed were working with Vista. What gains Vista made during its first year, added Forrester, appeared to be at the expense of Windows 2000; Windows XP's share hardly budged.

“The monolithic nature of Windows – although Microsoft talks about Vista's modularity, Silver and MacDonald said it doesn't go nearly far enough – not only makes it tough to deliver a worthwhile upgrade, but threatens Microsoft in the mid- and long-term.

“Users want a smaller Windows that can run on low-priced – and low-powered – hardware. And increasingly, users work with "OS-agnostic applications," the two analysts said in their presentation. It takes too long for Microsoft to build the next version, the company is being beaten by others in the innovation arena, and in the future – perhaps as soon as the next three years – it's going to have trouble competing with Web applications and small, specialized devices.

"Apple introduced its iPhone running OS X, but Microsoft requires a different product on handhelds because Windows Vista is too large, which makes application development, support and the user experience all more difficult," according to Silver and MacDonald. "Windows as we know it must be replaced," they said in their presentation.

When you stop and think about it, that makes a lot of sense. When Apple switched from its traditional operating system to OS X it first allowed programs in the former code to run in virtualization. However, with the addition of Intel chips OS X can no longer access those early programs. That, according to the two Gartner presentors is Microsoft’s problem. It is so bulky and weighed down because it is trying to accomodate everything that has ever been written for it, even including DOS. Modular does sound like the way to go. You install only the parts of the operating system you need for certain programs. New programs would include only the newest written code. Say that written for XP and Vista. However to accommodate programs written for earlier versions you would have to install additional modules. We’ll just see if Microsoft’s leadership has the will and the skill to make that happen.
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On Thursday the Washington Post had an excellent piece of Chelsea Clinton, labeled “Chelsea Clinton Finds Her Voice.” The piece written by Anne E. Kornblut talks about the former First Daughter’s evolution from quiet supporter to self assured campaigner. The story pointed out that the other day Chelsea Clinton did what no one around her is ever supposed to do, and that was bring up Monica Lewinsky herself.

“Speaking to a packed crowd of college students and recounting her mother's history of working with Republicans, the youngest Clinton talked for a minute about Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who as a House member during the impeachment hearings against President Bill Clinton was "one of the people who prosecuted my father in the 1990s," she said. Not "someone you would think would be an ally for someone with the last name Clinton," the 28-year-old added wryly.”
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In closing we have good news for any of you out there who like their fiction with a degree of honesty exceeding that found in the world of print. It gives us great pleasure to make note of the appearance of Part One of the fifth novel of Russell Hoisington’s endearing story of the coming of age of Wynter King and her friends. This is not a complete story, but it will give you an extended look into the fifth volume. For those of you who haven’t yet sampled Hoisington’s work there are four completed novels in the series: Wynter, Wynter and Jimmy, Wynter and Cinnamon, and Wynter and Hailey. Naturally we suggest you take them in the order they were created. This new, Wynter and Brinkley, is at: Hoisington’s complete listings are at:

And there you have this week’s blog. Have a good week, and do come see us again next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Blog #30 Anyone you know in the 81%

The NYTimes/CBS poll posted 4-4-08 showed that 81% of the American people believe that “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002. However, what that poll didn’t deal with is what in the world do you do with a bunch of leaders who freely admit that they pay not one whit of attention to any poll that goes against their preconceived mindset. Anyone see any resemblance to our present leadership? Nevertheless the story by David Leonhardt and Marjorie Connelly went on the list many interesting facts that the survey discovered, even if those who should read it won’t.

“A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.” Think about that for a moment. How did we as a country let ourselves get into such a mess? By standing quietly by while a right-wing leaning Supreme Court anointed George Bush president in 2000 even though Al Gore had won the popular vote, and would likely have won Florida if the Court had allowed the recount to continue onto the end, that's how. Bush’s lead was slipping away minute by minute when the Court ordered the count stopped. And then four years later we reelected this Vietnam slacker over a bona fide Vietnam war hero on the strength of lies and defamation on the part of rabid, right wing SwiftBoat truthmanglers. More from the report:

“The dissatisfaction is especially striking because public opinion usually hits its low point only in the months and years after an economic downturn, not at the beginning of one. Today, however, Americans report being deeply worried about the country even though many say their own personal finances are still in fairly good shape.” Are we turning into a nation of soothsayers? Isn’t it a shame we didn’t realize what was down the road back in 2004 when we could have done something about it?

“Only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest such number since late 1992, when the recession that began in the summer of 1990 had already been over for more than a year. In the latest poll, two in three people said they believed the economy was in recession today. Only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest such number since late 1992, when the recession that began in the summer of 1990 had already been over for more than a year. In the latest poll, two in three people said they believed the economy was in recession today.” Only two in three? What’s the third one smoking?

“The unhappiness presents clear risks for Republicans in this year’s elections, given the continued unpopularity of President Bush. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they approved of the job he was doing, a number that has barely changed since last summer. But Democrats, who have controlled the House and Senate since last year, also face the risk that unhappy voters will punish Congressional incumbents.” If we the people hold it against Democrats who tried everything they could think of the curb the Bush administration, but were met with stubbornness and vetoes at every turn, then we will get what we deserve. Surely we are smart enough to lay blame where it belongs. Perhaps it had been wrong for Democrats to put expectations so high but who could have predicted that Bush would be so entrenched? Who knew that our erstwhile president thinks of himself not as president, but as omnipotent ruler?
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Why is it that once they get in power so many of our presidents focus their attention on foreign lands, rather than work in the interests of the people in this country who elected them to office? Unfortunately this fault can be found not only in the Republican Bush/Cheney administration, although they could be faulted for not learning from the mistakes of previous administrations. But the same could be said of both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations over Korea and the Johnson and Nixon administrations over Vietnam. Under both governments American soldiers were sent to far off lands among a people of a different race, to fight for a cause they knew nothing about. And all because of a myth current at the time that if the government we supported fell it would cause a domino effect, and all the regimes in the region would fall. Even the Kennedy administration bought onto this fantasy, although shortly before his assassination JFK did disclose to some of his close advisors that he intended to pull American advisers out of Vietnam. Within five days of ascending to power after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson changed the course of our South Vietnam mission from one of American military advisers to that of active combat, and in order to rally the country to support our presence there the Navy staged the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and just like that our troops were committed to full combat.

(Wikipedia reports the following: In 2005, it was revealed in an official NSA declassified report that the Maddox first fired warning shots on the August 2 incident and that there may have been no North Vietnamese boats at the August 4 incident. The report said it is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night. [...] In truth, Hanoi's navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on 2 August.) The Congress later rescinded the Tonkin Bay resolution, but of course by then it was a day late and quite a few dollars short.

Although by the end of his term Johnson realized the futility of our involvement and attempted to bring about peace talks, the incoming president Richard Nixon sent Henry Kissinger to South Vietnam to encourage them not to capitulate, but to argue over the shape of the table and do whatever else to subvert the talks, assuring them that when the Republicans came to power they would continue US support for the South. And so the war went on until our effort finally collapsed completely and we were forced to pull our forces out. For our trouble the city of Saigon (which had been the capitol of South Vietnam) was renamed Ho Chi Minh city in honor of the North Vietnamese leader who had worked tirelessly for the freedom of his people, and who even president Eisenhower later admitted would have received 80% of the South Vietnamese vote if we had allowed the elections called for to be held.

Fortunately, although Republican nominee John McCain is a “more of the same” kind of guy, both Democratic contenders promise to pull out our troops with all possible haste, and promise to do their very best to clean up the mess left behind by Bush/Cheney. And so it is primarily a question of which Democratic candidate you feel would do a better job. Although I believe Hillary Clinton would better serve, I would not for an instant hesitate to support Obama should he end up being the nominee. And I suspect that virtually all rational Democrats will do the same, no matter who comes out on top. I ask you, what Democrat in his or her right mind would support continuing the status quo, with its unending occupation of Iraq, by voting for John McCain? That is a myth of division purported by desperate Republicans who refuse to read the writing on the wall, and who are speculating on hope and dreams. And there is one former Democrat in that corner also, you know who you are.
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One of the more intriguing posts of the past week was made by Ariana Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, which many are pointing to these days as the first example of a truly web-based news media. On March 30, she wrote of polls which favor McCain’s handling of Iraq over Obama or Clinton’ handling of it. She reported that Gallup had him favored over either Democrat by 14 points, and the L.A.Times had a poll favoring McCain over Clinton by 14 points, Obama by 13. Why, she asks, is this anomaly happening, when the polls also show that two thirds of America think the war is a mistake? Not to mention the cost of the war bringing America to it’s financial knees. Huffington points to the dashed hopes of Democrats ending the war in 2006 as a part of the reason. Then she went on to write:

“Enter Darcy Burner, a Democratic challenger who is running for Congress in Washington state. Working with national security experts and retired military generals such as Major Gen. Paul Eaton, the officer in charge of training the Iraqi military immediately after the invasion in 2003 and 2004, she developed "A Responsible Plan to End the War," a comprehensive approach to Iraq based on legislation already introduced in Congress.

“The 20-page plan (which you can read in its entirety at:, doesn't just lay out how to end the war – it also addresses the institutional failures that led to the tragic invasion and occupation of Iraq. This includes rebuilding the U.S. diplomatic apparatus, banning the use of armed military contractors like Blackwater, banning torture, promoting government transparency, and restoring accountability through the checks and balances laid out in the Constitution.

“As of today, 45 Democratic challengers have signed on to the plan – including 41 running for the House and 4 running for the Senate. Among the candidates who helped Burner launch the project are Chellie Pingree, running in Maine's First Congressional District; Donna Edwards, running in Maryland's Fourth Congressional District; Tom Perriello, running in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District; and Eric Massa, running in New York's Twenty-ninth Congressional District.
The Huffington Post ran the following YouTube video where various people supporting the initiative talk about it. Because it seems to us to be a very responsible movement heading in exactly the right direction we are happy to include it here. We tried to embed it, but without any luck. However you can view it at this link:

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Opposition to any kind of national health plan has long been the mantra of the American Medical Association and its member doctors. But that reality may be changing. In a story dated March 31, 2008 the news organization Reuters reported that a majority of U.S. doctors now favor switching to a national health care plan, and less than a third oppose the plan. The survey suggested that opinions have changed substantially since the last survey in 2002, as the country debates the need for serious changes to the nation’s health care system. According to the Reuters article: “Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, 59 percent said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, researchers reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The 2002 survey found that 49 percent of physicians supported national health insurance and 40 percent opposed it.

"Many claim to speak for physicians and represent their views. We asked doctors directly and found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most doctors support national health insurance," said Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the study.

"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who worked on the study with Carroll. "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem."

“The United States has no single organized health care system. Instead it relies on a patchwork of insurance provided by the federal and state governments to the elderly, poor, disabled and to some children, along with private insurance and employer-sponsored plans.

“Many other countries have national plans, including Britain, France and Canada, and several studies have shown the United States spends more per capita on health care, without achieving better results for patients. An estimated 47 million people have no insurance coverage at all, meaning they must pay out of their pockets for health care or skip it.

“Contenders in the election for president in November all have proposed various changes, but none of the major party candidates has called for a fully national health plan. Insurance companies, retailers and other employers have joined forces with unions and other interest groups to propose their own plans.

"Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy," Ackermann said in a statement. The Indiana survey found that 83 percent of psychiatrists, 69 percent of emergency medicine specialists, 65 percent of pediatricians, 64 percent of internists, 60 percent of family physicians and 55 percent of general surgeons favor a national health insurance plan. The researchers said they believe the survey was representative of the 800,000 U.S. medical doctors.” (Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Will Dunham and Xavier Briand)

We wonder how many of the doctors in the survey saw Michael Moore’s film “Sicko.” We’ll bet a lot of them did, and those who were honest agreed with it, and that fact is reflected in the survey. Remember America, health care should be a right for every American, and should come before foreign commitments to countries like Iraq. Support your local Democrats who have made national health care a priority. Keep America’s resources in America.
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If you’re in the thinning ranks of Hillary Clinton supporters, and/or you like music, we happily refer you to this cool tribute to Hillary by Gene Wang for your listening pleasure.
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News just keeps getting rosier for Apple, the company that used to be noted for its computers, but has found new fame and fortune utilizing gadgets and services prefixed with the small letter i. As in iPods, the iPhone, and iTunes. The NYTimes blogrunner column on technology reported that Apple’s diminutive iTunes Store has passed WalMart and is now the #1 music reailer in the US. The iTunes Store leads the pack with 19 percent, Wal-Mart (which includes the brick-and-mortar stores as well as its online properties) is second with 15 percent, and Best Buy is third with 13 percent. Amazon is a distant fourth at 6 percent, trailed by the likes of Borders, Circuit City, and Barnes & Noble. Rhapsody is in the tenth slot with 1 percent. More at:

On top of a report that a survey of merchants world wide has named Apple’s products the most admired (Google ranked fourth) Morgan Stanley reports that 40% of college students plan to buy Macs. According to AppleInsider: “Apple's rapidly rising mindshare amongst current generation college students is setting the company up for an "aging phenomenon" that will spur further market share and revenue growth as those students enter the work force, investment bank Morgan Stanley said Wednesday.

“A recent higher-education survey cited by analyst Katy Huberty reveals that roughly 40 percent of college students say their next computer purchase will be a Mac, well ahead of Apple's current 15 percent market share in the demographic.

“In the near term, this sets the Cupertino-based Mac maker up for a strong September quarter – a three-month period that embodies the heart of the back-to-school buying season, where incoming freshmen, existing undergraduates, and universities all plunk down considerable sums of cash in order to invest in computer hardware for the coming school year.

"Longer term," Huberty said, "we see an 'aging phenomenon' that will put Apple in a more mainstream market share position as students enter the work force, much like Linux adoption in the 1998-2003 time frame."

“For Apple, which holds just shy of 3 percent worldwide share of the personal computer market, each incremental percentage point of share gain means billions, Huberty said; approximately 6 billion in yearly revenues, and a full dollar in per share earnings for investors. The analyst maintained her Overweight rating on shares of Apple, with a $185 per-share Base Case scenario that assumes Mac unit share rises to 3.5 percent from 2.9 percent in the next 12 months, and that consumers continue to buy up into the Mac product family, providing the company with some gross margin leverage.

Under the pretense of maintaining balance we should report that Apple is being sued because of a failure to live up to advertised claims by the new 20” aluminum iMacs. The claim is that the iMac is “New and inferior.” The plaintiff – a Texan named Chandra Sanders – claims to represent tens of thousands of customers who purchased the smaller of the two iMacs that were introduced last August. She is demanding a trial by jury. At the center of her complaint is the allegation that while 24-inch iMacs are capable of displaying 16,777,216 colors on 8-bit, in-plane switching (IPS) screens, the 20-inch iMac have 6-bit twisted nematic film (TN) LCD screens that can display only 262,144 colors. I wonder where she lives in Texas. Sounds to us like she caught a bad case of SwiftBoat fever.
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Leslie Stahl interviewed Al Gore, the political candidate who ran for president and won the popular vote but was denied the election by Supreme Court fiat. Stahl tried to get his take on the current candidates.

"We were with you in the San Jose Airport,” Stahl said, “and a man came over to you and he says,'Who are you supporting, Obama or Hillary? Gore's response to the man? "Uh ha." "So, let me ask you. Who are you supporting?" Stahl asked. "I'm tryin' to stay out of it," Gore replied.

Getting Al Gore to talk about politics these days is hard work. But as a party leader and uncommitted superdelegate, his staying "out of it" isn't easy. "Are they calling you every minute?" Stahl asked. "Not every minute," Gore said. "No? Lotta pressure though, I'll bet," Stahl remarked.

"We unplugged the phones for this interview, so I can't say with authority. But no, everyone – they both call. And I appreciate that fact," Gore replied. "And what about the idea of the honest broker who goes to the two candidates and helps push one or the other of them off to the side?" Stahl asked. "Yeah, kind of a modern Boss Tweed," Gore remarked. "Except his name would be Al Gore," Stahl said.

"Well, I'm not applying for the job of broker," Gore replied, laughing. He's not ruling it out, but he says he already has a job, as he puts it, "P.R." agent for the planet. "You have said, and I'm going to quote you, 'If I do my job right, all the candidates will be talking about the climate crisis,'" Stahl said. "I can't think of a time I've heard the candidates talk about it." "Right. Well, I'm not finished yet," Gore said.

The Gore campaign on global warming went into high gear when his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" was an unexpected hit. What he's been doing is holding seminars, where he trains other people to give his famous slideshow about the effects of greenhouse gases. So far in all, he's coached about 2,000 people, teaching one little workshop at a time.
His slideshows are tailored to his audiences. For example, when he talks to evangelical Christians, he includes passages from the Bible.

Gore is trying to redefine this as a moral and spiritual issue. "We all share the exact same interest in doing the right thing on this. Who are we as human beings? Are we destined to destroy this place that we call home, planet earth? I can't believe that that's our destiny. It is not our destiny. But we have to awaken to the moral duty that we have to do the right thing and get out of this silly political game-playing about it. This is about survival," he said.

To the chagrin of Bushies everywhere Gore was awarded both an oscar and a Nobel Peace prize for his work alerting the world about global warming.
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And finally a federal judge in New York has dealt the Recording Industry Association of America a setback in their thousands of lawsuits over piracy on peer-to-peer networks. Declan McCullagh reports on C/Net’s that U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas ruled Monday to reject the claim that a KaZaA user who merely “made available” copyrighted music necessarily violated the law. Rather, he said that the RIAA would have to demonstrate that unlawful copying actually took place. If this ruling becomes widely accepted cases that the RIAA has won under that premise like the ruling against Jammie Thomas, whose story I printed in Blog #10, will likely be overturned. Maybe there is hope for justice in the legal system after all.
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And on this happy note (every note that brings frustration to the RIAA we consider a happy note) we bring to an end this week’s ramblings. We do this once a week, and hope to see you again next week. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy