Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blog #73: Memorable Binds & Anniversaries

Let us extend a hand of sympathy for those poor House Republicans who were in a real bind this week. They hate the idea of spending taxpayer money except of course when its used to fund wars of their choosing, grease the palms of big business, or lower taxes on the exceedingly, embarrassingly rich. And so they were faced with a gut wrenching decision, should they take the hand of friendship proffered by the new president and vote to support the Democrats in their attempt to provide a stimulus to turn our nation’s economy around. Or should they continue to blindly oppose everything the Democrats offer in the way of economic fixes. And to make matters worse from their point of view, our newly elected president really did get an impressive majority of votes, an unprecedented 53% of the popular vote, and an overwhelming Electoral College victory, which scared the holy hell out of Republicans here, there and everywhere. And which in turn gives the new president the clear mandate that George W. always claimed, but never had. (His mandate only came from Dick Cheney.) So what should Republicans do when Obama comes calling to promote his stimulus programs? Listen politely, applaud enthusiastically, then go out and vote against them? Right? Right, for that’s exactly what they did.


But what if Obama’s stimulus program should actually work and begin to revive the economy? Would voting no leave Republicans stranded up Excrement Estuary with only tissue paper paddles? That is the $64 question of course. Who the hell knows whether or not President Obama’s economic fixes are going to work? It’s a little like believing in god, you either do or you don’t, there’s not a whole lot of middle ground. And for President Obama there is not much room for choice. Like Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s he must keep on experimenting with policies which may or may not work, in the hope of finding something, anything which might begin to revive our ailing economy. Nothing in this world is certain, but doing nothing only guarantees that the economy continues tanking.


Now Republicans can fight Obama every step of the way, which has been the Way of Life in Washington since those glorious Clinton years. Or they could try doing something different this time around, like voting as Americans rather than as partisan Republicans. Another name for that would be cooperation. Of course, they blew their chance this week. But this week’s vote needn’t necessarily be set in stone. It’s a free country, is it not? Of course Republicans can go right on in lock step voting no and hoping for the worst, in the theory that if Obama’s plans fail and the economy continues down the tubes perhaps the country will again turn to them for guidance. Sarah Palin for president in 2012 anyone?


What do you think the odds are that the country is going to turn to Republicans again if the economy continues tanking? After all, it was their eight years of the complete abandonment of all regulation and direction that started us barreling down this road to ruin? So of course, an intelligent public is going to rush right out and place its precious trust with those hard headed GOP ideologues once again? NOT!!! What would you do if you were a Republican? Vote Aye or Nay? And as a non partisan observer, which side will you bet on? Rush of the Mighty Mouth and Gravelly Voice who is shouting His Way or the Highway to any Republican who will listen? Could there be another way for Republicans to go? We would certainly hope so. They used to be a party of inclusion, but now they preface “clusion” with an ex. And given their history there is as yet not one scintilla of evidence that they are anywhere near rediscovering inclusion. Like rats on sinking ships of old, Republican members of Congress seem to be gathering on the deck of a Titanic of their own making, holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome” to hoards of marauding fishes.


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And now, as our friends at Monty Python used to say, for something completely different. Our next topic is age, as in living long and outliving your peers. Just between you and me there’s not a hell of a lot for me to recommend about this business of living a long life and growing old gracefully. It’s just that we don’t know a damned thing about the alternative. The first thing you find to your consternation is that the mirror is no longer your friend. When you look in the mirror that apparition which looks back at you looks like nothing you have ever seen before. And so from then on you avoid looking into a mirror like it harbors the plague.


Another thing, at advanced ages chemical imbalances abound and if you’re not careful it can mean serious consequences. An imbalance or two here or there can land you in the hospital. And so one day you wake up to find that your life is suddenly revolving around a bunch of pills. And what is worse, as Pete Seeger used to sing so prophetically, “Your get up and go just got up and went,” and all of a sudden daytime naps loom large in your life. However, the one and perhaps only advantage I have found while closing in on the big 8-3, is that I have gotten to witness first hand the arrival of a number of technological wonders.


I can’t begin to tell you how much change I have seen. In my childhood mornings used to begin with visits from the Iceman who cometh to deliver a 50 lb block of ice with which to keep our food fresh, followed shortly thereafter by the Milkman, who delivered fresh milk, cream, butter and eggs to our door. Both of these gentlemen traveled in horse-drawn wagons for gasoline powered vehicles were relatively rare in those days, and many a back yard boasted an automobile which had given up the ghost and had turned its attention to the full-time task of rusting in peace.


However living to this advanced age has given me the opportunity to witness the birth and blossoming of some amazing technologies in my day. Take milk, for instance. It no longer comes to us delivered daily in glass bottles, with its cream topping it off. Today’s milk is homogenized, meaning that the particles of cream have been indelibly bound with particles of milk. And today’s milk comes to us in plastic cartons. Some of the non-drinkable technologies I have witnessed include radio, black and white television, color television, 78 rpm records, 33 1/3 rpm longplay records, tape recorders, the compact disc, movies on VHS cassettes, then on DVD’s, all of this to culminate is digital downloads via bit torrent.


But for me the most compelling invention of all, and the one which keeps me occupied five to six hours a day, seven days a week, is the computer. I have a two year old, 17” iMac. In my view what makes this computer so unique is its ability to interact. It serves as not only a window to the world (thanks to the web) but also its keyboard holds the key to creativity. With radio and/or television, as with reading books and magazines, you are a passive participant. You assimilate other people’s creations. But with a computer for the first time you actually have a choice. You can choose to listen to other people’s music, watch their video, or read their works. Or, you can elect to make your own music, make your own video, or write your own stories. This is the quality which for me makes the computer a most formidable companion. There follows a short history of the computers I have owned.


I still have a warm spot in my heart for my first computer which was an Adam, an all-in-one combination word processor/computer complete with built-in printer and CRT screen. The idea of the Adam was ingenious, it would give students a machine with which they could do research and write their school papers, and then print them out for handing in to their teachers. And when the child finished his school work, he could load basic into the computer by way of a cassette tape, and build his own programs, or he could put in a cartridge or cassette tape and play various games. The Adam was manufactured by Coleco, the toy company also famous for the Cabbage Patch dolls. It was a wonderful concept, and a fun computer to learn on, but what I found out later was that because of collusion by the other computer companies the Adam was forced out of business scarcely a month after I bought mine. Sometime later I also bought a Commodore 64, a computer which was inexpensive enough for almost anyone to buy. But although each of those computers offered a good way to begin, I didn’t discover real ease of use in computers until December of 1990 when I bought my first Apple Macintosh. It was a Macintosh Classic, an all in one computer, with a black and white monitor built right into the computer and 125k of memory.


And speaking of Apple and its Macintosh computers, last week we passed an historic landmark. Just twenty five years ago, on January 24th, 1984, there was a truly world shaking product introduction. For the first time ever Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh, a computer which had a graphic user interface, which means you could input and output data not only through keyboard entry, but also through copy and paste functions, all using a mouse with point and click ease of use, rather than having to use the command line to get things done, which all computers up to that time used.


The technology had been created and developed at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, and included such innovations as laser printing, distributed computing and Ethernet, the graphical user interface (GUI), object-oriented programming, and ubiquitous computing. PARC computers were networked together, and it was there that email was invented. PARC was a wholly owned subsidiary of Xerox Corporation, and their engineers had developed all of these miraculous programs and devices, but evidently when the director of the Center realized that Xerox was not the least bit interested in bringing these innovations to the marketplace he did the world a favor and invited Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to visit, giving him a tour of the facility which showed him everything PARC had invented. Jobs was so impressed he requested a return visit a couple of weeks later at which time he was joined by some of Apple’s select engineering staff. And the rest is history.


And so on this, the first Saturday after January 24, 2009, we bring you words and video celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of that truly unique occasion when real GUI was presented to the computing world for the first time. Steve Jobs’ presentation of the introduction of the Macintosh proved for once and for all that Jobs’ showmanship was something that he had from the very beginning, and not something he had acquired along the way. After he introduced the Macintosh computer, he let the computer speak in its own voice. The wild applause at the end of the tape indicates the depth of Mr. Jobs’ showmanship. That product announcement also marked the first appearance of the phrase, “insanely great” as applied to Macintosh computers.




During the Super Bowl of 1984, which was the year that George Orwell had selected as the title of one of his most famous novels, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer with a commercial right out of the pages of Orwell’s novel. Under the direction of famed film director Ridley Scott, the commercial showed wave after wave of spiritless individuals filing into an auditorium while an image of big brother on a large screen droned on. An athletic young woman runs into the auditorium wielding a large sledge hammer, and as she nears the screen she lets her weapon fly. As it strikes the screen, the Big Brother’s image disappears and a voice announces the eminent coming of the Macintosh.”


As the commercial seemed to target IBM, whose name was synonymous with computing power at the time, the Apple board initially refused to run it. Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, was so impressed with the commercial that he suggested that he and Jobs finance broadcasting it themselves, at which point the board relented and agreed to allow the commercial to air. It aired one time. It has since been declared the greatest Super Bowl commercial of all time, and a mashup of it was reprised during the presidential campaign of 2008 with Hillary Clinton appearing as the apparition on the big screen.




And further, here’s what Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast said about the commercial:

There are Super Bowl commercials and then there is Apple’s “1984” ad, which introduced the Macintosh—in 1984. Directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Chiat/Day, this Orwellian mini-masterpiece told the story of an unnamed heroine in a white tank top (The Macintosh) who saves the world from conformity by throwing a sledgehammer through a large screen featuring Big Brother (IBM). Though the commercial is widely considered the Citizen Kane of ads, like its Wellesian predecessor, it was not well-received at first. When Steve Jobs and then-Apple president John Sculley screened the commercial to the Apple board in December 1983, they hated it and tried sell back their ad time. Jobs prevailed and the 1984 ad marked the birth of the modern Super Bowl commercial. It won every major advertising award that year and was named by Advertising Age as the commercial of the decade. Adding to its legend, it has never been rebroadcast.


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Mac vs. pc is all the rage these days. Apple’s commercials have signified Apple’s long standing quest for a presence in the computer wars. A student at a college with access to sophisticated equipment brought the Mac/pc wars to a head, as the laptops in his video turn into little robots before our eyes and go on the attack. Video recommendation thanks to Joel Badeaux.

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We here at Little Eddy’s Blog have a self-imposed rule that we cannot mention Apple without giving unequal time to Microsoft. David Pogue, wittingly or unwittingly, gave away the secret of Microsoft’s method of operation as he summed up Windows 7 in his review of the new operating system from Microsoft, as published in the N.Y. Times:



Now, plenty of people online are reacting to Windows 7 by muttering: “Oh, great. So I’m supposed to pay another $150 to get a version of Windows that actually works? How about you pay me for spending three years as your Vista beta-tester?”



That’s fine, but being bitter won’t get you a better PC. Windows 7, on the other hand, probably will. For decades, Microsoft’s primary strategy has been to put out something mediocre, and then refine, refine, refine, no matter how long and no matter what it costs, until it succeeds. That’s what’s exciting about the prospect of Windows 7. It’s Windows Vista — with a whole heck of a lot of refinement.



And the technology website GIZMODO Friday ran an article suggesting that Microsoft should either give Windows 7 away free to Vista users as a service pack, or at the very least charge a minimum amount like $50 for it. All who can see Microsoft doing that please raise your hands.

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And David Pogue isn’t the only one who can give a critique of Microsoft. Here is Steve Jobs unblushingly adding his take on the modus operendi of the behemoth from Redmond.




And before we leave the eternal mac vs. pc controversy here is a look at it through the prism of South Park.




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As regards the Super Bowl and its advertising commercials, there was the Apple Macintosh commercial, and then there were all of the rest. And if the Google God of Embeds is smiling upon us, here are some of the Daily Beast’s compilation of the best of Super Bowl ads. And here’s what the Beast said in their introduction:


“Like red carpet outfits, Super Bowl ads are subjected to a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. But these few have stood the test of time. E*Trade’s irreverent 1999 ad featuring a clapping chimpanzee ended with the classic tag line: “Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?” In 1993, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird played a friendly game of H-O-R-S-E for a McDonald’s lunch, shooting basketballs against buildings and declaring “nothing but net.” Six years later, Monster.com goofed on job hunting with a charming ad featuring children proclaiming career dreams such as, “when I grow up I want to be a brown-noser.” Meanwhile, Cindy Crawford helped two boys live the dream in her 1997 Pepsi ad, and in 2000, EDS celebrated the proud but often unheralded cat herders. And last year, Charlie Brown won a Coke and viewer’s hearts in a Thanksgiving Day Balloon showdown, But perhaps no commercial captured the passion of Super Bowl Sunday better than 2003’s Reebok ad featuring Terry Tate: Office Linebacker—“Break was over 15 minutes ago, Mitch!”




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And bringing up the rear is Penthouse Magazine’s publisher, Bob Guccione, Jr. discussing something he should know a little about, the future of porn. He thinks it’s not very erotic, bor-ing, and he thinks it will get more artistic in the future.


sss

And with that we wind up this morning’s presentation. We hope you’ll come again next week. Meantime, have a good week.


The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blog #72: The Ultimate Celebration



Ladies and gentlemen, after 82 years of observing the national scene, and through courtesy of the television screen, I have finally seen a day truly devoted to joy. It was the day of celebration for the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. It could have been dubbed The Miracle of January 20th, 2009. For a miracle it truly was. And the above video, featuring Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing Woody Guthrie’s ode to America in the pre-inauguration ceremony, This Land is Your Land, captured the spirit and joy of this day as well as anything I have seen.

Imagine this if you will, a black man born of an African father and a white midwestern mother comes out of an Illinois nowhere to serve four years in the Senate, at least three of which he spent running for the United States‘ presidency. He survived a blistering primary campaign against Hilary Clinton (who much of the country viewed as a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination), and he further survived the Republican attack machine (which admittedly had its weapons aimed at Hillary Clinton, and were consequently caught off guard at Obama’s unprecedented
ascendency.)

And would you believe he won the election by talking straight to, not down to people? Would you further believe he is an intellectual and proud of it? That he will guide and nurture the country with his compass tuned to what is scientific reality, not religious dogma. He is both a realist and a pragmatist. In his meteoric rise he built his following after conquering the internet and using its forces to forge his campaign, and now that he is president he plans to continue to use the web to continue his contacts outside the “bubble” and thereby further his agenda.
There are many remarkable things about this truly unique leader that the American people elected last November 4th with 53% of the popular vote. But to me the most remarkable thing of all is the way we the voters went against all of the odds, ignored all of the character smears and the attempts to damage Obama with that old bogey man, guilt by association. He not only survived the Republican attack machine, but he conquered it on his own terms. And so was the lovefest that was played out by the two million or so wildly happy celebrators who packed the Washington Mall Tuesday providing the most extraordinary public display of happiness that I have seen in my lifetime.

Of course one reason for the extreme adulation is that it is in contrast with the regime with preceded it. George W. Bush spent much of the waning days of his stewardship intent on trying to focus on positive aspects of his time in office. But in my lifetime the office of the presidency has never sunk lower. We even Richard Nixon tends to look squeaky clean in our collective memory after eight years of the rule of George W. Bush & company.

The adulation is not completely unanimous, of course. Extremists of the right still scream their skepticism. And, thank heavens, dear Rush (Mister Irrelevance) Limbaugh has publicly expressed the hope that Obama will fail, that his programs will join the fate of all of the causes Limbaugh favors, which have as one ended up on the scrap heap of the irrelevant. Mister Limbaugh is still and will always be forever irrelevant, the crackled, hoarse voice of the know-nothings and the disaffected. However any expression otherwise from radio’s rabble-rouser-in-chief would have been scary indeed. After all our world needs a certain amount of continuity if we are to retain our sanity.

The fact remains that the “less government will solve all of our problems” theology of the Ronald Reagan, and the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party is dead in the water. To begin with their ideals are Wrong, and have been ever since Ronald Reagan built up those tremendous deficits all the while preaching fiscal responsibility while surreptitiously trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. Phil Gramm’s removal of regulations governing the banking industry got him an enviable position as vice-chairman of the UBS Investment Bank, a gigantic Swiss based financial services company, a company which has been a massive benefactor from Gramm's financial positions while he was in the Senate. 2008 Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman described Gramm during the 2008 presidential race as "the high priest of deregulation," and has listed him as the number two person responsible for the economic crises of 2008, behind only Alan Greenspan. On October 14, 2008, CNN was a bit kinder, ranking Gramm at number seven on its list of the 10 individuals most responsible for the current economic crisis.

And so enough with the nay sayers and all of the other disgruntled followers of the power of ME, let the new team of WE step forward with their Blackberries and iPhones held high, and let us celebrate the birth of a brand new America, a united America celebrating science and truth for a change, not blind ideology. An American administration seeking practical solutions to problems, not stubborn ideological ones. It is indeed Morning in America, and fortunately for Americans and the world, this Morning is NOT Ronald Reagan’s Morning in America, but a truly new evolution of an American Morning in politics.

And number Forty-Four’s first few days as president have been days to remember, as he used day one to announce the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison, and to foreswear the use of torture in future interrogations. And popping over to the State Department he stood by while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the selection of former Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East, and Richard C. Holbrooke as envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan. Talk about coming out of the gate running . . .
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One further note on the video above. This past Sunday, Pete Seeger became the oldest person to perform publicly as part of Barack Obama's inauguration festivities. Singing the "greatest song about America ever written" (Bruce Springsteen's words) before 500,000 people and tens of millions more on television, the 89-year old legend crooned two little-known verses of his friend Woody Guthrie's 1940 patriotic standard, "This Land is Your Land" – one about Depression-era poverty, the other about trespassing on private property – restoring the song to its former glory over the sanitized version that ruled for so many years. In passing we would like to note a movement to nominate Pete Seeger for a Nobel Peace Prize. A worthier cause I cannot imagine, for Pete Seeger has literally spent the bulk of his 89 years singing for peace, justice, and for the dignity of the common man. He had very little tv exposure because he was blacklisted, though he did make an appearance on a couple of Smothers Brothers TV programs several decades ago.

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/actnow/399788/pete_seeger_for_the_nobel?rel=emailNation
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Evidently you and I weren’t the only ones following the celebrations on the Washington Mall on Tuesday. From the UK’s TimesOnline’s Graham Keeley in Barcelona we find out that there was praise for the new United States president from none other than from Fidel Castro:
“Fidel Castro broke his five-week silence to praise US President Barack Obama as a “man who is absolutely sincere.” You may ask what the relevance of this is, but it goes right along with President Obama’s intention to talk with our “enemies.” How successful this tactic will directly depend on how they view our president and his intentions. For Castro to heap the praise he has on Obama’s installation speaks well for the future success of Obama’s diplomatic moves.
“Mr Castro's first public utterance for over a month helped dispel persistent rumours that the ailing 82-year-old was close to death. He handed power to his brother, Raul, in 2006 after suffering health problems.
“His remarks were disclosed by Cristina Fernandez, Argentina’s President, who met the former Cuban leader during a four-day visit to the communist island. Mrs Fernandez said: “Fidel believes in Obama. He told me he had followed the inauguration of Barack Obama very closely, that he had watched the inauguration on television all day.

“He had a very good perception of President Obama.”

“The Argentine premier said Mr Castro called Mr Obama “a man who seems absolutely sincere, who believes strongly in his ideas and who hopefully can carry them out”. Mrs Fernandez added: “I was with Fidel about an hour or more. We were chatting, conversing. He looked good.”

“Hours later, in a brief essay posted on one of Cuba's state websites, Fidel Castro said Obama was “honest” in his ideas.

In a reference to the overthrow of Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, by rebels led by Mr Castro, he wrote: “I personally did not have the slightest doubt about the honesty of Obama, the 11th president since January 1959, when he expresses his ideas. “But despite noble intentions, there are still many questions to answer.”

Mr. Castro said the meeting with Mrs Fernandez had lasted 40 minutes. He was dressed in the tracksuit, which has become his trademark since he became ill. Raul Castro, who took over the Cuban presidency 11 months ago, dismissed rumours about his brother’s health. “Do you think if he were really gravely ill that I would be smiling here?” he said. “Soon I’m going to take a trip to Europe. You guys think I could leave here if Fidel were really in a grave condition?”

Mr Castro, 77, disclosed that his brother spends his days “thinking a lot, reading a lot, advising me, helping me.” He added: “Now you know that Fidel is fine and not like the rumours around here."
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/us_elections/article5565856.ece
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To any who would question the relevance of listening to the words of Fidel Castro, we would remind them that a cornerstone of the Obama policy is dialogue with not only our friends, but also our so-called enemies. The Cuban Mafia, who left the island after Castro’s successful overthrow of the Batista regime, have been spewing their hatred of the Castro regime ever since. But peace between the island, 90 miles off the coast of Florida, will only come after a dialogue begins with the island’s leaders. We deal with the Saudi Royal Family, and many another out and out dictatorship in this less than perfect world, why not begin a dialogue with our closest neighbor to the south, Cuba?
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And in the interests of getting to know Hillary Clinton’s replacement to the Senate from New York, below is a video that ran supporting her campaign for Congress. What a fun campaign commercial.



And there you have it for one of the most joyous weeks I have ever known. Sort of makes you want to hang around for a few more years to find out how it all comes out, doesn’t it? Bye now, hope you can come back next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blog #71: of Young, Jobs, sex, and Microsoft

Let’s start off this week’s blog with a truly unique video. Give a big welcome to Neil Young and his remarkable ode to our Congress’ bailout of the financial industry, “Fork in the Road.”

“There's a bailout coming, but it's not for me .... It's for all those creeps watching the ticker on TV.
“There's a bailout coming, but it's not for you ... it's for all those creeps hiding what they do ...”


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It is with shock and heavy heart that we react to the news that Stephen P. Jobs’, the mercurial CEO of Apple, Inc., is taking a six month medical leave from the company. Pure geeks descended from the Gates line of DNA resent the way Jobs always insists that Apple’s products be both beautiful in design and programmed for maximum ease of use. Geeks like their technology to contain a challenge, so that they have to put in extra effort to make it function correctly. Plus they are probably perplexed by the intense loyalty the users of Apple products continually demonstrate. They attempt to deride us by calling us Apple Fan Boys, but in truth Apple was the very first company to bring to the marketplace a computer with a true graphic user interface and which also used a mouse. True the Macintosh featured technology originally designed at Xerox’ PARC facility, but the technology only became a reality thanks to Apple, and it did, indeed, revolutionize the way people have interacted with computers ever since. It was ten years before Redmond fired up its copiers and came out with Windows 95, the first true Microsoft product with a graphic user interface.

And early in the 21st Century Apple fostered a complete reorganization of the music business, thanks to the birth of the iPod music player, and the iTunes online store which allowed people to pay for the digital music tracks they had previously been stealing, thereby saving what was left of the record industry. And finally a year and a half ago Apple shook up the cell phone industry with the iPhone, a combination cellphone, music player, and computer which accesses the internet, and suddenly the so-called smart phone really got smart.

When Steve Jobs on Tuesday announced he was taking a six month medical leave from Apple to concentrate on his health and since Mr. Jobs is without a doubt the CEO most identified with the products of his company, the announcement, and the swirl of rumors which preceded it, rightly or wrongly has affected the value of Apple’s stock. For a prime discussion of the way the news of Job’s leave impacted the web, check out the URL: http://scobleizer.com/ Robert Scoble tells how news of Jobs exit soared it’s way through Twitter and FriendFeed. But I think more telling were Scoble’s prophetic words to Apple stock holders:

“You are an idiot if you sell your Apple stock tomorrow

“It’s too late to sell your Apple stock. If you sold it today, you are a genius. But tomorrow? You’ll be the biggest loser.

“Why? Apple has the best team, the best distribution, the best supply chain, the best management in the business.

“Everyone, from Palm to Microsoft to Google wants to be like Apple.

“Hint: they can’t.

“Hint: they won’t (although Palm got very close by hiring a ton of key iPhone execs and developers and PR people away from Apple).

“Apple is more than just Steve Jobs. Now you’re about to find out just how much more.

“If you sell your stock you’re an idiot. Yes, it’ll be down big in the morning. Yes, the news is sort of shocking. But Apple is fine and we’ll all buy the next big thing that they do no matter who brings it to us. Steve Jobs has built a killer team that everyone wants a piece of and that culture will be around for years. I met many of them in China and they are regarded among supply chain guys there as the best in the business (and the most demanding). That won’t go away because Steve isn’t at the helm anymore.

“Oh, and to Steve Jobs: I wish you and your family all the best. This is a tough business to be in front of all the time and you’ve set the standard very high for your team. Now stand back and watch them shine.” Robert Scoble
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The news that Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence gives new relevance to the stirring commencement address he delivered three years ago.

On June 14, 2005, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the commencement address at Stanford University. In the speech, Jobs, who was recovering from surgery to remove cancer from his pancreas, reflected on his own mortality as he delivered an uplifting but somber message: Live every day like your last, because one day it will be. An excerpt is below:

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

“About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

“I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

“This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.” Stephen P. Jobs
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http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-14/advice-from-steve-jobs-on-living-and-dying/
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And summing up Mr. Jobs upcoming absence is the following: “Steve is terrific at attracting and retaining people, creating an agenda and getting people to stick to it,” said Stephen G. Perlman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was a principal scientist at Apple in the 1980s. “It’s very hard to find somebody who is so credible, and who has such a strong following that he is able to cut through corporate politics.”

Andrew Hertzfeld, who helped develop the original Macintosh and now works at Google, says that Apple has had 12 more years under Mr. Jobs’s leadership to soak up his unique values. He also notes that products already in the pipeline — which analysts say may include new iMacs and smaller iPhones — already bear Mr. Jobs’s imprint and can sustain Apple for years to come. “It will take half a decade for the absence of Steve to really show up in the products,” Mr. Hertzfeld said.

“The whole world is concerned about Apple. I’m concerned about Silicon Valley,” said Mr. Perlman, the entrepreneur cited above. “I need Apple to be harrying Microsoft. We need someone stirring the pot. God forbid that there is no one stirring the pot anymore. We’ll become Detroit.”
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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/technology/companies/16apple.html?ref=technology
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And from Bloomberg.com’s Connie Guglielmo, John Lauerman and Dina Bass

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs is considering a liver transplant as a result of complications after treatment for pancreatic cancer in 2004, according to people who are monitoring his illness. In a telephone interview today, Jobs said he won’t comment further on his health. “Why don’t you guys leave me alone -- why is this important?” Jobs said.
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Note from TRLE: Sorry to intrude, Mr. Jobs, but to those of us Techno-Atheists out here, you're the closest thing we have to a god. So please forgive us while we pray for your good health.
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Daniel Radosh brings to the pages of The Daily Beast, Playboy’s list of the 55 most influential people in the world of sex — and, no, Hef isn't No. 1 — The list reminds the author why we still need America's smartest smut. And not just for the articles.

At number one, Alfred Kinsey, who did the first scientific study of sex as it related to people. And whose research began sex on it’s road to respectability. At number two, Dr. John Rock, the catholic researcher who helped invent, and then helped sell the world on the birth control pill, which obviously took the practice of sex onto a new level. At number three is Hugh Hefner, who was cited for developing Playboy, a magazine which had both a serious side for sane discussions of sexual matters, and a titillating side to fill that oh so human need so many of us have.

Alex Comfort, physician, lecturer and author, who wrote The Joy of Sex, comes in at fourth place, and Marilyn Monroe, who turned on a generation was number five. In my mind number six should be challenged, as the honor was given to Monica Lewinski, who I suppose does get credit for making oral sex and presidential kneepads a topic for water cooler discussions nationwide. Number seven: the Rolling Stones, number eight, Timothy Berners-Lee, (who is credited with inventing the internet, which in turn brought the world a raft of sexual information and inspiration.) At number nine: Peter Dunn and Albert Wood who invented Viagra which kept us old guys in the game for a while longer, and at #10 Madonna beat out Helen Gurley Brown, the mother of Cosmopolitan who had to settle for #11.

Others on the list include: Ruth Westheimer at #13, Elvis Pressley at #14, and Masters and Johnson at #15. Radio Shock Jock Howard Stern holds down #16, and would somebody please explain to me how Ed Meese (Ronald Reagan’s rotund Attorney General) ranks 17th place? True his name was affixed to a group studying the effects of pornography, and although the commission found exactly the way it was supposed to, it has been mostly ignored ever since. What’s irritating, Meese beat out Brigitte Bardot who lurks at #18. What kind of justice is that? Bo Derek is #20, and Vladimir Nabokov who put the word Lolita into our national vocabulary is #22, followed closely by the orange juice selling, gay bashing Anita Bryant at #23. Erica Jong who wrote Fear of Flying is #25, and Barney Rosset who turned Grove Press into a number one publisher of erotica was #26. Among other accomplishments Rosset’s Grove Press fought in the courts to bring us such previously banned classics as James Joyce’s Ulysses, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer. British poet Philip Larkin’s poem “Annus Mirabilis” begins with a reference to the trial which freed the Lawrence novel in England:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And The Beatles' first LP.

A few other random mentions: Frank Sinatra #30, Nancy Friday (chronicler of women’s sex fantasies) #31. Philip Roth #34, Linda Lovelace at #41, Mike Nichols #42, Ian Fleming #45, Lenny Bruce #46, Gloria Steinem #47, Robert Mapplethorpe #48, and get this, J. Edgar Hoover at #50.

In the complete list of 55, each name is a link to information to the person, and it may be found at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-13/the-biggest-names-in-sex-1/3/
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Speaking of erotica, fans of Wizard’s Trailer Park Series take note: On December 24th 2008, as a Christmas present to us all, Wizard posted the seventh book in his Trailer Park series, which is now threatening to be at least eight books long. The new volume is called: The Trailer Park: The Fifth Year: Part 2 : Music and Lyrics, and may be found here: http://storiesonline.net/story/58893

In the introduction Wizard tells us that the Trailer Park began as a short story, and somehow the characters he invented, Tony Simms, athlete and human being extraordinaire, Tamara Sharp, girlfriend and future journalist, Robbie Tate (Roberta, but don’t you dare call her that) football and baseball player par excellence whose nickname is Monster Girl, are the main players in this thoroughly unique coming of age saga that seems to have taken over complete control of Wizard’s brain and output, propelling the series to god only knows where. We can’t help but wonder if it will really end with volume eight? But I’ll tell you for sure, it’ll be a sad day for me when indeed it does finally end.

The Trailer Park series is classified as erotica by those who would put literature into labeled compartments, but there really isn’t that much erotica in volume seven. It does follow Tony into the bedroom on a couple of occasions, but Fifth Year Part 2 seems to me to have far less sex than previous volumes, primarily because in book seven Tony tries his damnedest to be monogamous and he only falls off the bandwagon one time, and that for a good cause we might add.

Wizard has created as real and admirable a bunch of teenagers as you could wish for in your sweetest dreams, and his books are gems of humor crammed full of inventive situations and meaningful characterizations. If I had to compare it to a television series it might be Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in its honesty and character development, although of course Trailer Park is concerned with a bunch of teenagers, with the adults playing only a minor role. Wizard made my Christmas with his posting, and if you haven’t yet discovered the series and wish to, we urge you to begin your journey with Trailer Park One and go from there. You’ll be very glad you did. My only complaint is that in volume 7 Tony seems to be turning political, and egads, he’s promoting Fox News and that nearly moribund species, a Republican. However, in spite of his emerging politics I have found, to my delight, that you just can’t get too much of Tony Simms and friends. Enjoy the ride.
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As a public service in our ongoing salute to the retirement of George W. Bush as president of these United States, we offer some remarkable URLs which allow multiple views of our not-a-moment-too-soon to be ex-president. First off comes an exchange during the Congressional investigation of the firing of U.S. Attorneys who did not properly reflect the Bush Administrations goals. The administration ethos was nicely summarized during the investigation in the firing of US attorneys, in a testy exchange between former White House Political Director Sara Taylor and Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Taylor: "I took an oath to the president … And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the president."

Leahy: "No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the president refers to the government being his government — it's not."
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http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-06/forgotten-bush-scandals/2/
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Ever wish that a competent psychologist had had the chance to put our erstwhile president on a couch and probe his state of mind, preferably before he assumed office. In a remarkable piece also published by The Daily Beast, Psychiatrist Justin Frank, author of Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President brings to life some speculations on the reasons behind Bush’s actions.

“George Bush’s presidency is the culmination of a lifelong history of sadistic practices that he must deny in order to maintain his fragile psychological equilibrium. Since childhood, Bush was labeled a bad child, a troublemaker, and a delinquent. He stuck firecrackers into frogs and exploded them; he shot and wounded his little brothers with a b-b gun; he branded fraternity pledges at Yale with red-hot coat hangers; he mocked others and was a verbal bully, irreverent about anything serious.

“What do bad boys do when they grow up? They stop; they change. But Bush never stopped being a bad boy; he only did it in more subtle, arguably socially acceptable ways.

“Now, as this bad-boy president prepares to leave office, many of his critics are pinning his failures on bumbling incompetence. The conventional wisdom holds that Bush is either a good hearted guy who got in way over his head — or the puppet of Dick Cheney. But if he were simply good-hearted he wouldn’t have mocked his own reasons for committing our young men and women to war; if he were a puppet, he was a puppet who chose his puppeteers. In my psychoanalytic exploration, the trail of destruction wrought by Bush over the last eight years is the direct consequence of handing a man with a destructive personality profile tremendous power.” For more analysis point your browser to the URL below.
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http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-12/why-bush-loves-violence/
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And finally, the Washington Post last week posted a video of a remarkable round table discussion of the Bush presidency hosted by Post columnist Eugene Robinson and featuring the reminiscences of Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame and author of several book on the Bush Administration), and Barton Gelman, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Angler the Cheney Vice Presidency. This is a fascinating in depth discussion, well worth your time accessing it at the URL which follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/bush/legacy/roundtable/?hpid=artslot
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Usually a sentence with the word Apple in it is followed by one mentioning Microsoft. Apple has featured products to aid musicians since the very first Macs. Microsoft eventually muscled it’s way into the game, as PC manufacturers finally began to put sound cards in their machines. Presently Apple has a program which comes free with all Macintosh computers called GarageBand, a program that helps budding musicians learn their trade. Always the competitor, Microsoft has launched a program which will accompany your singing with computer generated musical accompaniment. People might mistakenly try to compare this with Apple’s GarageBand, but there is no comparison. GB is a program which allows you to create and mix music of your own making. But it requires that you have enough expertise to lay down the tracks, and then mix them together.

Microsoft’s product requires no musical knowledge or ability, except the ability to carry a tune of course. The difference is that more than a few musicians these days record their music in GarageBand, or it’s professional equivalent Final Cut Pro, whereas as you can witness for yourself by watching the video that follows, your Windows product’s only value is in its novelty, nothing more. Nor will it assist you learning either music or recording techniques.



I found this video on Joe Tartakov’s Microsoft blog in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The two guys in it evidently are the developers of the software. This video for me highlights the stark difference in the philosophy of the two companies. Apple computers come with free software that enables people who are interested to craft real musical expression. Microsoft offers a tool to help people produce a gee-whiz novelty. Humorous afterword: The above video was created with an Apple Mac Book pro. They covered up the logo, but they fooled no one. If this video was done for Apple, how long do you think Steve Jobs would allow it to run, time expressed in milliseconds, of course.
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And finally, a short video showing Paul McCartney telling the ladies of The View all about how he found out about the Vietnam War from Bertrand Russell and immediately rushed over to the studio to inform the boys of his discovery. ???



The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog #70: Book a Failed President!

As the clock ticks away and the magic date of January 20 inches forward, high on our list of New Year’s resolutions is the one to put the Bush/Cheney administration completely out of our minds for once and for always. Hopefully after Jan. 20 there will be no need to ever recall that pair. And as we happily take out exit from the duo isn’t it wonderful that that dick sized Cheney sees nothing wrong with any action the administration has taken in its entire eight years in office. Torture – it’s only torture if you admit it’s torture, to hell with what the rest of the world might think. (Or what they might do to any Americans taken prisoner.) Bush on the other hand, who plans to spend his post presidential years writing his memoirs and speaking for a fee, is taking a more realistic view of his tenure. He is admitting a mistake here and there, but says his heart is pure. So how much would a Bush speech be worth? And who would want to pay him to speak?

One possible source might be businesses which are about to tank. Bush’s lecture agent might promote an appearance thusly: Is your business ready to tank? Has today’s downturn fatally eaten into your company's bottom line? Take your business out in a blaze of glory! Tank it with a Bang by hiring that Master Tanker, George W. Bush, to speed your company’s demise! With such achievements as the invasion of Iraq and the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina in his resume, nobody in the speaking profession today comes anywhere near the 43rd president of these United States. Be the first to take your Business Out with a Bang. Book George W. Bush, because your business deserves no less!
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We all join John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston in mourning the death of their son Jett recently from a seizure. However, because the death brings up an interesting conflict between the teachings of the Church of Scientology (of which the Travolta’s are members) and the medical profession, it makes for some interesting speculation. For an overview from the standpoint of a practicing physician be sure to point your browser here: http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/contributors/1880

The conflict is one of the major forces of our day, pitting strongly held religious beliefs against scientific knowledge. We sincerely hope and pray that scientific knowledge wins every time.
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What force in our popular culture had the most influence on your life? If you asked that question of me, I would have to credit music, popular music. The specific music I will identify in a minute. First let me review my 82 running up to 83 years as a listener. I have lived through a whole bunch of changes in music. Big influences when I was a kid in the 1930’s and 40’s were the Lucky Strike Hit Parade on Saturday Nights, the nightly Chesterfield program with Glenn Miller and his orchestra (note how popular music was used to promote the use of cigarettes, helping to turn my generation into the lung cancer generation), and Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge.

As I grew older I expanded my musical horizons to include jazz, and most especially Dixieland Jazz, New Orleans style, and classical music, particularly Debussy and music which seemed to paint musical pictures, like Delius’ Song of the High Hills and Respeghi’s Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome. When I returned from serving in the Army Air Corps after World War II, I worked in radio, for KPRC-FM and then KXYZ. At the latter I broadened my tastes even more, opening the station up each morning with a country music program called The Bar None Ranch, and later doing an afternoon pop music program called the Mailbag. (The name Mailbag implied that we got our selections from listener requests, but this was so much fiction, we didn’t get that many letters. We played what we, the disk jockeys thought was relevant, and occasionally we gave into pressure from music publishers or record companies and promoted a song they wished us to push.)

I quit radio at age 24 to teach myself guitar and play folk music. A black singer named Josh White inspired me in this. White, after growing up leading several blind street singers around and learning guitar from them, later became a moderately successful night club singer, singing his arrangements of a variety of folk songs. Another big influence on me was the incomparable Pete Seeger, the 5-string banjo playing, 12 string guitar playing, activist folk singer, who sang against war in Vietnam, and who ended up singing for the environment, and most particularly, the Hudson River, and the sailing sloop he helped finance, the Clearwater. Pete Seeger showed me how music could be relevant in our everyday lives.

But the music. and associated life styles, which most influenced me (and I suspect a large group of America’s population) was that of The Beatles. The music they produced was unique and was an overwhelming influence on pop music in general, they literally changed its face. Elvis Pressley who had preceded them, had turned the U.S. and much of the world onto black music as sung by a white man. But it was The Beatles who burst their way into the mainstream of music, first in England, then the US, and finally the world through the hearts and minds of screaming, love-struck adolescent girls. They weren’t the first to do this. Frank Sinatra had long lines of swooning young ladies lining up for his autograph at Tommy Dorsey dances, and even Vaughn Monroe had lines of swooning young girls. And Pete Seeger had politically conscious teenage hearts a’beating to the beat of his banjo.

But The Beatles dwarfed anything that had gone before them, with beautifully crafted gems of songs which captured the feelings of the young and the growing like nothing which had preceded it. And then a remarkable thing happened. The Beatles began growing up, right in front of our ears, so to speak. As they matured they very nicely took the rest of us along for the ride. They began the tradition of rock bands needing stadiums to house their concerts, with their initial concert at Shea Stadium in New York. And when touring became too great a drag for them they invented the music video with which to promote their albums, and which in their turn gave birth to the likes of MTV.

Their influence was so great on the popular culture of their time that they made it okay for men to grow their hair long and grow beards. I grew my beard years before I let my hair grow, but eventually I chose to do both. It was interesting to be among the first. When I first grew my beard, in Houston occasionally some outraged male driving by would shout an insult like “buy yourself a razor!” or the like. But after having lived through the conforming fifties where men shaved, kept their hair trimmed close, and concealed their respective individuality in charcoal gray suits, the freedom of the 1960’s was a welcome relief. And fortunately for us we had The Beatles to point freedom's way. We would welcome the surviving Beatles and their heirs into the 21st century with the suggestion that they put their music on iTunes so that their fan can have a legitimate was to access their libary.
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The state of Israel claims the right of self protection, as do virtually all independent states, including the right to defend itself, offensively if necessary, to protect the safety of its citizens. One would think that the experiences of the Jewish people under the regime of Adolph Hitler in the Germany of the 1930’s would have given them a built-in sympathy for the underdog, which includes all people treated as second class citizens. Perhaps that is true, except when the safety and well being of Jewish citizens are at stake. Then they are every bit as racist as Hitler ever was. In our New Year’s blog last week we listed zero Israeli citizens killed by rocket fire as opposed to upwards of 400 Palestinians killed. This was the figure that had been published at the time I wrote it. Since then it has been revealed that four Israeli citizens have fallen victim to Hamas’ rockets. Palestinian health officials report that as of yesterday 758 Palestinians, including 257 children and 56 women, have died in the attacks. Israel in turn claim that about 390 of those killed were Hamas fighters. You don't have to be an Hamas sympathizer to feel that those figures are a wee bit skewed. That there's a modicum of overkill here.

Israel is adamant about continuing the offensive until Hamas gives up their rocket launchings in spite of a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. Thursday night the United Nations Security Council approved just such a resolution, one calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. The vote was 14-0, with the United States abstaining. What does this prove? It proves that Hitler’s theory of a superior race is not unique to those of Germanic origin. Any group, even groups who have been on the receiving end of such prejudice, can adopt the superior race concept when given the opportunity, and especially when they feel their security is threatened. And although you won’t find many Israelis admitting it, the State of Israel itself was born in the ashes of terrorist acts by Zionists eager to form an independent state of Israel. The land used to form the state of Israel was taken from Palestinians, who were driven from their land and forced into exile in states like Jordan where they have been forced to live in refugee camps ever since.

This is not to say that there aren’t groups active within Israel who are trying their damnedest to pressure the Israeli government to seek peace with the Palestinians. There are, but many observers mark the true death of the peace prospects with the assassination of Yitzah Rabin, who was sincerely moving Israel along the path to peace. Upon the death of Rabin the subsequent election of super-hawk Benjamin Netanyahu further signaled an end to any Palestinian hopes for a peaceful settlement with Israel and an independent Palestinian state, just as previously the election of Ariel Sharon as Israel’s prime minister had been taken as a slap in the face to Palestinians and marked the beginning in the intifada, an Arabic word meaning “shaking off”, though is it usually translated in the west as rebellion.
There is probably no easy solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. however it will never be solved by force of arms, just as all of Israel’s previous attempts have failed. When Israeli citizens quit settling in Palestinian territory, when the forces of peace rule the country, when Israel recognizes Palestinians as people who have just as much right to live in peace as they, then maybe the Oslo agreement can begin to be implemented and the wings of doves drown out the drums of war and destruction.
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My favorite new website, and the one I turn to first thing every morning after finishing reading the local news on Chron.com, is theDailyBeast.com, the website whose editor in chief is Tina Brown, the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown. She has written for numerous publications, including The Times of London, The Spectator, and The Washington Post.

The Beast, like so many websites these days, is an aggregator which means it mostly mines stories from other websites and publications. However, it has a unique format which not only gives you access to other material, but it goes out of its way to bring different, related viewpoints on some stories. It also has it’s own staff of bloggers and columnists, and has had it’s share of content written exclusively for it during the few months it has been active.
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Currently running in the Beast is a series called The Farewell Chronicles, written by or about members of the Bush administration as they are on their way out. Part two of this series is a piece written by John W. Dean, Nixonian whistleblower extraordinaire, on Dick Cheney’s establishment of an Imperial Presidency. From the piece: “I would love to write a biography of Dick Cheney’s vice presidential years to better understand and then explain how he all but single-handedly — without being impeached or imprisoned or seriously threatened with either — rebuilt the “Imperial Presidency” (picking up where Reagan & Company left off). In doing so, Cheney revived “stonewalling” as the lingua franca of presidential communications, pushed government secrecy and unaccountability to unprecedented new levels, shamed Americans throughout the world as torturers while compounding our problems with terrorism, richly serviced his oil patch cronies, and made the once toothless Office of the Vice President a threat to Constitutional government.

“For me, Cheney is the last of a dying breed of former Nixon aides and apologists who do not believe that the disgraced president set the standard for what should not be done, rather that he provided a “to do” list legacy. To understand Richard Nixon, as I believe I do, is to appreciate that Cheney has carried Nixon’s political DNA into contemporary Republican politics and governing. Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday closed the case on Cheney’s Nixonian nature when he asked the vice president during a recent exit interview a question that produced the eeriest of echoes for anyone who has seen the Frost/Nixon film, or recalls the actual interviews from decades earlier. Nixon told David Frost, “Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” Thirty-one years later, Wallace asked Cheney, “If the President, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Without blinking, Cheney replied, “General proposition, I'd say yes.”

“Like Nixon, Cheney operates best shrouded with secrecy. Cheney plays the enigma well. Unlike Nixon, however, who had intellectual heft, remarkable political acumen and a carefully developed world vision, Cheney has a small-bore mind along with a world-class Rolodex. At heart Cheney is and always has been the consummate “staff man” — an implementer of the ideas of others but neither an original nor analytical thinker. He started in Washington as a staff person and simply never grew beyond that role. As vice president, he was Bush’s super-head of staff, and when not doing Bush’s bidding, he was devoted to implementing Nixon’s vision of the presidency — a vision Cheney says he has held since Watergate.”

The complete Dean piece can be found at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-07/son-of-nixon/

The Dean perspective seems to be quite a lot to chew on, but John W. Dean has been a party to conspiracies in the past, and indisputably has what it takes to spot one in the present. His piece offers a nice follow up to Barton Gellman’s book “Angler The Cheney Vice Presidency,” which began as a series in the Washington Post, and which in book form was the winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. The book is available for $17.54 at Amazon.com.
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The great conflict in today’s world of the web is whether digital material should be free and widely available, as opposed to the capitalist mantra of limited exposure and “for sale” at a price. The music industry is virtually a shadow of itself these days, having decided to fight illegal downloading of copyrighted material freely available on the torrents by suing individuals. Mostly college students, who could avoid expensive court suits only by paying a several thousand dollar fee. If it sounds like blackmail, welcome to the club. In fairness it should be pointed out that the music industry has recently announced the discontinuation of lawsuits against individuals (probably in lieu of the facts that the courts are no longer allowing that the mere posting of copyrighted material in a public folder is evidence that any downloading took place. Material downloaded by the industry’s Media Sentry were no longer being accepted in the courts, and there is no other way to prove anyone other than the Media Sentry investigator downloaded the material.) in favor of a system which would require Internet providers to watch out for copying activity and would would pass on cease and desist letters to violators.

This might sound good on paper, but most ISP's are not about to monitor and discipline it's customers unless the RIAA pays them, and pays them well. There are other solutions, sure, but the RIAA sees the world only through tired, legal eyes, and the record companies seem bereft of any truly creative ideas. Welcome Music Industry, into the bit torrent world of the 21st Century.

See you next week, the Real Little Eddy

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Blog # 69: A Happy New Year to You All!

January 1, 2009: Traditionally we have posted our blog on Saturday mornings, after having spent most of the day Friday writing it. This week’s blog will be different. We are spending New Year’s Eve writing it, and we will post it first thing New Year’s morning. New Year’s Day is a day which inspires the hope in us one and all that things will be different in the coming year, that we will get over some of our bad habits and turn over that new leaf that we have been promising ourselves for the longest time. Easier said than done, of course. But a lofty, worthy goal nonetheless.
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We can’t leave 2008 without bidding a fond farewell to George W. Bush, everyone’s favorite president NOT! What did W. in? Well, I’m sure each and every one of us have our own pet theories, but to those aides around him Hurricane Katrina does the honor. "Katrina to me was the tipping point," said Matthew Dowd, Bush's pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign. "The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn't matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn't matter. P.R.? It didn't matter. Travel? It didn't matter."

Dan Bartlett, former White House communications director and later counselor to the president, said: "Politically, it was the final nail in the coffin."

Their comments are a part of an oral history of the Bush White House that Vanity Fair magazine has compiled for its February issue. Vanity Fair published comments by current and former government officials, foreign ministers, campaign strategists and numerous others on topics that included Iraq, the anthrax attacks, the economy and immigration.

Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that as a new president, Bush was like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee whom critics said lacked knowledge about foreign affairs. Bush was surrounded by experienced advisers like Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell, who Wilkerson said played damage control for the president.

"It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin-like president — because, let's face it, that's what he was — was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire," Wilkerson said, adding that he considered Cheney probably the "most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur" he'd ever met.

"He became vice president well before George Bush picked him," Wilkerson said of Cheney. "And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush — personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum."

On other topics, David Kuo, who served as deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, disputed the idea that the Bush White House was dominated by religious conservatives and catered to the needs of a religious right voting bloc.

"The reality in the White House is — if you look at the most senior staff — you're seeing people who aren't personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious right leaders," Kuo said.

"In the political affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at ... basically every religious right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable. These guys were pains in the butt who had to be accommodated."
The story is at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6186132.html
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Israel isn’t the only entity out there mad enough to start a war. Would you believe breast-feeding mothers on Facebook? They are seriously pissed because Facebook has been taking down pictures of them nursing their babies from their pages, some of which were their profile pics. Proving without a doubt that a person’s Facebook page belongs to Facebook, and not to them. What follows is from the Times Online (London, not N.Y.)

“A mass online protest movement is gathering pace after Facebook banned some breastfeeding photos from the social network site.

“Angry mothers even picketed the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California, in a live "nurse-in" to complain about a ban on photos of mothers suckling their children that exposed too much of the mother's breast. Hundreds of women have had their pictures removed without warning and have been informed that they may be barred from using the site.

“More than 80,000 people have joined a Facebook petition group "Hey Facebook, Breast-feeding is not Obscene" with hundreds joining every hour. More than 11,000 women from around the world have also taken part in an online "nurse-in" protest on Saturday by posting more breastfeeding pictures. The protest's organisers reported that many have since had these photos removed from the site.

“Facebook has said that it has no problem with breastfeeding but photos that showed nipples or aureolae were indecent and had to be removed.

“Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, said the website takes no action over most breast-feeding photos because they follow the site's terms of use.

"We agree that breast-feeding is natural and beautiful and we're very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on Facebook.'' But, he added, some photos were removed to ensure the site remains safe and secure for all users, including children.

"Photos containing a fully exposed breast - as defined by showing the nipple or areola - do violate those terms on obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit material and may be removed," he said in a statement. "The photos we act upon are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain."

“Patricia Madden, from San Jose, had a photograph of her breastfeeding her daughters Zoe and Isobel removed from the site. The birth doula, who encourages new mothers to breast-feed, was photographed by her husband while feeding in the bathtub.

"It's amazing to me that we're living in a world where people are upset by this,'' she said. "You can't see my nipples. It's completely legal to breast-feed in public. Breast-feeding is completely natural and healthy. They took off the photo, without my permission," she told the San Jose Mercury News.

“The live protest in Palo Alto, under the banner of the Mothers International Lactation Campaign, attracted a handful of mothers and supporters who picketed peacefully, armed with suckling children and placards.

“It is legal to breastfeed in public in most states in America and in many countries around the world including Britain but Facebook's terms of service give it the right to remove content that it deems it to be inappropriate. Campaigners say that breastfeeding is natural and healthy and should be not bracketed with pornography. Facebook's stance demeans and stigmatises women, they say.

“Heather Farley, 23, of Provo, Utah, said she was surprised when Facebook took down two photos of her nursing her 6-month-old daughter, one of which was her profile picture. She became one of the protest's organisers. She said: "Where I live, I can breast-feed in public or private, and there are laws that say it's not obscene or lewd or indecent. If I can do it in public, why can't I do it on Facebook?"
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To leave the Times Online story, I think most people are not offended by the human breast, and rather get a kind of thrill from seeing it. After all, it is for many of us our first source of nourishment, and it is one of nature’s more beautiful body parts, as glorified in art from time immemorial. However, to determine that a body part like a nipple or areola is pornographic borders on the absurd. In truth we are a multi-cultured society, and one obsessed by playing it safe, and so whatever offends one group is usually banned by all so as not to offend the one. And the more cultures you combine, the more things which will end up being banned. And sometimes it goes to absurd lengths, as it has here. I’d be willing to bet that those who run Facebook are mostly men, young arrogant men, men deathly afraid that something might come along and puncture their magic balloon. I hate to disillusion the assperson that spoke for Facebook, but when he said that: “Photos containing a fully exposed breast – as defined by showing the nipple or areola – do violate those terms on obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit material and may be removed," is full of it. It is his mind that is obscene, not the bared breasts of nursing mothers. It shows you what can happen if generation after generation is bottle fed, rather than breastfed. They lose all perspective and appreciation of the finer things. What an irony it will be if it turns out that Facebook’s banning of pictures of mothers breast-feeding their babies was the straw that brought down the Facebook house of cards.

The Times article is here:
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article5417278.ece

The pictures that Facebook banned can be seen here:
http://www.tera.ca/photos6.html

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Historians might well term 2008 as the year of YouTube. Even the Israeli army in its attempt to justify its Gaza air strikes, has taken out a channel on YouTube. Although many will not fault Israel for the current slaughter, some of us feel that Israel’s desire to punish Hamas by killing ten to twenty Palestinians for every Israeli killed might be seen as overkill. And this is especially true since in Gaza there have been 400 deaths as retribution for no Israeli deaths from rockets. For the sake of peace and sanity, we would hope that cooler heads might prevail in Israel, though the chance of that happening with all the candidates trying to outdo superhawk Benjamin Netanyahu is fat to the point of obesity.
This week has uncovered some memorable videos. We would like to bring you some of the best we have found, and we refer you to the Daily Beast’s two video pages for more gems. First off, we would refer you to the Beast’s page of election comedy. Particularly we recommend the video of John McCain’s talk at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York. McCain is a natural comedian when properly inspired, and if he had managed to project this image in his campaign he might well have won the election, or at least done a lot better than he ended up doing. Perhaps Republicans in the future will take note of Obama’s success and conduct themselves as human beings you would admire and like to know, rather than relying on slander and guilt by association, and other scare tactics too numerous to mention here. You will find this video at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/big-fat-story/2008-12-28/the-best-political-comedy-of-2008/
Also on the page you will find Chris Rock making fun of Bill Clinton’s avoidance of Obama’s name early in the campaign. He made it originally on the David Letterman show, and went on to follow up on Larry King among others. Saturday Night Live is represented, of course, as it became relevant pmvr again in this year’s elections. “You betcha!” However the gem of this page we present below. It is then newly elected Senator Barack Obama of Illinois roasting the congressman from Illinois, the man who would later be his pick for his chief of staff, Ron Emanuel. It is funny bordering on brilliant, and we think watching it will make a great way to enter the New Year. Happy clicking.



Although Obama’s level of humor never quite rises again to his opening remarks on the loss of part of Emanuel’s middle finger which Obama pointed out makes Emanuel practically mute, (and which also seems to have completely cracked up Emanuel) it showed a real fondness for his pick at an early stage in the race, at a time when probably only Senator Obama really thought he had a chance in hell to be president.
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Before we noted that this is the year of YouTube, the year of non-professionals shooting video on their cellphones or movie cameras and uploading it to YouTube. Some of these use copyrighted music by performers who don’t want their music used by an amateur, and certainly not unless they pay the piper. Many a near priceless video has been taken down by the artist. But one, a video which is truly worthy of the label heartwarming, is the story of Christian the Lion. Set to the singing of Whitney Houston, it is said to be the most downloaded YouTube video of all time. We wouldn’t know about that, but it tells a really classic story of love between species, does this tale in which a couple who adopted a lion cub, and who would exercise it in the church’s extensive grounds, and who later have to return the animal to Africa and to the wild because it got too big for their apartment. The remarkable story of their reunion with their beast is below.


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And finally here is a compelling video which we found in Dwight Silverman’s excellent Tech Blog in the Houston Chronicle. It shows to what heights imagination can reach when combined by technical skills. This remarkable video shows us would would happen to earth if a rather large asteroid crashed into it. To music by the incomparable Pink Floyd, the accuracy of the video we cannot attest to, but it’s images are chilling indeed, and it does serve to make us conscious of those myriad chunks of airborne rocks floating around up there in space, and it suggests we be ever vigilant and determine ways to deflect the path of one these lest it attempt to mimic the one in this video.


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The holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas time, are travel times. And this week we were drawn to a story in the New York Times the other day, called Do Strangers Really Hate My Kids. It can be found at: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/do-strangers-really-hate-my-kids/?hp

It was in a column called Motherlode, by Lisa Belkin and it is a follow up to a story that was posted by a mother named Stephanie who was traveling to Atlanta with two children. From her email: “We took off late, and I followed the great advice to use the delay and tire them out in the boarding area. I also took the advice not to board early and waited until the very last minute. We had three seats, because I didn’t cancel my husband’s ticket, and the hard part was dragging the extra car seat through the airport (I took the baby in the stroller/car seat combo), but having two car seats for two children was a godsend. I nursed the baby going up and going down. My older girl can’t really sit through a whole movie, and I couldn’t get a portable DVD player at the last minute anyway, but I filled a backpack with goodies and she had fun opening a new one every once in awhile. They both slept a lot. I even got a nap. And all around me were people who were willing to help. I was a little nervous because of some of the very angry comments people left about how I had no business taking the trip in the first place, but none of those seemed to be on my flight!”

“Let’s talk for a moment about those angry comments. Blogs are a universe apart, and I know well that people will write things here, anonymously, that they would never say to someone’s face. But, as the person who read every single one of the 500-plus comments and approved them for publication, I was struck by the depth of some of the anger.

“To keep things in perspective, I’d estimate 90 percent of you who left comments (no, I haven’t done a mathematical breakdown. I can’t bring myself to go back and read 500 plus comments again, but if anyone out there would like to, please let me know what you find … ) were supportive and practical and wise. I particularly liked the idea of bringing a bag of chocolate kisses to hand out as an advance “apology” to other passengers.

“Of the remaining 10 percent or so, I’d say half were spurred to nastiness by the idea of a baby being changed on an airplane seat (which, for the record, I have done when it was the only option), and they might well have kept their thoughts to themselves if not for that particular suggestion.

“But the other five percent? No wonder Stephanie was nervous about finding you seated near her on a plane.

“Do us all a favor, stay home,” wrote someone who chose to call himself “I.Hate.Kidz” for the purposes of leaving his comment.

Matt suggested, “Maybe you should have thought about juggling two children before you stacked them basically nine months apart.”

And to the reasonable suggestion that Stephanie bring along some electronic entertainment for a long flight, John declared, “Anybody who has to narcotize their off spring with a DVD player is an unfit parent.”

I was sent an e-mail this weekend from a reader, a mother of three children under the age of 6, who was deeply shaken by what she read here last week. She directed me to a blog she keeps, a way of staying in touch with family and friends, where she explored why the comments upset her so much. Are there really so many people who see parents as simply out to make the world a noisy, unsanitary place, she wondered. Do strangers really look at her that way when she goes out into the world with her children, doing the best she can?

Here is some of what she said:

“I was left feeling really, really sad. Dismayed. Sad. The post was made on December 23rd, a day when I would hope that many would be full of holiday spirit, whether it be thanks to Hanukkah or Christmas or just the end of the year. I would hope there would have been more gentle words in those comments. They were just so edged with tension and resentment and dislike for children and mothers, and it has sat with me and made me just feel heavy for days now.

“I know there are rude parents. I have encountered some doozies myself. I know kids can be painful to travel with or be around or see out in public. I know my kids have kicked airplane seats (despite my best efforts) or had diarrhea or cried during an airplane holding pattern (that made me want to cry as well). I know that children are not always pleasant and that parents are not always perfect or even anywhere close. But this attitude, this perception of children as a public nuisance that truly shouldn’t be seen NOR heard? It just hurts my heart. How have we come to this?

“I take my children out in public. We eat at restaurants, we fly on airplanes (and pay through the nose for it, thanks), we stay at hotels, we go into stores. I have breastfed in public. A lot. Not because I think it is fun or because I am making a statement, but because I have been desperate or at wit’s end (often sleep deprived to boot) or just incapable of figuring out another way to manage the outing. I don’t want to foist my children on the general public — lord knows I try to avoid confrontation at all. But sometimes it is unavoidable, and I do believe my children have to actually go out into the world sometimes in order to know how to behave in it.

“My children are not gremlins. They are not animals. They aren’t malicious or out to ruin anyone’s day. But they are people too — short people, often loud people, sometimes unreasonable people. That separates them from adults how, exactly? After all, I have been on plenty of airplanes on which adults acted disruptively. On one flight, a drunk woman lit a cigarette in her seat and then proceeded to stand while we landed because she refused to sit down. Another woman, also drunk, threw up all over her row and her rowmates several times during a flight.

“I have been in stores and restaurants in which adults threw tantrums, raised their voices or acted inappropriately. Some of the worst behavior I have seen at Disney World has been from adults, not (oversugared, overstimulated, sleep deprived) children.

“The mean-spirited blog comments really brought me down. I don’t know why it affected me so much. Maybe because it was so apparent how judgmental a lot of people are, how intolerant our society is, how *mean* we can all be sometimes. Isn’t the world tough enough without despising little children and their desperate parents? Why can’t we all give each other a little bit of a leash? When you see a parent out in the world with small children, you have no idea what is going on in that parent’s life. None. How about a little grace?”

One last thing. To the commenters who wondered why Stephanie didn’t just stay home or why her parents didn’t come out to see her instead, she explains: “In the end it was all worth it. My father has been very ill and he’s not allowed to travel, which is why I was so determined to have this Christmas with all of us together. Happy New Year.”
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What a shame that there are intolerant and nasty and selfish people out there, unconscious of the environment they travel in, but going through life this way is no way to live and let live. People need to relax, and try to conjure up a little empathy for their fellow human beings. We only travel this path one time, why not make our own journey, as well as those of our fellow travelers, as pleasant as possible. Wouldn’t that make one helluva New Year’s resolution? Cheers, and a happy you know what! See you Saturday Week.

The Real Little Eddy