Saturday, June 28, 2008

Blog #42: A Disturbing Thought

Any of you out there on the lookout for a most disturbing thought for this week. Try this one on for size. The story is from the Huffington Post, and may be found at:
On Fox News last Sunday Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that President Bush is more likely to attack Iran if he believes Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is going to be elected as the next president. However, “if the president thought John McCain was going to win the election, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision rather than do it on his way out,” Kristol said, reinforcing what most of us have known all of the time, the fact is that McCain is basically offering a third Bush term on Iraq and Iran. “I do wonder with Senator Obama, if President Bush thinks Senator Obama’s going to win, does he somehow think — does he worry that Obama won’t follow through on that policy,” Kristol added. Host Chris Wallace then asked if Kristol was suggesting that Bush might “launch a military strike” before or after the election:

WALLACE: So, you’re suggesting that he might in fact, if Obama’s going to win the election, either before or after the election, launch a military strike?
KRISTOL: I don’t know. I mean, I think he would worry about it. On the other hand, you can’t — it’s hard to make foreign policy based on guesses of election results. I think Israel is worried though. I mean, what is, what signal goes to Ahmadinejad if Obama wins on a platform of unconditional negotiations and with an obvious reluctance to even talk about using military force.

Kristol also suggested that Obama’s election would tempt Saudi Arabia and Egypt to think, “maybe we can use nuclear weapons.” The claim that Obama’s potential election could force Bush’s hand also isn’t new. Earlier this month, far-right pseudo scholar Daniel Pipes told the National Review Online that “President Bush will do something” if the Democratic nominee wins. “Should it be Mr. McCain that wins, he’ll punt,” said Pipes. Both Kristol and Pipes apparently agree with President Bush’s claim in March that McCain’s “not going to change” his foreign policy.

How high is your cynicsm threshold? Is the above story troubling because with George W.’s world famous cowboy mentality you have a pretty good idea as to the accuracy of its projections? It seems to me not at all far fetched to imagine George W. trying to broaden the war if an Obama victory seemed likely? To insure that President Obama is fully engaged in trying to undo his actions. What think you? Would Bush dare attempt to widen the conflict by bombing or otherwise attacking Iran? Leaving Obama three conflagrations to try and damp down instead of two? In spite of all of the post Watergate/Richard Nixon attempts on the part of Congress to limit presidential power, Bush’s invasion of Iraq proved beyond doubt that a president’s power remains supreme, and that by using a steady drumbeat of lies, distortions, and skewered information an administration can freely order an invasion of a country that has not lifted a finger to threaten us. In fact, under the quiet guidance of the president of vice, super dick Cheney, actual presidential power has already been substantially increased.

So imagine for a long moment that the Obama star burns brighter over the summer months and looms super-nova sized as November approaches. Would our first and only would be “cowboy” president cause an attack on yet another country which has done nothing to threaten us, other than some loud mouthings off by one of its leaders? And again, most of that leader’s ire was directed against Israel, not to us. And because of our long relationship in funding and backing Israel, the unspoken truth is that the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is what has so riled up the Arab world against us, and even though the Bushes and Saudi Arabian monarchy are as bosom buddies, the fact is that the majority of the hijackers who perpetrated 9-11 were from the Saudi kingdom.

So what might be the nature of a Bush attack on Iran? A bombing of what might or might not be a nuclear plant? An actual border incursion by our military? Other questions follow in lockstep: would the military go along with such an expansion of the war? Especially since our military is so severely stretched already, on two fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan? Would General Petraeus, in particular, go along with such a strike, finally earning himself that moniker "Betray Us" that laid on him with its cute little ad. And if Bush were to call for such a strike, what would the country do? Would there be protest marches? Riots? Would Congressional Democrats attempt to curb such presidential powers using the courts? Would tepid Democratic leaders finally be moved to bring impeachment proceedings in the house? And what would the Supreme Court do if faced with such a suit against the president? Would it side with Bush as it had in the 2000 election? It all makes for some horrid speculation, don’t it?
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This has not been the best of weeks. The primary factor bringing it down for me was the death of George Carlin, the original, one and only class clown. Carlin could make a funny routine out of just about anything, although he remained most famous for his “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” routine. WBAI-FM, the Pacifica station in New York City played his Seven words at 4 o’clock one afternoon, and got taken to court because of it. Pacifica fought valiently for the right of free speech, but they ended up losing the case because of the time of the airing, it was broadcast at a time when children could hear it. When Nightsong was in its first incarnation, in the 12 to 3 am time slot on KPFT, I played the seven words without a single complaint. Of course, I didn’t break any laws, Pacifica lost its case in court because of the time it was played, no court would find if offensive to children in the wee hours of the morning. I remember the station manager expressing a bit of concern at the time, but I pointed out that the courts had restricted its playing during the daylight, child listening hours. If any children were listening, there world must have been pretty topsy turvy.

Carlin was a master at ridiculing just about every sacred cow you could name. Religion was one of his favorites topics. Below is a YouTube video of his rant on religion in case you might be interested. Enjoy.

Carlin was certainly one of a kind. Like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor he pioneered the use of forbidden language in public performances, although the pressure on him was never as great as it had been particularly on Bruce. Satirizing the ridiculousness of the situation towards the end Bruce used to get himself arrested in his nightclub routine simply by reading verbatim from the latest transcript of his court trial. Carlin was arrested one time for doing his seven words routine in a nightclub performance, but the judge dismissed the case rightly pointing out Carlin’s right to free speech.
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And from ars technica comes a report by Eric Bangeman:
A federal judge has awarded exonerated RIAA defendant Tanya Andersen $107,834 in attorneys' fees, a figure that isn't exactly what either party wanted. Andersen, a single mother in Oregon, was accused by the RIAA in 2005 of sharing music over KaZaA. Andersen denied the charges, filed a countersuit, and the RIAA finally dismissed the lawsuit last summer. Once the RIAA dismissed the case, she sought and won an attorneys' fees award as the prevailing party.

Judge James A. Redden agreed with a magistrate judge's calculations, rejecting both Andersen's argument for a significantly higher fee award and the RIAA's appeal for a much lower legal bill. Andersen's attorney, Lory Lybeck, had sought nearly $300,000—about $150,000 in fees and a multiplier of double the fee due to his "high-risk" and "successful" defense.

The RIAA countered that the $298,995 fee sought was "excessive" and that it should instead be in the neighborhood of one-tenth of that number. The labels said it was nothing more than a "straightforward" copyright infringement case, and that its independent experts thought the fees sought were excessive in many respects. In particular, the RIAA focused on the fact that Andersen occasionally had more than one attorney present at hearings, arguing that one attorney was sufficient. The problem with that reasoning is that the RIAA found it necessary to have as many as six attorneys present at a single hearing.

With the matter of attorneys' fees presumably settled (it's possible that the RIAA and/or Andersen might appeal — and the RIAA's record shows that it is willing to fight tooth-and-nail against fee awards), both parties can focus entirely on Andersen's malicious prosecution lawsuit. In it, Andersen accuses the RIAA of a whole host of misdeeds, including fraud, conspiracy, and abuse of the legal process. That case is moving ahead, with the parties submitting a joint status report and discovery plan earlier this month.

Let us give three cheers for the United States courts system which is finally turning from being handmaidens to the RIAA to beginning to cast a critical eye on the RIAA’s highly questionable tactics. Most recent court findings attest to the fact that just because a computer has copyrighted songs in a common folder is no proof that anyone has downloaded from it. From now on the RIAA is going to be forced to prove such material has actually been downloaded, and apparently doing so is beyond the abilities of their investigative companies at this time. It’s about goddamn time. The RIAA likes to tout that those who download music without paying for it are depriving the poor struggling artist of his money. But the reality is that the money which the RIAA’s legal team has been squeezing out of mostly college students using a technique that any reasonable person would call blackmail, that money never saw the light of an artist’s wallet. Such money was surely divided between the record company and the RIAA’s legal team. But let’s face it, college students have enough of a financial burden in these days of sky high tuitions and book prices, they don’t need to be helping finance a bankrupt and practically extinct recording industry and its vindictive legal team.
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Want a real treat? Highlight th URLs below and paste them into the address bar of your favorite web browser, and first read the N.Y.Times’ review of the latest Pixar movie, WALL-E. Then when you have finished the review watch the various previews of that movie by going the second URL. The movie is astonishing, to say the least. As the review of the movie by A. O. Scott says, “As the earth heats up, the vanishing of humanity has become something of a hot topic, a preoccupation shared by directors like Steven Spielberg (“A.I.”), Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”), M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”) and Werner Herzog.

In his recent documentary “Encounters at the End of the World” Mr. Herzog muses that “the human presence on this planet is not really sustainable,” a sentiment that is voiced, almost verbatim, in the second half of “Wall-E.” When the whimsical techies at Pixar and a moody German auteur are sending out the same message, it may be time to pay attention.” The complete review is at:
It is well worth the read, and then once you finish reading copy the URL below to your clipboard, and paste it into the address bar of your browser:
I guarantee you an extraordinary experience, you will be happy that you did.
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This Friday, June 27, marked the last work day of Microsoft founder and chief guru, Bill Gates, who thus ends his day job at Microsoft trading it in for fulltime duties with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the charitable foundation which is out to improve the planet by helping immunize the world’s children against diseases, and other worthwhile projects. Gates was certainly able to live his dream of personal computers in every home and office, all running HIS software. He was late to discover the world wide web and his extreme competitiveness caused him to crush the first web browser, Netscape, by including Microsoft’s copy/cat browser Internet Explorer as a free part of the Windows operating system. This type of behavior eventually landed Microsoft in federal court where it was prosecuted for monopolist powers, and even though the incoming Bush administration subsequently smiled kindly on the behemoth from Redmond, the European Union is still fining the teeth out of Microsoft for continuing its self-serving, anticompetitive practices.

Once upon a time Microsoft stood at the pinnacle of power in the world of the personal computer. Back then 90% of the world’s computers used the Windows operating system, and Microsoft reigned supreme and Bill Gates was the world’s richest man. But that time has surely passed, we’re eight years into a brand new century. The world wide web, otherwise known as the internet, is the new destination for the world’s personal computers. And crusty old Microsoft can’t bear to be standing on the sidelines looking in on the brand new behemoth from the cloud. For the new ruler of the net is Google. And may the heavens rock, Google offers its search services, and its full portfolio of other services from email to office programs absolutely FREE!! How can Microsoft possibly compete with that?

And how logical, it was for Google to find its fortune, for the web is worth next to nothing without the ability to search for and subsequently find whatever it is you are interested in. It all goes back to the ancient saying, “build a better mousetrap.” Google developed algorithms which actually bring accurate search results nearly instantly, and as a consequnce it’s share of web searches ranks well above 60% and climbing. (Google has even slipped into the language, “to google” being used as a verb meaning to search.) Yahoo's share of the search pie stands at around 20%, which is why Microsoft recently professed an interest in buying it. Microsoft’s own share of search runs at around 8%. Microsoft still dominates the operating system and the business software market, but it has a bad case of Google-envy, as it covets the position of owning the web as it already feels it does the operating system, but as of yet as it has not found the means to do this. Poor Microsoft. And with Bill Gates retiring from day to day operations, what do you think Microsoft’s chances are of dominating search and the web like Google currently does?

For a comedic look at Bill Gates last day at Microsoft, check out the video clip below. George Carlin it is not. But it does feature guest appearances by Brian Williams, Jay Z, Bono, and George Clooney. And it does have an occasional amusing moment.

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Move your body – charge your phone. The website Crave has a story about using your body and its movements to recharge cell phones, ipods, et. al. It’s at:

Music company Orange and GotWind, a firm specializing in renewable energy, have teamed up to create a device called the Dance Charge. Weighing 180 grams (about 6.3 ounces), you strap it around your arm. Dance Charge then uses the kinetic energy generated by your body’s motion to juice up your phone.

It also uses a system of weights and magnets to produce electric current to top off the storage battery, which can later be used to charge your handset. A prototype of the device will be shown and tested at this year's Glastonbury Festival.

(Source: Crave Asia)
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And then there’s the latest version of that time immemorial quest for the fountain of youth and eternal life. For the full story go to:
Gandhi once said, describing his critics, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." After declaring, essentially out of nowhere, that he had a program to end the disease of aging, renegade biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey knows how the first three steps of Gandhi's progression feel. Now he's focused on the fourth.

"I've been at Gandhi stage three for maybe a couple of years," de Grey said. "If you're trying to make waves, certainly in science, there's a lot of people who are going to have insufficient vision to bother to understand what you're trying to say."

This weekend, his organization, The Methuselah Foundation, is sponsoring its first U.S. conference on the emerging interdisciplinary field that de Grey has helped kick start. (Its first day, Friday, will be free and open to the public.) The conference, Aging: The Disease - The Cure - The Implications, held at UCLA, is an indication of how far de Grey has come in mainstreaming his ideas.

Less than a decade ago, de Grey was a relatively unknown computer scientist doing his own research into aging. As recently as three years ago a cadre of scientists wrote in the Nature-sponsored journal EMBO Reports, that his research program, known as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, was "so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community." Also in 2005, MIT-sponsored magazine Technology Review went so far as to offer a $20,000 prize to anyone who could prove that de Grey's program was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate." (No one won.)

Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach – looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology – as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.

What a fascinating concept? Aging as a disease from which we can be immunized? Of course there is no way the basic life/death process can be short circuited. All living things are born, grow, mature, then finally die. Mankind included. But how kickass is the audacity of this fellow to use every bit of knowledge at his command to attempt to reverse the natural process. Incredible chutzpah. And if there’s one thing I am sure of it is this: that most all of the world’s people will be wishing him well and much success, with pleadings from those of us bogged down in excessive age to please speed up your project. It would be nice to see a working regime in place while some 11of us are still around the enjoy it.
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And finally, you will undoubtedly be happy to learn that the Texas Supreme Court has reversed a ruling against a North Texas Pentecostal church which would have required it to pay a $300,000 judgement to a teen age girl for emotional trauma the former parishioner suffered as a youth when church members physically restrained and touched her during two exorcism attempts in 1996. The court reversed a judgement that a jury ordered paid to Laura Shubert in 2002. Schubert was 17 at the time when fellow parishioners at the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God Church in Colleyville, in an attempt to rid her of evil spirits, held her down and "laid hands" on her body as she struggled to break free. The original jury award was later reduced to $178,000.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 opinion, said the church's exorcism sessions were a matter of church doctrine and were thus subject to certain, though not absolute, First Amendment religious protections. "The laying of hands" and the presence of demons are part of the church's belief system and accepted as such by its adherents," the ruling said in part. "These practices are not normally dangerous or unusual and apparently arise in the church with some regularity. They are thus to be expected and are accepted by those in the church."

What do you want to bet that all of the so-called exorcism cases in that church involved teen age girls? After all, what would be the fun of extricating the devil from, say, a fat and formidable fifty year old. No fun in that, for sure. In fact that could be downright dangerous. But a nicely curvaceous, frisky frolicking fifteen year old, well, “Lord Please Help Us Uncover and Remove Every One of Her Demons! No Matter Where They Hide! Praise the Lord and Hold Her Down, Mort, I Think I’ve Got One On the Run! Ride ‘em Cowboy!!!” And afterwards, "hold your tongue, little lady. The Texas Supreme Court says this is all part of our religious beliefs and as a consequence is legal, moral, and most definitely not fattening.
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And so the sands of time have run out on yet another Little Eddy rant. We’re ever so glad you came, and do hope you can make it back again next week. In the meantime, bye bye, but whatever you do, be careful who you buy from, and remember not buy from Republicans peddling used wars.

The Real Little Eddy

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