Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blog #44: Let's Hear It for YouTube

Ain’t YouTube grand? Nobody can get away with nothing any more. If they try it will surely be posted on YouTube. For instance, the McCain campaign had a 61 year old librarian removed from a rally in Denver, Colo. Friday for carrying a handwritten sign. The sign said simply: McCain = Bush. You can view the video here and see for yourself:

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Let us shed a sympathetic tear for the G.O.P. This past spring the once noble party of Abraham Lincoln (with George W. Bush on the other end of the seesaw) lost all three of its congressional races to Democratic challengers, each one in a rock solid Republican district, and according to reliable reports from reputable sources this bad news and various other assorted omens are serving to convince Republican activists that they are in what Bush the father might have termed deep doodoo. (At least Bush 1’s #1 imitator Dana Carvey liked to use the term.) However, the never to be flustered Republicans are already planning ahead trying and find a way out of the losses they fully expect this November. Their strategy is centered on winning gubernatorial races of various states in 2010. Presently there are 28 Democratic governors. If Republicans can just turn the tide at a statewide level, they could attempt to regain their Congressional majorities by redistricting those states to facilitate Republican races following the 2010 Census.

"The 2010 elections are almost as important or equally important as the elections this year,” said Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, whose comments reflect a massive dose of wishful fantasy and pipe dreaming with or without a controlled substance. “After redistricting in 2011, the governors are going to have a huge influence in determining the political makeup of this country," . "We could feasibly see 25 to 30 congressional seats swing as the result of redistricting. And the state legislatures and governors could determine that swing. Can the National Republican Congressional Committee make a statement like that with a straight face? It would be harder for them."

That strategy was the precise route taken by Texas’ own dearly departed Tom DeLay, the former House leader from Sugarland, Texas who several years ago reshaped the Texas House delegation with a highly partisan redistricting of the state. DeLay got his Republican House all right, but his consequent grand jury indictment at the hands of Austin district attorney Ronnie Earle tended to put somewhat of a damper on his future in the House, since after his indictment he was forced by House Rules to resign his seat. His silk stocking Sugarland district is currently being represented, horror upon horror, by Nick Lampson, a Democrat, whose former district was melded into DeLay’s Sugarland district. That’ll show you Tom DeLay, redistricting can be a two-way, as well as a dead end street.

Of course, as a last resort errant Republicans could try serving the interests of the majority of their constituency, rather than just serving the interests of the monied few at the top of the economic heap. However, if they did that they would undoubtedly lose much of their luster and most 0f their funding, and would probably end up being all but indistinguishable from Democrats. Bite your tongue, Little Eddy!
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Another Texas alumni is in the news these days. Dear old Phil Gramm, who once taught economics to future farmers (at Texas A&M college.) The former senator's suggestion that much of Americans' economic pain and uncertainty is psychosomatic came in an interview with the conservative Washington Times. "You've heard of mental depression. This is a mental recession," he told the paper. "We have sort of become a nation of whiners. ... You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."

"I guess what he meant was, it's a figment of your imagination, these high gas prices," Barack Obama told supporters in Fairfax, Va. "America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one when it comes to the economy." Mr. McCain – clearly unhappy with the distraction – said that people who've lost their jobs or are struggling to pay bills aren't suffering from a " 'mental recession.' ... America is in great difficulty, and we are experiencing economic challenges."

Asked if he still would consider Mr. Gramm for Treasury secretary or another top administration post, he said, "Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that." Although most felt that to be a joke, while delivering it McCain did not crack a smile.

Mr. Gramm is a "pretty savvy guy" on economics, said political scientist Bruce Buchanan at the University of Texas at Austin. But "what Gramm is doing here is effectively insulting the American people. ... Gramm ought to know better than that as a former presidential candidate. But people with strong opinions sometimes speak too strongly to be politic." Dr. Buchanan predicted that Mr. Gramm will be forced into a far lower profile, perhaps offering advice only by telephone from now on.

Mr. Gramm didn't respond to an interview request placed through aides at UBS, the Swiss banking firm where he is vice chairman. But he called the Washington Times on Thursday to clarify that he wasn't criticizing the public. Rather, he was faulting "American leaders who whine instead of lead. ... Certainly too many members of Congress and the Barack Obama campaign fall into the category of whiners." We hold out hopes that after the coming November election the loudest whiners of all will be all of the Republicans who will have been soundly voted out of office.
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The new iphone 3G went on sale Friday in Apple and AT&T stores nationwide, amd although there is definite interest in the phone, of course the interest is nowhere near comparable to the interest created by the initial iphone offering. What few have noted, however, is that with the creation of the Applications Store the iphone has become an even hotter property, and Apple’s OS X mobile system has the possibility of doing in the smart phone field what Apple failed to do early on in the computer business. That is, draw up an operating system that will likely become an industry standard.

Few companies have the obsession with quality and ease of use that Apple has for its products (a company that has similar standards in kitchen products would be Cuisinart.) A recent survey of the original iphone showed that after only six months of availability the Apple iphone had garnered 28% of the smart phone market, second only to RIM (Blackberry) products, but more than all other software providers combined, including Palm, Symbian and Windows Mobile. However, recently several speculators have conjectured that with Apple’s new phone’s inclusion of “push” capabilities for email, etc., the iphone, combined with its other talents, has a very good chance of doing in the mobile computing world what Apple’s Macintosh system had not been able to do in the world of personal computing, and that is become the standard platform of choice. Nothing is set in stone as yet, of course, Apple is still a minority player in the mobile industry, but because of it’s diversity and ease of use the iphone’s prospects seem huge.
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When a Belgium brewer is in friendly talks to buy Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser and Bud Lite, what does that say about the state of the American economy and the place of the United States in the world’s economy? After initial hostility to the idea of it being taken over by the Belgium brewer, Anheuser-Busch is now reported to be in friendly talks. InBev has raised its offer to $70 a share, more than the $65 it had initially offered, a person close to the talks said. Helping drive the deal was an indication that some of Anheuser’s largest shareholders, including Warren E. Buffett, were leaning towards backing a deal with InBev. Next foreign interests will be buying our purple mountains majesty and our amber waves of grain.
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With the installation of Firefox 3, although Camino (also a product of the Mozilla Foundation, but a browser more closely matched with Mac OS X) is the browser of my choice, I have taken a renewed interest in Firefox which sports a Stumble Upon button on its tool bar. Stumble Upon is a website which matches you up with sites of interests which match the profile you give it. It is a fascinating experience. For instance I hit the Stumble button just now and an article called the Improbably of God by Richard Dawkins came up: Mr. Dawkins starts out by reminding us of what attrocities people have done in the name of God. “Irishmen blow each other up in his name. Arabs blow themselves up in his name. Imams and ayatollahs oppress women in his name. Celibate popes and priests mess up people's sex lives in his name. Jewish shohets cut live animals' throats in his name. The achievements of religion in past history – bloody crusades, torturing inquisitions, mass-murdering conquistadors, culture-destroying missionaries, legally enforced resistance to each new piece of scientific truth until the last possible moment – are even more impressive.” In case what you’ve read so far intrigues you here is the page’s URL:

This morning’s second Stumble turned up a page with a Random Title Generator. There are six places for titles and when I pressed the Give Me Some Titles button the following appeared: Forgotten Consort, The Final Night, Door of Voyages, The Ships’s Man, The Soul of the Trainer, Night in the Stones. Interesting, what?

My third Stumble of the morning brought me to AccuRadio, which calls itself the Next Generation of Radio, where you can click of various types of music channels, or Build Your Own Channel.

My fourth Stumble produced a series of labels that heretics can paste onto the Gideon Bibles one finds in hotel and motel rooms. Labels like: Warning Literal belief in this book may endanger your mental health and life!

And at: we stumbled upon the following quotations: Albert Einstein: I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his [sic] creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious ourselves.

Bertrand Russell: In conclusion, there is a marvelous anecdote from the occasion of Russell's ninetieth birthday that best serves to summarize his attitude toward God and religion. A London lady sat next to him at this party, and over the soup she suggested to him that he was not only the world's most famous atheist but, by this time, very probably the world's oldest atheist. "What will you do, Bertie, if it turns out you're wrong?" she asked. "I mean, what if -- uh -- when the time comes, you should meet Him? What will you say?" Russell was delighted with the question. His bright, birdlike eyes grew even brighter as he contemplated this possible future dialogue, and then he pointed a finger upward and cried, "Why, I should say, 'God, you gave us insufficient evidence.'" (Al Seckel, in Preface to Bertrand Russell on God and Religion)

I’m sure you get the idea. For those of you who would like to do your own stumbling you can go to: and sign up.
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T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire Texas oilman, was so sure that the 2004 campaign to discredit John Kerry’s war record run by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was accurate that last November he offered $1 million to anyone who could disprove any of the accusations. Now that a second group, the first of which was Kerry himself, has taken him up on his offer and provided proof, he is changing his story.

A group of Swift boat veterans sympathetic to Mr. Kerry sent Mr. Pickens a letter last week taking him up on the challenge. In 12 pages, plus a 42-page attachment of military records and other documents, they identified not just one but ten lies in the group’s campaign against Mr. Kerry. They offered to meet with him to provide Mr. Kerry’s journals and videotapes from Vietnam and a copy of his full military record certified by the Navy – a key demand of Mr. Pickens and veterans who believe Mr. Kerry lied about his service to win his military decorations.

Mr. Pickens replied with a one-page letter, thanking the veterans for their research and their service, but politely saying there had been a misunderstanding. “Key aspects of my offer of $1 million have not been accurately reported,” he wrote. When he offered the reward at an American Spectator dinner in November, blogs sympathetic to Mr. Pickens reported that he had not challenged anyone to disprove “anything” the Swift boat group said. In his letter, Mr. Pickens explained that his bet actually applied to only the television ads the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth bought, and not to their bestselling book or the media interviews that generated more attention than the ads themselves.

“In reviewing your material, none of the information you provide speaks specifically to the issues contained in the ads,” he wrote, “and, as a result, does not qualify for the $1 million.” It was pretty much the same response he had given to Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, who seized the challenge immediately after Mr. Pickens made it last year. Pickens offered more generous compliments in his letter to the veterans, and suggested that they take up their issues with John O’Neill, the founder of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. (Mr. O’Neill, who first debated Mr. Kerry about the war in Vietnam on the Dick Cavett show in 1971, does not cede anything.) As for this this presidential cycle, Mr. Pickens says he will not give any money to partisan causes.

However, in spite of the foolishness he helped fund in 2004 which helped perpetuate this trainwreck that is our current Washington leadership, he does seem to be coming to his economic senses in 2008. His observations on the state of the nation’s fuel situation seem accurate, and he is certainly putting his own money where his mouth is. More than likely you’ve already run into his little sermon on America’s energy situation. If not click below:

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The now lonely and occasionally delusional CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer (Bill Gates has left the building), was in Houston last week to address a convention of Microsoft Partners. Brad Hem in the Houston Chronicle reported on the event: On a day when most of the technology buzz surrounded Friday's scheduled debut of Apple's new 3-G iPhone, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a crowd in Houston his company needs to do more "cool" stuff. "We haven't surprised people quite as much as we need to," Ballmer said, speaking Wednesday to thousands of Microsoft partners in town for an annual conference. "What we need to do is have products that surprise people, that delight people." He disputed the idea that Apple or Google is cooler than Microsoft. "They're more newsworthy," he acknowledged.

Of course what Mr. Ballmer seems to have failed to grasp is that before you can put out products that are “cool” you have to be able to identify what exactly makes a product “cool.” While Microsoft with its X-Box was busy trying to outdo the graphics of Sony’s PlayStation, Nintendo surged ahead of both of them with its motion controlled Wii system. And Microsoft’s MP3 player, the Zune, is certainly no iPod killer, it isn’t even the second or third ranking MP3 player out there. These days Microsoft seems to excel in just one thing: Envy. Google Envy and Apple Envy come to mind. Not that Microsoft is in any immediate danger of losing it’s hold on desktop computing in spite of Apple’s recent gains in the market, and the open source world of Linux that is beckoning those who have begun to resent MS’s substantially priced software. And then there’re the European Union’s continual fines against the very corporate behavior which had allowed Microsoft to build its monopoly in the first place.

On the other hand putting aside Microsoft’s original hold on the world of the computer, Windows and Office, it’s products are not that much better than the competition, and in some cases are inferior. And rewarding people with cash for clicking on products in its search engine might bring up, will not work nearly as well as Google’s algorithms which bring up your information requests faster and with more accuracy. Also Google realized the true characteristic of the internet: that it should be open to everyone who wishes it and it should be free. It is no secret why Google search rules the web, it is better and faster than the competition. And obviously search is the most valuable vehicle for finding content on the web.

Mr. Ballmers also promised the partners that MS was going to do a series of ads on its own to counter the Apple ads. However, Mr. Ballmer needs to worry less about being cool and answering Apple’s computer guy ads, and more about directing his company to produce an operating system that people will truly want to own. One that’s so undeniably fast and stable that Apple’s computer guy commercials won’t be relevant any more. In short he doesn’t need to fight Apple’s ads with ads of his own. He needs to make a stable operating system that people will celebrate, as many people celebrate Apple’s OS X.
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I have an interesting question to pose for your prudent ponderability. Why do we as a nation refuse to admit to our past mistakes and pretend we can do no wrong? I mean really, we proved that to be a lie with the torture rampant at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. But in our heart of hearts we deny that we have ever done anything wrong. It is so basic a law of nature. Neither a country nor an individual can improve his/its behavior as long as he/it refuses to admit bad behavior or reason to change.

We are waist deep in the Big Muddy that is Iraq because we would not admit to our failures in Korea and Vietnam, and the fallacy under which we originally entered those conflicts. Consequently we left ourselves open for a repeat in kind.

Let’s face it, we were engaged in warfare first in Korea and later in Vietnam because the powers that be in Washington, what the late David Halberstam called “the best and the brightest,” sincerely deluded themselves into believing that America was engaged in a power struggle to the death for the hearts and minds of the people of Asia and the world against communism. In Vietnam we had hopelessly confused freedom with servitude under the remnants of Colonial rule that was created when the generals from the north who moved south after the peace treaty was signed.

As ridiculous as it seems in the wake of the demise of Soviet Russia and the subsequent disintegration of the Berlin Wall, our foreign policy from the end of World War II until the demise of the Wall was predicated on the assumption that we were in a constant life and death strugle with the communist world. We as a nation were so paranoid that during the 1950’s our bombers armed with nuclear weapons flew night and day sorties right up to Russian air space, at which point they then turned around and flew back to their bases. This of course, wasn’t common knowledge at the time, if people had realized that such an absurdity was going on surely there would have been enough sane Americans to protest it. This ridiculous, expensive, and highly dangerous practice was finally abandoned thanks in part to the Stanley Kubrick film, Dr. Stangelove, which for the first time showed the people of the United States a depiction of the practice, and what its dire consequences might be.

During the entire cold war this country operated on the assumption that Communism was evil and wrong, but if one tiny bastion of communism should set its foot down anywhere in the world, other nations would fall to the evil. This theory was developed during the Eisenhower regime by the brothers Dulles (John Foster was Secretary of State and Allen Dulles headed the CIA) and it was widely believed, and it even had a name. The Domino Theory. And its true believers permeated the federal government from State to Defense to CIA, to what have you. Said President Dwight D. Eisenhower in describing it: “Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.” This theory was the impetus which got us into two wars, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. In each case our involvement was intended to stem the ever incursive surge of the communist menace.

Of course, the entire country had suffered through World War II and in order to be victorious it had been necessary for all of us to give up things. Because of the massiveness of the Second World War, requiring engagement on many fronts, the American people had willingly put up with these hardships. However, neither Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower in the case of Korea nor Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon in the case of Vietnam dared put the American population through the kind 0f sacrifices which would have been required to wrestle victory from the jaws of defeat. Lyndon Johnson even coined the term “guns and butter” to describe how the country was going to wage the war in a way that would be painless to the American people. And especially in the case of Vietnam the US leadership clearly misjudged a strong nationalist desire for independence from colonial rule with the menace of communism.

Korea ended up where it began, at the 38th parallel, with neither side showing any particular gain from the conflict. The communist regime in North Korea remained in power, as did the so-called democratically elected regime in South Korea. The Domino was held in check. United States meddling in the case of Vietnam was more distinct. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the north, was as much a nationalist as he was communist. He had worked all his life to gain Vietnam’s idependence from French rulers of the colony. When the communists defeated the French in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu the peace treaty called for elections to be held in both halves of the severed Vietnam. However, the United States failed to hold the elections called for because as president Eisenhower later put it, “Ho Chi Minh would have gotten 80% of South Vietnam’s vote.” Of course, isn’t a plurality of 80% of the population just what democracy is all about? Well, not in the fifties, not if the 80% favored a communist leadership.

If we had not been guided by obsessed, misguided leadership after World War II we might have never gotten involved in Korea and Vietnam, a massive waste of lives and resources. And if we were the type of nation to admit to our mistakes and attempt to learn from them, we would not have been such fodder for the Bush leadup to the invasion of Iraq. Bush might have railed against Sadamm Hussein’s corrupt regime, but the fact is that Washington has always been quick to support dictatorships, seemingly the bloodier the better. The U. S. Army even trains soldiers from select South American dictatorships in the fine points of keeping a people repressed. It is a democracy in which the people of a country freely cast their vote to put their government in power that the powers that be in Washington are most suspicious of. And in many cases we subsequently begin covertly subverting the country toward the dictator of our preference. Ah well, maybe next time we’ll know better. SAY WHAT???!!!

The Real Little Eddy

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