Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blog #46: Charming Europe plus a Bush Whacking

{Little Eddy is an 82 year old accomplisher of little to nothing who freely offers his opinions on subjects like war mongering politicians and the dogs who run with them. His perceptions which might at first seem a wee bit outrageous, have been known to make a certain amount of sense after a short settling in process. At that point you are free to either laugh or cry at your own discretion.}

Barack Obama gave his Berlin speech on Thursday. Addressing a huge crowd estimated by CNN as over 200,000, he called on nations to "renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons" and unite to defeat terrorism while tearing down the "new walls" that divide people nearly 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.” He could have easily won a German election had he chosen to enter one. "In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less," Obama told the massive throng that frequently interrupted him with applause. "Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity." And yes, my dear Republicans, he looked very, very, very presidential. And John McCain, be careful issuing those Town Hall invitations. Loose Lips Sink Ships. You may well get what you’re asking for, and if that German crowd is any indication, chances are pretty good you will live to regret it.
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How wonderful our politicians are. Particularly Republicans. Take our Bush whacked president. Because the U.N. Mandate that keeps U.S. troops in Iraq runs out at the end of this year, for months he has been quietly trying to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government which would allow American troops to stay in Iraq. Evidently in Bush’s mind his legacy rests in our troops continuing their occupation, the need for which his weird reasoning seems to use to try and justify his original decision to invade. But Iraqi citizens are understandably wary of any long term agreement on their occupation, and are growing increasingly impatient for us to leave. (The fact that private “security” firms like Blackwater seem to have free reign to kill and maim with impunity on public Bagdad streets just might be one fact0r contributing to the Iraqi impatience.) At any rate the Maliki government wants a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops before it will sign the damn thing. You read that right, the T word. A timetable.

Poor John McCain, he goaded Barack Obama into going to Iraq to find out what the situation is really like there, only to have Iraqi president Maliki all but endorse Obama’s withdrawal timetable. How presidential looking is that? And our poor, much maligned Bush, who has heroically resisted every Democratic Congressional attempt to tack on what he has consistently labeled an “artificial timetable” to its bills funding the war, how awful of that mean old Maliki to make an end run around the Bush backside insisting that the T word is not the least bit artificial and, thank you very much, he wants one before he’ll sign any papers allowing our military to stay. Damn, with Bush’s past history you can’t expect him to suddenly embrace, or even allow so much as a mention of the word timetable. So what to do?

A rose by any other name smells. As James Carville might put it, Call It Something Else, Stupid! For instance, how about “time horizon.” That should pretty well sanitize it. It even sounds scientific, doesn’t it, like it is somehow related to a black hole’s “event horizon?” It’s damned appropriate too, for the Iraq invasion is certainly the black hole of the Bush 43 legacy. We hate being the one to have to ring in the bad news, but as we write the American economy is disappearing lock, stock and barrel straight down the Iraqi “time horizon’s event horizon.” And since not even light itself can escape a black hole, the U.S. economy doesn’t stand a chance in hell.
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Do you ever ask yourself why a smart, well educated people like we 21st Century denizens of the 48 contiguous states repeatedly fall for these so-called President’s Wars like Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq? I mean, why don’t we ever learn, one from the other. Well, in my opinion it begins early on when we are in elementary school. It is there that we are first taught to not rely on our own powers of observation and judgement, but instead to turn to “authority” to validate what is real or what isn’t. In school this means your teacher, once you’re out of school it is the expert we should listen to. This permeates through the entire educational system, even carrying itself into the realm of graduate thesis writing. Unsubstantiated data, like your own observations and your own line of reasoning to prove your thesis is not allowed. You must prove your points citing established authority, which is probably why so little of real value emanates from graduates of the academic world, and why the true titans of our modern high tech world are college dropouts like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Thus it is that our tradition of relying on experts rather than having the confidence to use our own observations and inborn sense of judgement is thrust upon us when we are young and impressionable. And this is the state of mind which allows these periodic incursions into the realm of political unreality to happen. Unreal statements like “we’ll bomb them back to the stone age” (heard incessantly during the Vietnam war) or “we’ll have those Japs licked in a matter of weeks.” Yeah, sure! (I actually remember hearing that phrase uttered many times in the days following Pearl Harbor.) The minute presidential anointed pundits begin their mouth offs promoting a new incursion sure to end in full blown war, none of us, neither journalist nor ordinary citizen, dare offer differing observations, our schooling having taught us we just aren’t qualified to challenge the assertions of so-called experts. And so we keep our mouths shut, although when we are truly bothered we tend to tune things out.

Remember Paul Wolf0witz’s fantasy testimony in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. The picture he painted of streets lined with Iraqi women and children waving flowers in greeting our humvee mounted troops as they motored into Bagdad as liberators. And Wolfowitz’s further assurances that this war would be over in weeks if not days, and would cost us absolutely nothing, because it would be paid for entirely by Iraqi oil? What a crock? And adding insult to injury Bush later attempted to reward the spewer of this garbage by appointing him director of the World Bank. Justice is not altogether dead, however, for the Bank later overruled Bush and stripped Wolfowitz of his title. Good riddance of bad rubbish, as we used to say when I was a kid.

If just once these so-called experts were held accountable for their hawkish misspeaks then maybe we could break this seemingly unending chain of presidents’ wars. We need to always keep in mind that the trade of the military is murder, state directed murder true, but indeed murder. And military success is measured in the number of casualties, translate that to mean “enemy soldiers” they have killed and maimed. Which is the reason that in a free country like ours we traditionally have civilians directing the military. However, the thing we discovered from our Iraq experience was beware of putting civilians who have never served in the military into positions of power over the military. Men who do not know the true horror of war and who tend to think of the military in terms of extending their own personal power are the truly dangerous ones, men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield, and Paul Wolfowitz are far more dangerous running the military than professionally trained, experienced soldiers would be. And in a conflict free future civilians like these should always be properly rewarded for their breech of our trust. A well televised war crimes trial on the world stage would be the most appr0priate reward I could think of for repaying such wanton misbehavior, and it might even serve as a warning to future generations of would be conflict starters.
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Shame on T. Bone Pickens, the Texas oil man who helped fund the scurrilous Swift Boat Veterans for Lies, the group whose books, interviews and ads helped defeat John Kerry in the 2004 race for president. Would John Kerry have made a better president than George W. Bush? Who the hell knows, but he sure couldn’t have been any worse. And putting out a pack of lies is a helluva way to run a presidential race, though I’ve no doubt at all it would have have been the way to go in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. However, this is 2008, not 2004. And in 2008 Mr. Pickens seems to have found the road to redemption which he is motoring down at full throttle. We cite his excellent series of television ads pointing out that 70% of our oil is imported, causing the largest transfer of wealth in the history of our planet. And further pointing out the pressing need to somehow extricate ourselves from this gigantic monkey on our backs that is imported oil. His commercials give us h0pe as they show pictures of wind turbines and speak of the need for natural gas and solar power to help ease our addiction to foreign oil.

It is quite true that Mr. Pickens cowardly abandoned his offer to pay a million dollars to anyone who could prove the Swift Boaters were wrong. When presented with incontrovertible evidence he reneged on the offer, claiming that when he had made it he had meant only the tv commercials, although he failed to mention that at the time. He did thank the veteran’s group for their interest and their research, however, all the while sticking with the fiction of his meaning tv commercials only. But his 2008 call for relieving us of our addiction to foreign oil is most timely indeed, and his plan seems well worth careful consideration. It certainly goes far beyond what either presidential candidate or political party has yet put forth. And Mr. Pickens seems to have hooked himself up with a very talented ad agency, for the ad he is running is most arresting. We wish him all the luck in the world in his endeavor, and pray for its success for the future well being of our nation and the world.

We are sorry he helped fund that garbage back in 2004, Texas oilmen are known to be conservative to the point of freaking out six ways to Sunday when suddenly threatened with an unknown. However what kind of world would this be if there was no chance for redemption? All hail the 2008 Mr. Pickens for putting his money where his mouth is, and trying like hell to bring the rest of us along with him for the ride before it’s too late. And if I had a chance to meet and talk with him, I would ask him, “now isn’t funding a campaign intent on telling the truth a lot more rewarding than funding one consisting of scurrilous packs of lies? Welcome to the Light Side, Mr. Pickens. Neither Left nor Right, our side is illuminated by Twin Lights of Truth and Reason.
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Want to know where the future of news via the internet lies. If so go no further than: It is the home of Ariana Huffington’s Blog, of course, and her post this week introduces a brand new feature, HuffPost’s Big News Pages, which she labels as one stop shopping for Obamaniaks, Apple Junkies, Brangelina Freaks and News Obsessives of Every Ilk. It bills itself as news so big it needs its own page, and it may be found at:

Wednesday’s page under Politics included stories on Terrorism, Barack Obama, John McCain, Iraq, Nuclear Weapons (Bush 41 adviser Brent Scowcroft says he would advise Israel to “calm down” on Iran Strike), Blackwater (claims it is quitting the security/killing business), Iran, Jim Webb, Dick Cheney, George Bush, etc.

Even before the addition of the Big News Pages the Huffington Post’s coverage of the news well exceeded that of most news sources I regularly check. And Wednesday the N.Y.Times reported that HuffPost’s new online citizen journalism project,, now boasts 7500 citizen correspondents, up from 300 one year ago. The group had two scoops which gained it national attention recently, Barack Obama’s “bitter” comments from a closed fundraiser, and in early June when Bill Clinton lashed out at a Vanity Fair writer. HuffPost news is presented in a way that is both colorful and exciting, and gives you the option of either reading an overview when you’re pressed for time, or diving fully into the material when you wish. Ariana’s posts are always right on target, and the Huffington Post has the most thorough collection of political and related news relevant to the moment.

As promised on Wednesday there was an Apple page among the Big News pages, with every conceivable article on the iPhone, Apple’s new software store, and the state of Steve Job’s health that you could possibly wish for. We especially liked the article on Dennis Kucinich’s attempt to Impeach President Bush, the one which advised him to boil his articles of impeachment down from 25 articles to ten, put one of them on iTunes, and get Steve Jobs to introduce the iPeachment, and don’t forget to have him point out that iPeachment 08 is also brought to you in partnership with AT&T.
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Speaking of Steve Jobs, ever since I viewed the June film of Job’s presentation of the iPhone 3G, I have been worried about the man’s health. He looked terrible. He had color, but way too much color, he looked almost jaundiced. And he was gaunt. The victims liberated from Nazi concentration camps at the end of world war II seemed almost overweight compared to Steve at that presentation. At the time Apple said he was recovering from a bug, but he was getting over it and wanted to do the iPhone 3G presentation. But he turned large parts of the presentation over to two underlings, which added to the concern of Steve watchers the world over.

And here it is over a month later and people are still worried about his health. The question came up during Apple’s recent financial report delivered by Apple’s financial officers. In it Apple reported that it had shipped more Macs in the quarter than ever before — 2.5 million, up 41 percent from a year ago, with desktop shipments growing even faster than laptops. Apple is now the third leading computer vendor in the United States, Macintosh has an 8.5 share of the American market. Apple said iPod shipments jumped 12 percent. However Jobs did not join in on the conference call with investors like he usually does, and that prompted one analyst to inquire about his health. Jobs has survived pancreatic cancer. Charles Wolf with Needham & Co. said Apple's stock would probably drop 20 or 30 percent if Jobs were to leave the company. "There is one person there who really makes that operation excel, and it is Steve Jobs," he said. "It's difficult to argue that he doesn't have superhuman powers, given what he's done over the last five years." "He has no plan to leave Apple," Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer assured. He added, "Steve's health is a private matter."

Sure Mr. Jobs’ health is a private matter, but that flew in one ear and out the other as there is not a CEO in any company, in America or the World, who is as personally linked to his company’s products as closely as Jobs is. He is there at every stage, from creation to completion. Here follows Little Eddy’s brief history of Apple in a nutshell:

Apple Computer was founded April 1st, 1976 by the two Steves, Steve Wozniac and Steve Jobs, and it was incorporated on January 3, 1977. In the 80’s Jobs led the group that developed the Macintosh, and shortly thereafter he was fired by John Scully, the very CEO he had lured from Pepsi Cola by asking him if he really wanted sugar water to be his legacy to the world. From that point on Apple’s road was rocky, and by the mid nineties Apple was a company floundering, each week brought more rumors of its eminent collapse. Things were so bad that at a graphic arts convention someone asked Michael Dell, of Dell computers, what he would do with Apple were he in charge, and he replied he would shut it down, sell off its assets, and give the money to stockholders. Fortunately for the tech world Apple’s history played out a bit differently.

After leaving Apple Jobs founded NEXT, a firm manufacturing computers for business. He returned to Apple in 1996 when Apple bought NEXT and contracted for the NEXT operating system to be the basis for the next Macintosh operating system, OS X. Soon after Jobs was made interim C. E. O., and was listed as iCEO, the first of a series of historic creations beginning with the small letter i. Jobs came back to a company with way too many models of computers, whose sales were lagging, and whose stock was gathering dust in computer stores around the country. Jobs began by ending cloning, which was bleeding the company of business by giving away its operating system to other vendors to run on hardware of their own making, although he very cleverly brought the telephone sales staff of the most successful of the clone operations to Cupertino to form the basis of the Apple online store. Next he broke down the Macintosh into four distinct groups, desktop computers for business and graphic artists, desktop computers for the home, notebooks for professionals, and notebooks for home and students. Those were it, there would be no other models.

Then he made what many feel was the most momentous decision of all, he had his engineers build an all in one computer (with the screen housed in the same shell as the other components) meant for the home market, a computer with a translucent shell so you could see it’s CRT innards. He called it an iMac, it began life being offered in bondi blue and it went on to be offered in many colors, and the beige box for Apple home computers was dead on arrival. And Apple’s history was therein changed forever.

People tend to forget that technically Apple has always led the way. The original Macintosh circa 1984 was also an all in one computer with its viewing screen housed with the computer’s other components. It was the first computer to use a mouse as well as a keyboard to input data. It was also the first computer to offer a 1.5” floppy disk from which to load in or save data, other computers of the time used 5 inch disks that were indeed floppy. It is ironic that after beginning the floppy disk era with their original Macintosh, it was the birth of the iMac of the late 90’s which signaled the end of the floppy disk era, as the iMac lacked a floppy disk port, instead allowing you to both import from and export data to compact discs. The iMac has evolved steadily ever since. Next in its evolution was the lampshade iMac, which the lcd screen swing freely in the air, while the computer’s workings were hidden in its half round bass unit. But that was relatively short lived and soon gave way to the iMac’s latest and greatest incarnation, with the computers guts hidden in the back of a large liquid crystal display screen. It is this configuration that has become standard, so much so that two of Apple’s leading competitors, Dell and Gateway, have both developed all in one computers with their guts hiding behind the lcd display imitating the iMac. So that people who want Windows in their all-in-ones can now have that choice.

Some people credit Apple’s entry into the MP3 player market with the iPod as being the game changer that brought Apple’s products to the masses. The iPod was by no means the first MP3 player. But Apple brought the developers of an MP3 player to Apple to design the software and assigned a team of engineers to design the hardware. According to Wikipedia the name iPod is credited to a freelance copy writer name Vince Cheico who with others was called together to figure out how to introduce the new player to the public. After Chieco saw the prototype he recalled the phrase from 2001: A Space Odyssey, "Open the pod bay door, Hal!", which refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. A check with the US Patent office disclosed that the name iPod was already in use for internet kiosks, but they were discontinued by 2001. Apple leased the name from the original owner until the trademark could be assigned to it in 2005. But the hidden hook in the iTunes world, the thing which makes it so popular that it has surpassed WalMart as the number one source for music in the United States, is the iTunes store where you can buy a song online for 99 cents, and download it to your computer where it is automatically placed in your song collection, and these days you can even download songs directly from your iPhone or iPod Touch courtesy wifi.

But of course the latest Apple coup was in the development of the iPhone. It debuted in 2007, and was updated to the 3G phone with assisted GPS this July. It is said by many in the know to be the mobile game changer, for it is the first mobile platform with a true operating system, consquently it is the first true hand held computing platform disguised as a phone and an ipod. Apple reported selling one million of the 3G in its first weekend, and expects sales to reach ten million iPhones sold by the end of 2008.

Several days ago a most interesting story bylined by Lonnie Lazar surfaced on the website, Cult of the Mac. It seems that a software engineer named Satoshi Nakajima, who had been the lead architect of Microsoft’s Windows 95, picked up a Mac for the first time two years ago. He was so impressed, he says he’ll never touch a PC again. Satoshi loves Apple products so much he started a company in April, Big Canvas, to develop for Apple’s iPhone platform full-time. “We have chosen iPhone as the platform to release our first product (for) several reasons,” explains his company’s website. “We love Apple products… You need love to be creative.”

Based in Bellevue, WA — right next to Microsoft’s home turf of Redmond — Satoshi spent nearly 14 years at Microsoft, serving as the software architect of Windows 95 and 98. He also oversaw the development of Internet Explorer 3.0 and 4.0. While at Microsoft, he developed the third largest portfolio of intellectual property of any employee at the company, according to his bio. Last week, Satoshi released his company’s first iPhone application, Photoshare, a free, social networking app for sharing pictures with the iPhone.

Reassuring news concerning his health came from Steve Jobs himself, by way of Joe Nocera writing in the N.Y. Times of “Apple’s Culture of Secrecy.” Mr. Nocera wrote: “Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed. Because the conversation was off the record, I cannot disclose what Mr. Jobs told me. Suffice it to say that I didn’t hear anything that contradicted the reporting that John Markoff and I did this week. While his health problems amounted to a good deal more than “a common bug,” they weren’t life-threatening and he doesn’t have a recurrence of cancer.” In quoting from Mr. Nocera’s generally excellent article on Apple’s secrecy and Steve Jobs’ health, I left off his parting, slightly snide closing. It went like this: After he hung up the phone, it occurred to me that I had just been handed, by Mr. Jobs himself, the very information he was refusing to share with the shareholders who have entrusted him with their money. You would think he’d want them to know before me. But apparently not.

I add it here with the notation, of course he wanted to inform his stockholders, that’s why he called you. And how clever of him to swear you to secrecy, so that they don’t really know, but have to take your word on the state of his health. In a way that tells more really, than if he had opened the conversation, because it shows how well he is in charge.

How refreshing to read that Mr. Jobs came on in the venacular of the late Fake Steve Jobs. Damn it S J, whether you like it or not, you are the secret sauce of Apple’s entire lineup of Big Macs, pods, and phones. It is your vision, your expertise, your unmitigated devotion to your product line that remains unmatched in the world of manufacturing and business. Already the rumor mills are cranking out news of exciting breakthrough products waiting in the wings. We’re glad as hell you’re alright and hope you have many good years ahead of you. Please stay well so you can bring each and every one of these unique creations to us in your own inimitable style. And keep those breathtaking innovations coming. Many of us out here in dull real world have a real jones for the fruits of your high tech loom.
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Little Eddy’s weekly musings are dedicated to the memory of Samuel B. Clements, aka Mark Twain, who in literature was the first to capture true American life and speech, and who in his lectures and writings spent much of his time berating the shenanigans of our government. We are also inspired by the work of the late George Carlin, who told it like he saw it, with acute insight and unblushing honesty. We thank you for dropping by and hope to see you again next week. We post Saturday mornings and it stays up all week. Please come and see us again, and point any friends who you think might enjoy our ruminations towards us. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy

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