Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blog #59: Undies in a Bind!

When Microsoft is not getting its undies in a bind with Apple envy it is freaking out with Google envy. Microsoft inherited this envy jones from its ultra-competitive founder Bill Gates, and it is being merrily carried forth by his designated successor, CEO Steve Ballmer. In the dawn of the personal computer age whenever a new software product was introduced, if it was not of Microsoft's making the company would immediately start a whisper campaign advising prospective buyers to wait before buying it as Microsoft was busy developing a similar program and of course it would be so much better. This happened again and again, and engendered the term, “vapor ware.”

Microsoft is still the most competitive company on the block. And when it is not green with Apple Envy it is being consumed by Google covetousness. But Microsoft will not take the first step in matching Google's unyielding service to its customers and the web. That is because Microsoft does nothing unless it is paid for it; and paid pretty damn well at that. In unique contrast Google encourages its engineers to spend 20% of their Google time on their own projects. This has brought on such services as gmail and Google Maps, among many other software applications and services. Google's newest service is extremely timely; it allows you to locate your voting place. To check out Google's newest service for yourself simply highlight and copy the URL that follows: to your clipboard and paste it into your browser window. When the page appears type in your address, and damned if a Google Map page doesn't open up with the your voting place featured front and center. And if you require directions driving instructions are a mouse click away. Bless Google, for doing it's part to get us to our respective voting places. And they're not charging one red cent for their service. Now it's up to each one of us, our job come November 4th is to vote! More info on Google's polling finder at: – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
This must truly be a frustrating time for that McCain/Palin pack of clowns, as they continue to throw what fecal matter they can conjure into the political fan, holding their collective noses as they note what, if anything, sticks to the wall. Senator McCain ran a distinctive and honorable campaign for the Republican nomination in 2000, only to be savaged with lies and innuendoes by a Bush constabulary running amok. Remembering that it is indeed demoralizing to see his present incarnation employing many of the very same tactics that Bush&Co ran against him. There is, however, an important miscalculation that his campaign is failing to admit to. Sen. McCain is not being defeated by Sen. Obama even though the polls are showing an ever growing majority for the Senator from Illinois. Sen. McCain is being totaled by a combination of both the economic downturn which people justifiably credit his party with creating, and his own quirky reaction to the financial crises. This ranges from his selection of a totally unqualified running mate to his bizarre reaction to economic turbulence by first shutting down his campaign, then restarting it in a hysterical reaction to our economy’s meltdown. And his current strategy, of attempting to deflect the nation’s attention from the economy by constantly attacking Obama’s qualifications is yet another attempt at distracting the voters from the real problems we face in the face of the meltdown of the American economy.

Of course although poll after poll shows Sen. Obama steadily increasing his lead, the race isn’t over until it’s over, which will be on either November 5th or sometime thereafter, depending upon how many roadblocks the Republican legal eagles are able to put up to whittle the vote count down. The always bow-tied conservative commentator Tucker Carlson recently wrote that while Republicans have given up hope for the success of their ticket, it is only Democrats, the executioners of many a failed campaign in the past, who concede that Senator Obama might yet fail in his quest. Personally, I think Mr. Carlson wrote that column to deliberately lure Democrats into reinforcing their beliefs in their own propensity for failure. It seems to me that he writes of the Republican demise, as with everything else, with a skewed ideology and a forked tongue.

But as the days go merrily on the poll numbers do seem to be steadily rising for Sen. Obama and falling for Sen. McCain. And since the “guilt by association” tactic which attempted to link Obama to former Weatherman leader William Ayers hasn’t stuck to the wall, McCain/Palin next turned to the word “socialism,” a word they are presently trumpeting incessantly in the fond hope of its gaining traction. Of course McCain/Palin can't discuss the financial situation and suggest real solutions, because their ideology won't permit consideration of solutions which would have a chance of succeeding. As we said before, it is disillusioning to see what was once a man of integrity, a true war hero and one who has over the years frequently seemed to put honor and principle above party, to witness this man's campaign suddenly sink to the level Bush used against him in 2000. It serves as an example as to how devastating presidential ambitions can be, and how they can change what was a basically good man into a grouchy, testy sore loser.

Above we stated that the election would be over on November 5th or sometime thereafter. We said this was because one of the tactics the Republican legal cadre always judiciously pursues is the disqualification of as many voters as they can get away with. This is particularly true with minority voters, who generally vote Democratic. The Republican legal beagles are already out at the polling places, sniffing out the beast. And they are attempting to create a climate for their planned deprivation of large groups of people of their vote by accusing the voter registration organization ACORN of voter registration fraud. And because the Republicans have managed to have judges of their political stripe infiltrate the judicial system, it is quite possible that many of their challenges will go their way. But think about it, isn’t it ironic that Republicans feel the need to restrict the number of citizens who get to exercise their right to vote, while Democrats are out there busily trying to round up all of the voters they can get. This puts the spotlight on which party really serves the majority of our electorate and which appeals to the elitist right wing, to the ruling class?
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On Oct. 24, the New York Times joined the Washington Post and a raft of other newspapers in editorially endorsing Barack Obama for president. Their support is well reasoned and may be found here:
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Joe Klein, the political columnist for Time Magazine has found himself without a seat on the McCain or Palin planes the past four months. In June, Klein was kept from boarding the McCain plane over what they said had been a security issue. More recently, when trying to fly on the Palin plane last week, Klein told Politico over e-mail that the campaign's response was he “couldn’t be accommodated at this time.”

“I’ve done nine presidential campaigns and this is the first time this has ever happened to me,” Klein said. “I was even allowed — I won’t say welcomed — on the Clinton plane in the summer of 1996 after I was revealed as the author of Primary Colors.”

“I rode with McCain during the primaries, but not since I asked him — at a June press conference — whether he really believed Ahmadinejad was the ‘leader’ of Iran, since he has no control over foreign policy or the nuclear program.” Klein continued, “that was when they suddenly told me that I hadn’t called in time to get secret service clearance. (I had called more than a day in advance.)"

Recently Klein got an interview with Barack Obama, and the result is a probing piece published on Time's website. His article began with a dramatic rendering of the meeting Obama had with General Petraeus.

“General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for "maximum flexibility" going forward.

“Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views "under advisement." Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. "You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument," he began. "Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security." Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military.

“A "spirited" conversation ensued, one person who was in the room told me. "It wasn't a perfunctory recitation of talking points. They were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way." The other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they agreed with Obama. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting — which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama's perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.”

Klein's analysis of how Obama must be if he wins the election I found most insightful. “If he wins, however, there will be a different challenge. He will have to return, full force, to the inspiration business. The public will have to be mobilized to face the fearsome new economic realities. He will also have to deliver bad news, to transform crises into "teachable moments." He will have to effect a major change in our political life: to get the public and the media to think about long-term solutions rather than short-term balms.

“Obama has given some strong indications that he will be able to do this, having remained levelheaded through a season of political insanity. His has been a remarkable campaign, as smoothly run as any I've seen in nine presidential cycles. Even more remarkable, Obama has made race — that perennial, gaping American wound — an afterthought. He has done this by introducing a quality to American politics that we haven't seen in quite some time: maturity. He is undoubtedly as ego-driven as everyone else seeking the highest office — perhaps more so, given his race, his name and his lack of experience. But he has not been childishly egomaniacal, in contrast to our recent baby-boomer Presidents — or petulant, in contrast to his opponent. He does not seem needy. He seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision.
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How about this for a dream of a shopping spree: • $75,062.63 spent at Neiman Marcus on Sept. 10. • $41,850.72 to Saks Fifth Avenue in New York on Sept. 10.
• $7,575.02 to Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis on Sept. 10. • $5,102.71 to Bloomingdale’s in New York on Sept. 10. • $789.72 to Barney’s New York on Sept. 10. • Charges of $4,396.94 and $512.92 at Macy’s in Minneapolis on Sept. 10. • $4,537.85 to Macy’s in Minneapolis on Sept. 22. • $349.50 to Lord & Taylor in New York on Sept. 25. • $4,902.08 to Atelier New York, a men’s clothing boutique, on Sept. 10. • Two separate charges of $98 to Pacifier, a high-end baby store in Minneapolis, on Sept. 10 and Sept. 25. • $98.50 to Steinlauf & Stoller, a sewing supply store, in New York on Sept. 25. • $133 to the Gap in Minneapolis on Sept. 25. Total it all up, it comes to roughly $150,000.

That's the bill that the Republican Party ran up outfitting their nominee for vice, Alaska governor Sarah Palin following their convention. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Pretty expensive duds for a hockey mom slash “maverick” who doesn't believe in government pork, and who's going to “reform” Washington's errant spending? And how about that idea of billing the state of Alaska for the transportation and lodging of her children around the state? That's what I would call some creative billing, also known as a score.

Well, she'll be dressed to kill while she's off in Washington fighting against all of that dreaded Congressional pork. And the good thing is she's thoroughly equipped to know what pork looks like when she sees it.
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And now a few words from Mike Murphy, campaign manager for McCain's 2000 run, on the GOP's extravagant outfitting of McCain's running mate.

“I saw the RNC statement on Gov. Palin’s $150,000 clothing bender on the RNC's tab. This caper is gonna make for a long day at the office for the good folks at the RNC/McCain press operation. Thought I’d offer a little help in a humorous vein; some other possible spin lines for the RNC.

1.) What you sneering critics in the liberal MSM fail to see here is … a Jobs Program! Saks floorwalkers, cashiers, a team of sweating porters to haul the merchandise from the store to the motorcade … chiropractors to treat those porters. Sarah Palin knows how to create jobs!

2.) What’s the difference between a Pit Bull and a Hockey Mom? You can feed a pit-bull for 483 years with 150 grand.

3.) Still cheaper than Mitt Romney’s hair products. We’re saving money here…

4.) William Ayres is a terrorist!

5.) New ad slogan: “Clothes for Gov. Palin? $150,000. Time machine to go back two months to late August and ask what the Hell were Schmidt and Davis thinking when they cooked up this idea and sold it to McCain? Priceless.”

And finally, in reaction to E.J. Dionne's: Palin's Clothes: Joe the Plumber Meets Neiman Marcus, a reader calling himself braultrl wrote:

The $150,000 wardrobe along with charging the state of Alaska for her children's travel as well as billing the state for travel expenses during the 313 days she spent the night at home taken together show a power hungry elitist, a wolf in sheep's clothing whose folksiness is right up there with Dumbya, the Clown Prince from Connecticut's fake cowboy persona. If you listen on YouTube to her 2006 debates for the governorship of Alaska, there is no phony "Fargo" affectation in her voice, no "you betchas", winking or any of the dreck we've had shoved down our throats the past 5 weeks. Her appeal to the lynch mob was the final straw! After eight years of division, the MAJORITY of America is ready for the healing to begin! Let her and her fascist followers retreat to Alaska where they can all join hands and wait for the Rapture...

Postscript: The highest paid person in the McCain campaign was Amy Strozzi, who was identified by the Washington Post this week as Gov. Sarah Palin’s traveling makeup artist, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday night. Pretty expensive lipstick, eh what?
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The French leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, is threatening to sue the manufacturer of a doll sold in his likeness which also comes with instructions on how to stick pins in it. Each body part of the doll, which comes with a set of pins and a "voodoo instruction manual,” is accompanied by a provocative quote related to the French president.

These include his campaign slogan "work more to earn more," or "platform heels" – referring to the diminutive president's chunky shoes designed to gain a few inches in height. On his groin is written "scum" – the word he used to describe young suburban delinquents before the riots of 2005.

Some 20,000 voodoo kits, which come complete with a satirical biography, have already been produced. Mr Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog called on the makers to "immediately cease all distribution of this doll." He added: "Nicolas Sarkozy has charged me with reminding you that he commands an exclusive and absolute right over his image, regardless of his status and fame."

The company, K&K, has also produced 12,000 dolls of Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate Mr Sarkozy defeated in last year's presidential elections. Her lawyer described the doll as a "breach of dignity" and also promised legal action.

K&K said the demand to withdraw the dolls was "totally disproportionate" and that it would make more of other politicians if they sold well. Mr Sarkozy has launched several law suits for libel since taking up office last June. In January he won a case against the budget airline Ryanair after it released a poster featuring him with his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Last week, he sued the former head of France's police intelligence service after extracts of his notebooks were published. They included unsubstantiated allegations about Mr Sarkozy's private life and financial affairs.

And so goes life in the never dull world of politics. As we ponder this story let us give a toast to the young lady who attempted to handcuff Karl Rove at a meeting the other day. And speaking of Rove, how many of you out in the blogosphere would buy a Karl Rove voodoo doll, complete with pins and instructions? I know I would. Okay K&K, the ball's in your court. Get on it right away.
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Richard Cohen, in an opinion column in the Washington Post, wrote: “A column, like a good movie, should have an arc -- start here, end there and somehow connect the two points. So this column will begin with the speech Condi Rice made to the Republican National Convention in 2000 in praise of George W. Bush and end with Colin Powell's appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press" in praise of Barack Obama. Between the first and the second lie the ruins of the GOP, a party gone very, very wrong.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Bush and now John McCain have constructed a mean, grumpy, exclusive, narrow-minded and altogether retrograde Republican Party. It has the sharp scent of the old Barry Goldwater GOP – the angry one of 1964 and not the one perfumed by nostalgia – that is home, by design or mere dumb luck, to those who think that Obama is "The Madrassian Candidate." Karl Rove, take a bow.

It is worth remembering that both Rice and Powell spoke at that Philadelphia convention. And it is worth recalling, too, that Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" and had compiled a record as Texas governor to warrant the hope, if not the belief, that he was indeed a different sort of Republican. When he ran for reelection as governor in 1998, he went from 15 percent of the black vote to 27 percent, and from 28 percent of the Hispanic vote to an astounding 49 percent. Here was a coalition-builder of considerable achievement.

Now, all this is rubble. It is not merely that Barack Obama was always going to garner the vast majority of the black vote. It is also true that the GOP, under Rove and his disciples in the McCain campaign, has not only driven out ethnic and racial minorities but a vast bloc of voters who, quite bluntly, want nothing to do with Sarah Palin. For moderates everywhere, she remains the single best reason to vote against McCain.

But the GOP's tropism toward its furiously angry base, its tolerance and currying of anti-immigrant sentiment, its flattering of the ignorant on matters of undisputed scientific consensus – evolution, for instance – and, from the mouth of Palin, its celebration of drab provincialism, have sharpened the division between red and blue. Red is the color of yesterday.

Ah, I know, the blues are not all virtuous. They are supine before self-serving unions, particularly in education, and they are knee-jerk opponents of offshore drilling, mostly, it seems, because they don't like Big Oil. They cannot face the challenge of the Third World within us – the ghetto with its appalling social and cultural ills – lest realism be called racism. Sometimes, too, they seem to criticize American foreign policy simply because it is American.

Still, a Democrat can remain a Democrat – or at least vote as one – without compromising basic intellectual or cultural values. That, though, is not what Colin Powell was saying Sunday about his own party. "I have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years," Powell said. "It has moved more to the right than I would like." He cited McCain's harping on that "washed-out terrorist," Bill Ayers, as an effort to exploit fears that Obama is a Muslim (so what if he were? Powell rightly asked) and mentioned how Palin's presence on the ticket raised grave questions about McCain's judgment. In effect – and at least for the time being – Powell was out of the GOP. S'long, guys.

Those of us who traveled with Bush in the 2000 campaign could tell that when he spoke of education, of the "soft bigotry of low expectations," he meant it. Education, along with racial and ethnic reconciliation, was going to be his legacy. Then came Sept. 11, Afghanistan and finally the misbegotten war in Iraq. After that, nothing else really mattered. But just as Bush could not manage the wars, he could not manage his own party. His legacy is not merely in tatters. It does not even exist.
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Eugene Robinson, also writing in the Post, wrote a column assessing General Colin Powell's endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president. In it he quoted the General, "This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks became something of a central point of the campaign. But Mr. McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist. Well, then, why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have these robo-calls going on around the country trying to suggest that, because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow, Mr. Obama is tainted? What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings."

He mentioned the campaigns of lies, spread by whisper and e-mail, to convince people that Obama is a Muslim: "Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

And on Palin's qualifications and readiness to assume high office, an issue that a few conservative commentators have taken on but Democrats refuse to touch, as if it were radioactive: "I was also concerned at the selection of Governor Palin. She's a very distinguished woman, and she's to be admired, but at the same time, now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

As the highest-profile Republican to defect to the enemy camp, Powell knew that his endorsement would create a huge stir. What I found fascinating was how he framed it more as a set of reasons to vote against the McCain-Palin ticket than a set of reasons to vote for Obama and Joe Biden. In talking about the Wall Street meltdown and the economic crisis, for example, Powell spoke of how McCain's herky-jerky response made it seem that he "didn't have a complete grasp" of what was going on. Powell went on to praise Obama's "steadiness" -- but mentioned nothing in particular that Obama did.

To those who would say he is only supporting Obama as a fellow African American, Powell pointed out that if this were the criterion, he could have made his endorsement months ago. Much more important, I think, is that Powell is a moderate Republican who listens to all this innuendo about terrorism and all this nonsense equating the income tax with socialism and wonders what in the world has happened to his once-grand old party.
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And we leave this week's post on a note of irony. When the markets closed on Wednesday, Dell (DELL) was trading at $11.98 share, with 1.96 billion shares outstanding. That puts Dell’s market capitalization at $23.5 billion. Meanwhile on Tuesday, Steve Jobs reported that Apple (AAPL) ended fiscal year 2008 with $24.5 billion in the bank.

In other words, Apple could buy Dell with the cash it has on hand and still have more than $1 billion left over. (Or rather $10 billion, if you count, as reader Joe Goodart does, the $9 billion Dell has in the bank.)

Hard to believe that it’s been only 11 years since Michael Dell, when asked what he would do if he were Apple’s CEO, answered: “What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” For the record, Apple’s market cap today stands at $85.8 billion. And there is where we'll leave it for another week. Have a good one.

The Real Little Eddy

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