Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blog #85: Silence reigns, Pirate Google

– ☯ –

The Sound of Silence

Last night, Sunday April 19, 2009, I found myself entering into a strange new world, a world in which I was immersed in a pool of silence.

My left ear has been fairly deaf since I was a kid. I think I lost a good bit of hearing in that ear when I was six and a doctor lanced my eardrum in order to treat an abscess. This was before the age of antbiotics, and medical care back then was relatively primitive. As a result they kept giving me hearing tests all through Elementary School. However, I learned to live with it because after all I had a reasonably good right ear.

But Sunday night my right ear suddenly failed me, leaving me unable to hear such common, everyday things such as running water and the flushing of the toilet. On a scale of 1 to 10 my right ear was perhaps hearing at a scale of 4, if that. This joins my left ear which barely hears anything this side of a roar.

Monday morning. As I feared, I did not hear my alarm going off at 6 am this morning, and it was 6:21 before I reared my head up to check the clock. Television has pretty much lost its voice. And music sounds like a travesty of itself through those wonderful Sennheiser headphones my sons pooled their resources to send me last year.

It’s a condition that continues to bring down my quality of life. Will I respond by finally getting myself some kind of a hearing aid as my older son Dan has been urging me to do for years now? Who knows? Will Medicaire and my health insurance company, Texas HealthSpring pay any money towards it? Or will I be forced by economic reasons to continue swimming in this pool of silence I have so suddenly found myself in?

Of course, when you get to my age and something like this happens, you can’t help but ask yourself, “what’s next?” Who knows what failings lurk in the bodies of the elderly? The Shadow knows! I would sure as hell give just about anything to find out the answer to that “what’s next” question. But as usual only time will tell.

Update: I started coming out of the pool (of silence) late in the day Monday, and by Tuesday I can hear fairly normally on the telephone, and the tv. Music still doesn’t sound quite right on the Sennheisers, but you can’t have everything. Be thankful for small favors, Little Eddy.

At least now, blush, blush, blush,

I can finally hear my toilet flush.§

– ☯ –

The Google Pirate Bay

Graphic from GIZMODO


A Google Pirate?

Jesus Diaz on GIZMODO writes, Demonstrating how futile the war against Pirate Bay really is, someone has created The Pirate Google bay: A Google custom search dedicated to find torrent files. I can't wait for the industry to sue Google.

Think about it: Even if they hunt all the Torrent directories and search pages down, they will keep appearing and people will still publish things online, no matter what. Torrents torrents everywhere, and Google as the mega-Pirate Bay it already is.

And from The Local, Sweden’s news channel in English, comes word that at least one of the attorney’s for the real Pirate Bay’s principals are planning to call for a mistrial. It turns out that the judge in the Pirate Bay case, Tomas Norström, has been a member of several of the same copyright protection organisations as several of the main entertainment industry representatives, Sveriges Radio's P3 news programme reports.

Peter Althin, the lawyer who represents Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde, has announced that he plans to demand a retrial. "I will point that out in my appeal, then the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) will decide if the district court decision should be set aside and the case revisited," Althin said on Thursday.§

– ☯ –

What will be this year’s hottest toy?

How about a toy where you make a ping pong ball rise using only your brain power? Look ma, no hands!

Isn’t that an extraordinary video? Imagine this Christmas you’ll be able to give the child of your choice the power to use his/her brain waves so creatively? And what is first appearing as a children’s toy will eventually have some purely grownup uses. Like as mentioned the ability to control artificial limbs through brain waves, and the idea of using your brain to help fly that complicated new jet fighter. Intriguing stuff, this.§

– ☯ –


And now for something completely different . . .

Stephen Hawking in zero gravity

Photo from


Stephen Hawking Very Ill

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Scientist and author Stephen Hawking is "very ill" and has been hospitalized, according to Cambridge University, where he is a professor. Hawking, 67, is one of the world's most famous physicists and also a cosmologist, astronomer, and mathematician. Wheelchair-bound Hawking is perhaps most famous for 'A Brief History of Time.'

Hawking has Lou Gehrig's Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS), which is usually fatal after three years. Hawking has survived for more than 40 years since his diagnosis. On his Web site, Hawking has written about living with ALS. "I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many," he wrote.

He added: "I have been lucky, that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope."

Hawking has been married twice. His Web site says he has three children and one grandchild. Hawking was born on what turned out to be an auspicious date: January 8, 1942 -- the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.

A Cambridge University spokesman told CNN: "Professor Hawking is very ill and has been taken by ambulance to Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge." Professor Peter Haynes, head of the university's department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, said: "Professor Hawking is a remarkable colleague, we all hope he will be amongst us again soon."

Hawking has guest-starred, as himself, on Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons. He also said if he had the choice of meeting Sir Isaac Newton or Marilyn Monroe, his choice would be Marilyn. In October, CNN's Becky Anderson interviewed Hawking. The following are some quotes from that interview:

"Over the last twenty years, observations have to a large extent confirmed the picture I painted in 'A Brief History of Time.' The one major development that was not anticipated was the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating now, rather than slowing down... We live in the most probable of all possible worlds."

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone next thousand, or million."

"I see great dangers for the human race ... but I'm an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries, our species should be safe as we spread into space.

On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that later in the afternoon, Hawking was "now comfortable but will be kept in hospital overnight." Hawking was involved in the search for the great goal of physics — a "unified theory" — which would resolve contradictions between Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which describes the laws of gravity that govern the motion of large objects like planets, and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics, which deals with the world of subatomic particles.

"A complete, consistent unified theory is only the first step: our goal is a complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence," he wrote in his best-selling book, "A Brief History of Time," published in 1988. In a more accessible sequel "The Universe in a Nutshell," published in 2001, Hawking ventured into concepts like supergravity, naked singularities and the possibility of a universe with 11 dimensions. "§

– ☯ –

Is Our Being Safer an Illusion?

Our erstwhile ex president of vice, the Dick with the last name of Cheney, recently shot his mouth off about how this country (in his somewhat skewered opinion) was less safe under President Obama than we were under Bush/Cheney because Obama has forsaken torture as an interrogation technique, which in Cheney’s assessment is what has kept Americans safe these many years since 9/11. Of course Cheney could cite not one instance to back up his specious claims. If indeed there is any, all such information is conveniently classified? Should we take an unsubstantiated Cheney at his word? Or should we turn for guidance to someone who actually administered interrogation techniques in Iraq? And what, if anything, lurks in the wake of U.S. interrogation techniques as practiced under the Bush/Cheney administration?

Matthew Alexander is a former senior interrogator in Iraq who reminded us in Monday’s edition of The Daily Beast that abusing prisoners results in unreliable information, costs American lives, and still hasn’t turned up Osama Bin Laden. According to Mr. Alexander:

Our policy of torture and abuse of prisoners has been Al Qaida’s number one recruiting tool, a point conspicuously absent from former CIA Director General Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s argument in the Wall Street Journal. As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past.

Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.

In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.

Former officials who say that we prevented terrorist attacks by waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or Abu Zubaydah are possibly intentionally ignorant of the fact that their actions cost us American lives. And let’s not forget the glaring failure in these cases. Torture never convinced either of these men to sell out Osama Bin Laden. And that’s the other lesson I learned in Iraq.

Matthew Alexander is a pseudonym for a 14 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. As the leader of an elite interrogations team in Iraq, he conducted more than 300 interrogations and supervised more than 1,000. He served in three wars and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2006.

Of course Mr. Cheney’s primary motive for hitting the talk circuit running is his attempt to justify the torture he had pushed for so hard in his VEEP days. His recent appearances on CNN and on Fox represent a new turn in his career, as he attempts to add the title teacher to his resume, and his one and only course is C.Y.A. 101. (Cover Your Ass). For as a driving force behind its adoption Mr. Cheney would naturally stand to get substantial blame if the policy is later deemed to have been criminal. And particularly if it ever gets to a stage of prosecution.

The entire article makes for riveting reading, and may be accessed by pointing your cursor and clicking here!

Leave it to our ex president of vice to claim success in the jaws of failure. According to published reports CIA interrogators waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document. If you are waterboarding a man 183 times in a single month then one thing is quite obvious. Your success rate isn’t running very high.

Furthermore the truth is finally leaking out about the true reasons for that all of that excessive torture during the Bush/Cheney years. According to a report by Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers the relentless pressure from the Bush Administration to use harsh methods on detainees was done in part to find evidence of cooperation between al-Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would have provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of collaboration between al-Qaida and Iraq.

“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after Sept. 11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al-Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al-Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA … and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Hussein, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies,” the former official said.

Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough,” he said. Mr. Landay’s complete reporting may be found here!

From a N.Y. Times story by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti which can be read in its entirety here!:

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.

And finally for the ultimate Timeline of the Bush Administration’s march into the Dark Side, go to the Foreign Policy website by pointing your cursor here

– ☯ –

The Apple iPod Touch


New DoD GI Issue: Apple’s iPod Touch

The U.S. Defense Department’s newest battlefield weapon is, would you believe? an iPod Touch. According to an article by Benjamin Sutherland in Newsweek:

The U.S. military in the past would give a soldier an electronic handheld device, made at great expense specially for the battlefield, with the latest software. But translation is only one of many software applications soldiers now need. The future of "networked warfare" requires each soldier to be linked electronically to other troops as well as to weapons systems and intelligence sources. Making sense of the reams of data from satellites, drones and ground sensors cries out for a handheld device that is both versatile and easy to use. With their intuitive interfaces, Apple devices — the iPod Touch and, to a lesser extent, the iPhone — are becoming the handhelds of choice.

Using a commercial product for such a crucial military role is a break from the past. Compared with devices built to military specifications, iPods are cheap. Apple, after all, has already done the research and manufacturing without taxpayer money. The iPod Touch retails for under $230, whereas a device made specifically for the military can cost far more. (The iPhone offers more functionality than the iPod Touch, but at $600 or $700 each, is much more expensive.) Typically sheathed in protective casing, iPods have proved rugged enough for military life. And according to an Army official in Baghdad, the devices have yet to be successfully hacked. (The Pentagon won't say how many Apple devices are deployed, and Apple Computer declined to be interviewed for this article.)

The iPod also fulfills the U.S. military's need to equip soldiers with a single device that can perform many different tasks. Apple's online App Store offers more than 25,000 (and counting) applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which shares the iPhone's touchscreen. As the elegantly simple iPods — often controlled with a single thumb — acquire more functionality, soldiers can shed other gadgets. An iPod "may be all that they need," says Lt. Col. Jim Ross, director of the Army's intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors operations in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

Since sharing data is particularly important in counterinsurgency operations, the Pentagon is funding technology that makes it easier for the soldier on the ground to acquire information and quickly add it to databases. Next Wave Systems in Indiana, is expected to release iPhone software that would enable a soldier to snap a picture of a street sign and, in a few moments, receive intelligence uploaded by other soldiers (the information would be linked by the words on the street sign). This could include information about local water quality or the name and photograph of a local insurgent sympathizer. The U.S. Marine Corps is funding an application for Apple devices that would allow soldiers to upload photographs of detained suspects, along with written reports, into a biometric database. The software could match faces, making it easier to track suspects after they're released.

Apple gadgets are proving to be surprisingly versatile. Software developers and the U.S. Department of Defense are developing military software for iPods that enables soldiers to display aerial video from drones and have teleconferences with intelligence agents halfway across the globe. Snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan now use a "ballistics calculator" called BulletFlight, made by the Florida firm Knight's Armament for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Army researchers are developing applications to turn an iPod into a remote control for a bomb-disposal robot (tilting the iPod steers the robot). In Sudan, American military observers are using iPods to learn the appropriate etiquette for interacting with tribal leaders.

Translation is another important area. A new program, Vcommunicator, is now being issued to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It produces spoken and written translations of Arabic, Kurdish and two Afghan languages. It also shows animated graphics of accompanying gestures and body language, and displays pictures of garments, weapons and other objects. Procurement officials are making a "tremendous push" to develop and field militarily useful Apple devices, says Ernie Bright, operations manager of Vcom3D, the Florida firm that developed the software. The iPod has already transformed the way we listen to music. Now it's taking on war.

Apple’s Quarterly Report

Meantime, the Associated Press’ Jessica Mintz reported Apple Quarterly financial results. Strong sales of the iPhone Apple Inc. lifted its quarterly profit 15 percent, well ahead of Wall Street’s expections despite of the global downturn. The company also said co-founder Steve Jobs still plans to return from his medical leave as scheduled. "We look forward to Steve returning to Apple at the end of June," Apple's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said in a conference call with analysts. Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities as CEO in January. Analysts who follow Apple have said that if Jobs does not return, the company's stock will take a hit and the company might find it difficult to replicate some of the strategic moves that its CEO has forced, such as moving into the smartphone handset business.

"I think you'd see a high-functioning company, but one without the lightning strike of genius," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research Inc., shortly after Jobs announced his medical leave. "They'd have a human batting average.§


Che’s Photo has a Life of its Own

In an article entitled Brand Che: Revolutionary as a Marketer’s Dream, Michiko Kakutani in Books of the Times reviews the impact of a book called CHE’S AFTERLIFE The Legacy of an Image By Michael Casey Illustrated. 388 pages. Vintage Books. $15.95. From the revue:

Che Lives!

Not just in the hearts of revolutionaries, Marxist insurgents and rebellious teenagers, but on T-shirts, watches, sneakers, key chains, cigarette lighters, coffee mugs, wallets, backpacks, mouse pads, beach towels and condoms. He’s not only been used by politicians like the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, to promote their own agendas, but he’s also been employed by merchants to sell air fresheners in Peru, snowboards in Switzerland and wine in Italy.

The supermodel Gisele Bündchen pranced down a runway in a Che bikini. A men’s wear company brought out a Che action figure, complete with fatigues, a beret, a gun and a cigar. And an Australian company produced a “cherry Guevara” ice cream line, describing the eating experience like this: “The revolutionary struggle of the cherries was squashed as they were trapped between two layers of chocolate. May their memory live on in your mouth!”

As Michael Casey, the Buenos Aires bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, observes in his fascinating new book, “Che’s Afterlife,” the image of Ernesto Guevara most frequently used by politicians, demonstrators and merchants alike is based on the famous 1960 picture of the guerrilla leader taken by the Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, known as Korda. It’s the familiar, ubiquitous close-up, often rendered in high-contrast blacks and whites, which features the handsome 31-year-old Argentine-born revolutionary looking off into the distance as if he had his eyes on the future, his gaze — described, variously, as pensive, determined, defiant, meditative or implacable — as difficult, in Mr. Casey’s words, “to put a finger on” as the Mona Lisa’s smile.

One often wonders what the American CIA agent who is credited with finishing a wounded Che off with a bullet to his head, thinks about his accomplishment lo these many years later. His shot seemingly projected Guevara into the realm of myth, and has helped make the face of the somewhat obscure physician and revolutionary one of the most recognizable images on the planet.

In James Bond lore it was author Ian Fleming who anointed Bond with the power of 007, life and death. One wonders in a democracy such as ours, just who it is who has the power to anoint a CIA agent with such powers. That someone in the U. S. could invoke such power at a time the nation was not at war was something they neglected to teach us in our high school civics classes. I suppose Dick Cheney could explain it to us.§

– ☯ –

The canary has died; gas field dead ahead.

And so we have passed yet another edition of the Little Eddy Blog. Do join us again anytime next week for more of the same. God and Google, willing we post Saturday mornings. See you next time.§

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blog #84: Gov. Perry Talks Seceding

– ☯ –

Gov. Perry Beating the Texas Heat

Photo from


Gov. Perry Talks Seceding from Union

“May the fleas of 1,000 camels infest your linen closet,” the unemployed Texas worker emailed Governor Rick Perry. In a desperate attempt to seem relevant to what he perceives as his conservative base, Governor Good Hair as Molly Ivins used to call him, made a guarded attempt to reserve the right to have Texas secede from the Union in reaction to President Obama’s stimulus package. He threatened to reject parts of the package, but of course the Texas Legislature is showing the retention of its sanity by busily talking of its acceptance of all its parts.

Scholars at both the University of Texas and Texas A&M have declared that there is no such provision in Texas joining the Union that the Governor referred to in his threat of secession. Governor Good Hair is undoubtedly losing sleep at night over his upcoming reelection campaign, as retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson is planning to enter the Republican primary running against him. Writer, humorist Kinky Friedman is taking the first steps to run as a Democrat in the race.

– ☯ –

Conservative Republicans Seeing Red?

Conservative Republicans are seeing many shades of red these days. For one thing, the Department of Homeland Security released a memo citing the possible return of right wing extremist hate groups like those we experienced back in the early 1990’s when various military style groups were collecting weapons and training in various woodland areas around the country. This type of DHS planning is typical of the type of contingency planning any group which has responsibility in a particular area must do, the Pentagon undoubtedly has studies which would drive the left wing up a wall. However releasing the report to the press outraged the gun hoarding right wing. Perhaps they are feeling a wee bit of none too well-concealed guilt.

The DHS memo also cited the record breaking sales of weapons, and particularly assault weapons, which are being bought up in the fear of the Obama administration re-instituting a ban against weapon sales. As the gun lobby cries foul and the constitution, we would remind them that the only weapon our constitution framers knew was shot and powder muskets, which I’m sure would be alright with the most ardent Brady disciple. It is assault weapons that the Attorney General has talked of re-instituting the ban on, and there is no legitimate use for assault weapons outside of a state of war or insurrection. Perhaps insurrection is what these whiners have in mind, but no sensible government is going to sit by and let weapons of war become common street fare. By not renewing the ban the Bush administration had taken us down that road and we must extricate ourselves from this situation as soon as possible or watch as news of other mass killings fills our nightly news.§

– ☯ –

One Happy Eight Year Old

Enjoying Her Constitutional Rights

Photo from


– ☯ –

Fox Promotes Tea Bagging

Wednesday was tax day which found the Fox Views channel attempting to bring back some of the glory of the original Boston Tea Party with its anti-income tax sponsorship of Tea Bag Parties. About the only thing the campaign proved was the fact that in the U.S. these days tea is consumed by the tea bag. Somehow this modern day attempted reenactment which consisted of protesters depositing their tea bags on sheets of canvas (to ensure ease of cleanup afterwards) lacked the drama which had distinguished the original colonists dumping of large stores of tea into Boston Harbor. Let’s face it, imagination is a scarce commodity in Republican quarters and especially in Fox Views strategy meetings. And if you don’t trust your imagination, you can’t effectively use it. (Editor’s Note: From this point forward Little Eddy’s Blog will refer to the Fox cable channel as Fox Views rather than Fox News, because although Views rhymes with news, Fox’s slanted views bear little resemblance to real, unbiased news.)

Meantime here are the Urban Dictionary’s definitions for tea bagger:

1. teabagger multiple meanings. 1) one who carries large bags of packaged tea for shipment. 2) a man that squats on top of a woman’s face and lowers his genitals into her mouth during sex, known as "teabagging" 3) one who has a job or talent that is low in social status 4) a person who is unaware that they have said or done something foolish, childlike, noobish, lame, or inconvenient. 5) also see "fagbag", "lamer", "noob"

2. teabagger A misinformed, right-wing corporate media consumer who often fails to understand that BOTH major parties represent a corrupt plutocracy that steals from the middle class by taxing labor and profiting from corporate tax subsidies.

A teabagger also often fails to acknowledge that George W. Bush and his neo-conservative minions perpetrated one of the boldest and most egregious executive power grabs in the history of the United States. Furthermore, teabaggers mistakenly continue to blame a newly elected President Obama for all that ails the United States of America, based on a grossly flawed perception of reality (including latent racial prejudice) and despite the fact the U.S. economy collapsed on the previous administration's watch.

For complete Urban Dictionary tea bagger definitions go here! §

– ☯ –

CNN’s Borger Twitter-sizes Gingrich

Gloria Borger, one of the key political analysts on CNN, accused the Republican party of “twittering away their credibility.” She took exception to Newt Gingrich’s twittered criticism of President Obama over the hostage crisis.

Gingrich on Twitter last Saturday: "Obama is making a major mistake in not forcefully outlining the rules of civilization for dealing with pirates. We look weak."

By Monday, after the safe rescue of the captain, Gingrich was, er, a tad more laudatory: "The Navy seals did exactly the right thing in rescuing the American captain. President Obama did the right thing in allowing the Navy to act."

A grudging kudo, if there ever was one.

Would it have been better if the president of the United States had publicly engaged with a bunch of teenage thug pirates? It's beneath Obama's pay grade and dignity – not to mention how it would have added fuel to an already incendiary situation.

So how about just admitting that the administration performed admirably in this crisis?

Here's the problem: If Republicans can't allow that the president did his job well in this unambiguous case, why should we believe their complaints about anything else? If they can't pat him on the back for this one, why should we even listen to their arguments about the budget, about health care, about energy?

If Republicans want Americans to see their arguments as credible – as they may well be – they need to present themselves as the credible opposition.

Good first impressions count for them, too. And so far, Republicans are Twittering them away.

Right on and well put, Gloria Borger. However, the very fiber of the Republican backbone seems to rule out any meaningful consideration of Ms Borger’s stance. How could the party of Selfishness, crying as they are about Obama’s stated intention to raise the tax rates of the very wealthy back to the rates held under Ronald Reagan, how can they possibly be taken seriously by a long overtaxed middle class who have finally been given a glimmer of hope for a fairer tax situation? And if Palin, Jindal, and/or Gingrich are the best the Republican Party will have to offer in 2012, bring the election on. §

– ☯ –

Take that Microsoft

He didn't want the PC, which has "second-rate Korean components," and asked for the money instead. "I'm poor but I'm not retarded. Alright, these computers suck," he says. Thus Homeless Man joins Microsoft’s bevy of happy pc purchasers.

In a follow up Forrester Research which tracks customer service reported the following: Apple notched an 80 percent, or “good” rating, in Forrester’s customer experience index, which is an average of responses on topics like whether companies meet customer needs and make products that are easy and enjoyable to use.

Gateway scored a 66; Hewlett-Packard, a 64; and Compaq (a brand owned by H.P.), a 63 — scores that Forrester considers “poor” rankings in the customer experience index. Dell got a miserly 58 percent, a “very poor” rating.

Full details here!

– ☯ –

Will Wonders Never Cease?

President Obama began the week following Easter by doing what for a modern day politician is the unthinkable, he actually kept a campaign promise. We’re trying to be cute here, of course. Mr. Obama is not suddenly beginning to fulfill campaign promises, he’s been doing that since his first day in office. But it should be noted that he began this week removing all restrictions on Cuban family members to visit their island of origin and allowing for economic support to freely flow to family members still in Cuba. What a precedent, delivering on a campaign promise? No telling just where that road might lead. It’s too bad Republicans never were able to master this simple task. If they had perhaps their approval record wouldn’t be so far in the dumps these days.

In fact, in the wake of 911 George Bush and the Republicans had the support of the American people as no president of recent times has had it. But under the astute direction of Bush’s crackerjack political advisor, Karl Rove, who was following a playbook right out of Machiavelli, they squandered this support in favor of instigating a phony war, and then attempted to use that war for political purposes to aid in securing George Bush’s reelection. That is why some of us think it so unseemly when we hear Rove trying to trade on his so-called presidential bona fides as a pundit on television. He’s a pundit alright, one that only Rupert Murdoch and Fox Views could respect and give air time to. He is still offering critiques of the Obama Administration as if the regime he had worked for had had all of the answers and had executed them flawlessly. Rove’s opinions are of interest only to those who after eight years still believe the Bush administration was taking the American people down the right road. As good ole Honest Abe once said, “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people ALL of the time.” Thank you Mr. Lincoln for that observation. And thank you Karl Rove, for each and every one of your meaningless, self serving ruminations. And let us hear a cheer for the Fox Views Channel. §

– ☯ –

Pirate Bay Loses in Court

From Torrent Freak comes the news: Just minutes ago the verdict in the case of The Pirate Bay Four was announced. All four defendants were accused of ‘assisting in making copyright content available’. Peter Sunde: Guilty. Fredrik Neij: Guilty. Gottfrid Svartholm: Guilty. Carl Lundström: Guilty. The four receive 1 year in jail each and fines totaling $3,620,000.

The implications for this verdict are quite strong, for unlike the original Napster which fell to defeat in US courts, the Bay hosts no pirated content on its servers. It is basically a search engine, joining people who have content with those who want same. Don’t you just know that Google’s ears are buzzing with this news. The Swedish Fab Four insist that the Bay, whose servers lie beyond the Swedish Court’s reach, will continue its mission. And of course the verdict will be appealed.

What the Torrent Freak story did not address was the story it published (and Little Eddy picked up) last week that The Pirate Bay was sold to Warner Bros. None of today’s stories mentioned that reported purchase, and Sunde’s promise to carry on seems to negate it. The court’s statement:

“The court has found that by using Pirate Bay’s services (shudder, shudder) there has been file-sharing of music, films and computer games to the extent the prosecutor has stated in his case,” said the district court. “This file-sharing constitutes an unlawful transfer to the public of copyrighted performances.”

Peter Sunde has already explained that this decision does not mean the end of the line in this case. There will be an appeal which means we are still far away from the ultimate decision - possibly years away. Any appeal from either side must be submitted to Sweden’s higher Court by 9th May 2009.

Rasmus Fleischer, one of the founders of Piratbyrån commented, “The sentence has no formal consequence and no juridical value. We chose to treat the trial as a theater play and as such it’s been far better than we ever could have believed.”

For the full story of the Bay’s loss in the Swedish court direct your cursor and click here! §

– ☯ –

How would you like some nice candy, little girl?

Photo from


StumbleUpon Stumbles Back Home

According to Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, the website StumbleUpon, sold to eBay a scant two years ago, has been bought back by its original creators. This seems like a most canny move, as it is beyond me to see how a website which allows you to discover websites could benefit and enrich the coffers of a marketplace site like eBay.

You’d think that the founders (Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith and Justin LeFrance) would be quite content to go into semi-hibernation at eBay and contemplate their vacation homes for years to come. But like so many already-wealthy entrepreneurs, some fire kept driving at them to keep themselves challenged. It may be the deep rooted insecurity that leads most entrepreneurs to try to build companies in the first place - getting bought doesn’t necessarily give them the self confidence they thought it would. Or it may a simpler explanation - the certain knowledge that StumbleUpon hasn’t yet become whatever it is eventually destined to be.

So when the opportunity came for the founders to buy the company back from eBay and start over, they took it. The struggling eBay had been looking to sell off StumbleUpon for months, even hiring investment bank Deutsche Bank to help them get back their $75 million, but there were no takers. That left the door open for the founders to buy it back themselves.

For the complete Arrington article go here! To celebrate the change of ownership I opened StumbleUpon in Firefox to see where it might take me. It knows my tastes pretty well, it took me to a photography page hosted by Flicka, to a Writer’s page, followed by the home page of TheOnion. On The Onion’s page an online video celebrates the latest shoot’ em up game where the player shoots various people point blank in the head. The gratification is indeed instant as the shooter causes head after head to blow apart to smithereens.

But my favorite page was The Dr. Seuss Parody Page which may be found here! On it you’ll find topics like Freudian Analysis of Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss’ Inferno, Reproductive Habits of the North-Going Zax, and well, you get the idea. We found How the Gingrinch Stole Congress by The Capitol Steps to be most amusing, a few lines of which follow:

Every Who

Down in Whoville

Liked Elections a lot . . .

But Newt Gingrinch,

Who lived on Mount Gridlock,

Did NOT!

The Gingrinch loathed voting, the whole campaign season!

Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all,

May have been that his brain was two sizes too small.

The full poem lurks here!

And here is what would result if Dr. Seuss wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation... Author: Dave Fuller

Picard: Sigma Indri, that's the star,

So, Data, please, how far? How far?

Data: Our ship can get there very fast

But still the trip will last and last

We'll have two days til we arrive

But can the Indrans there survive?

Picard: LaForge, please give us factor nine.

LaForge: But, sir, the engines are offline!

Picard: Offline! But why? I want to go!

Please make it so, please make it so!

Riker: But sir, if Geordi says we can't,

We can't, we mustn't, and we shan't,

The danger here is far too great!

Picard: But surely we must not be late!

Troi: I'm sensing anger and great ire.

Computer: Alert! Alert! The ship's on fire!

Picard: The ship's on fire? How could this be?

Who lit the fire?

Riker: Not me.

Worf: Not me.

Picard: Computer, how long til we die?

Computer: Eight minutes left to say goodbye.

You get the idea. The full poem may be found here! We conclude with the disclaimer found on the Gingrinch Stole Congress page.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions of Dr. Seuss, or those with an interest in his estate, or anyone related to him, or anyone he met only once on a crowded train traveling from New York to Chicago, or his former next-door-neighbor's dog Max. Some stanzas of the preceding work were directly stolen from Dr. Seuss' classic work, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," without the permission, expressed or implied, of Theodor or Audrey Geisel, or Random House, Inc. This work was created solely for the amusement of the authors and should not be copied, distributed or otherwise duplicated by any means (electronic or telepathic included) without the expressed written consent of whoever owns the copyright to the book the authors plagiarized to create this masterpiece. Any evidence to the contrary should be construed as purely accidental and not the intent of the authors (who, by the way, receive no monetary benefit for having written the poem, but had to pay an overpriced lawyer dearly for this disclaimer). The authors accept no responsibility for any nightmares or other psychological problems caused by reading this work to liberals already suffering from Post Election Stress Disorder.

The only thing dated in the above disclaimer is the fact that it implies that it is liberals are suffering from PESD. This time around it is conservatives who are suffering from Post Election Stress Disorders. HIP, HIP, HOORAY! §

– ☯ –

And so we reach the end of another Little Eddy Blog. This week’s camp reminisces were squeezed out by our breaking news. Next week, god and google willing, we’ll be back for yet another episode. More camp memories plus more reactions about the headlines of the week. If you saw something that tweaked your interest, then join us next week for another edition. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blog # 83: Of Cellphones, the CIA, and Handguns

– ☯ –

Cellphone calls 911 as Teen describes burglary

Shades of et’s phoning home, this story comes to us from the Phoenix New Times:

Machines turning on their human masters:

It sounds like the plot of science fiction movie, but it actually happened to a Peoria punk who police say likes to burglarize vehicles.

The 16-year-old was bragging to his homies about stealing from a car when his mobile phone spontaneously called the police. Perhaps his phone had a one-touch button to call 911, or the kid dialed the numbers by mistake while scratching himself. But little did the chatty guy know, cops began listening in on his conversation.

"It was bolted down – I had to rip it out," a voice can be heard saying on the recording released by Peoria cops. "It took all my energy to lift it out of the car."

His friends seem to be unimpressed with what may be a stolen Cricket phone, lamenting that it wasn't a Blackberry.

Despite long interludes of silence or muddied, unintelligible voices, the cops continued to eavesdrop. They used cell-phone-signal triangulation (with help from the phone company) to get a bead on the kid's approximate location and dispatched a squad car to the area of 9100 West Kings. There, cops found the kid with a stolen car stereo in his hands, says Mike Tellef police spokesman.

The Peoria boy was released to the custody of his parents or guardian and was written up for felony vehicle burglary, which will be prosecuted in juvenile court, Tellef says.

The dilemma for the parents in this case: Take the mobile phone away as punishment – or force him to carry with him always, as a conscience-booster.

For the complete story, and to listen to the tape for yourself, go here!

– ☯ –

Republicans Threaten to Go Nuclear

After promising to release the memos which were written to allow the Bush administration to employ torture in its interrogation techniques, why did the Obama administration suddenly clam up and hold onto the memos? For one thing, because Republican Senators are threatening to go nuclear over the appointments of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. This information is from Scott Horton writing in the Blog section of The Daily Beast.

The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.

For Mr. Horton’s complete article direct your cursor and click here!

John Sifton, also writing in the Beast’s Blogs and Stories section, writes:

The CIA’s new director, Leon Pinetta may also be joining in the fray. The New York Times reported that current CIA director Leon Panetta has taken the position that “no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.” Yet a number of CIA officials implicated in the torture program not only remain at the highest levels of the agency, but are also advising Panetta. Panetta’s attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush’s policy into the Obama administration’s dirty laundry.

Mr. Sifton’s complete article may be found by clicking here!

One would expect better from Leon Pinetta, who many of us hoped would take the agency in a different direction when his appointment by the Obama Administration was announced. Panetta’s attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush’s policy into the Obama administration’s dirty laundry, so says Mr. Sifton. And the Senate Republicans are united to keep the Bush policies secret, thereby putting the exclamation mark on the Panetta coverup. ‘Tis a sad day indeed for turning the light of truth on.

And finally on Thursday, April 9th, The Beast reported the following: New CIA director Leon Panetta has announced that the controversial "black sites" — unknown locations where high-value terrorism suspects were interrogated — have been shut down. The sites were a source of major international controversy, as many other nations allowed the interrogation and torture of the suspected terrorists on their soil. Panetta, without revealing any details, stated bluntly in a letter to staff, "the CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites." Along with closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, President Obama had also pledged to close the "black sites." More here

– ☯ –

How Many Deaths Will it Take?

In this past month alone over 57 people have died in a rash of mass killings throughout the nation. Some observers are speculating that this is being caused by the economy, the recession to be specific. They are pointing out that it is people’s feelings of frustration that is triggering this carnage. If this is true, then we have probably seen only the tip of the iceberg, as the recession is not likely to noticeably improve for possibly a year or more.

How many deaths will it take before the United States Senate and House of Representatives gets over their intimidation in the face of the National Rifle Association and does something about limiting the public’s access to firearms? Every time a reasonable law trying to curb the spread of rapid firing assault weapons is proposed the N.R.A. goes ballistic, cries foul and begins mindlessly citing the constitution.

They are completely paranoid, drawing a line in the sand against any regulation whatsoever. They should be reminded of another group that once upon a time drew a line in the sand. We are thinking of course of a group of Texan’s who drew that famous line in the sand at the Alamo, stepped over it, and then proceeded to a man to lose their lives.

One wishes to remind the jackbooted spokesman for the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, that when our founding fathers were fashioning this constitution he is so fond of citing, they knew only of single shot, powder loading muskets, and that was the weapon their constitution specifically allowed. Even the most anti-gun zealot these days would be happy to give LaPierre and his N.R.A. flock all of the shot and powder loading muskets their bleeding hearts desire. It’s the sales and prevalence of small, concealable handguns, and most particularly rapid firing assault weapons that people of reason are asking that something be done about. It should be further pointed out that the founders also restricted these muskets to the use of militias, organized groups that would defend the constitution.

We repeat for the benefit of any hard of hearing, reading impaired, jackbooted N.R.A. fellow travelers, our Founding Fathers in their constitutional wisdom said nothing about selling automatic weapons to the unstable, crazed individuals who are picking off our citizenry right and left. Modern day assault weapons were beyond their wildest dreams. And so the idea that the Constitution includes the right to own and sell handguns, much less rapid firing assault weapons, is patently absurd. The Constitution meant muskets, fellas. That was the gun in fashion at the time of our Republic’s beginnings.

Not another civilized government on the planet has such loose controls on weapons whose only purpose is the delivery of death, either to animals in the hands of hunters, or to people in the hands of murderers. It is unthinkable that a civilized society, which wisely regulates the driving of automobiles (which can also be weapons in careless hands), but cannot or will not restrict gun ownership to selected dealers who impose strict background checks, making sure that criminals and the mentally unstable do not get their hands on these weapons. The present day reality is that guns, including assault weapons, are being freely sold at gunshows throughout the country with little or no background checks whatsoever.

Is this business of making weapons available to anyone who wants them sheer madness? You bet your sweet bippy it is! We need new legislation to restrict the sale of assault weapons and to impose adequate background checks on the sale of all firearms. How many more needless mass killings will it take before Congress wakes up and takes reasonable measures to try and contain it? Your guess is as good as mine, but there’s a good chance that the answer is much later or even never. Seemingly oblivious of the fact that mass killings originated on a Texas college campus, August 1st, 1966 as an engineering student, Charles Joseph Whitman, killed 14 students, ten of them sniping from the observation deck of Texas University's Administration Building, our Texas politicians seem intent upon increasing the carnage on campus. A bill forbidding Texas Universities from banning concealed handguns on their campuses is wending it’s way through the legislature, and is predicted for passage. Was it seeing too many John Wayne movies as kids that makes Texas politicians invoke a cowboy mentality? For the complete story you can click here! I guess the philosophy of of those jackbooted fellow travelers of the N.R.A. has infected the Texas legislature. Good luck, students.§

– ☯ –

The Pirate Bay Sails On?

Last week we ran a story about Ye Old Pirate Bay having sold out to the very movie industry whose movies they were allowing to be pirated. To Warner Bros. no less. Well, this week there’s another story from the storied Bay. This concerns their new anonymity service. It seems that it has signed up over 100,000 subscribers.

The new service was introduced to allow subscribers to circumvent the controversial Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) which recently became law in Sweden, and gives an additional layer of anomymity to their subscribers for a $6 monthly fee. According to Wired Magazine the service will operate much the same way as other anonymity services, with one important exception: The Pirate Bay says it will not log its data, making it more difficult to trace activity to a specific user.

What we are wondering is this: is the new service a part of the sale of the Bay to Warner Bros? Or is it a separate project from the originators of The Bay. We assume it isn’t part of the sale, and that it is being offered by the original owners of The Bay to help protect its users from scrutiny by the enforcers of Sweden’s new law. Does this mean that the Bay will continue its mission even under the auspices of its new owner, Warner Bros.? Undoubtedly that would make members of Warner’s board of directors extremely popular at Hollywood parties. Like NOT!

More than likely its new owners will strip The Bay of it’s former clandestine activities, but in order to circumvent the new law the Bay’s previous owners are supplying its Swedish users and others as needed with with the new service to help them remain undetected while using other bit torrent clients, such as, and

Further details of the swashbucklers’ new adventures may be found here!

– ☯ –

100% of Teens Plan to Buy iPods

Take this, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer! The online Tech website Gizmoto notes that a new survey of teens reports that 100% of them plan to buy an iPod this year, with 0% of them planning to buy Zunes or Sansas. Piper Jaffray’s biannual Teen Survey, in its eighth year shows a serious dropoff in interest for the Zune and Sansa. Gizmoto says that Apple “has just got to love seeing numbers like this. The age of iPod's total dominance over the PMP scene won't last forever, but with numbers like this it isn't ending anytime soon either.” On the mac vs. pc front Microsoft is continuing it’s ad campaign trying to show the pc is the choice of the cost conscious. However, by giving them the difference, they could guarantee their stooges would pick a pc. After all, could those have been real objective choices with the cameras rolling filming the commercials. In the case of the girl, it turns out she’s a part time actress. As for the techie, other techies studying the specs report that his choice failed in two out of three points of his criteria.

Besides, ads are ads. You can’t expect real objectivity in a commercial. And as for the so-called Apple Tax that Microsoft is trying to drum into pc buyer’s heads, yeah there’s an Apple Tax. Just like there is a BMW tax. It is known as a charge for the quality built into the system. In this world, as the axiom says, “you get what you pay for!” In our opinion, if Microsoft would get over its competitive attitude towards Apple and Google, and concentrate on putting the same excellence into their products that their competition does, then they wouldn’t need an ad campaign to sell their wares. Oh, well, Zune anyone? And let us have a moment of silence for the iPodless Gates and Ballmer children. See, money isn’t everything. Such a shame they are being deprived of their right to know and own quality.

– ☯ –


Pink Floyd’s Famous Back Album Collection

Graphic from

– ☯ –

Little Eddy’s Featured Rhyme Of the Week

Many a time has the poet sung

That youth is wasted on the young.

How did I know that my youth was spent?

Well, my ‘get-up-and-go’ got up and went.

But I really don’t mind when I think with a grin,

Of the places my ‘get-up-and-go’ has bin

Old age is golden I’ve heard it said,

But sometimes I wonder as I go to bed,

With my ears in the drawer, my teeth in a cup,

And my eyes on the table until I wake up.

As sleep overtakes me, I ask myself,

‘Is there anything else I can leave on the shelf?’

I have arthritis in both my knees,

When I walk or talk, I puff and wheeze.

Still, I get up each morning, dust off my wits,

Pick up the paper and read the Obits,

If my name’s not there I know I’m not dead,

So I have a good breakfast & go back to bed.

Sent to us by D.R. whose grandmother used to recite it. As best I remember Pete Seeger used to sing this or something very much like it as a song. If any of you have something you would like to share with our readers, send it to me at: We would love to share it with our readers.§

– ☯ –

Some Vivid Children Camp memories

I spent the summers of 22 of my adult years working as a counselor in three New England children camps, three years at the University Settlement Camp in Beacon, N.Y., six years at Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, and the remainder at Blueberry Cove Camp in Tenants Harbor, Maine. I loved those years, they made for a raft of vivid memories for me. I hope you’ll forgive me if I share some of them with you.

I got my first camp job thanks to Pete Seeger’s wife Toshi, whose parents were the caretakers of the University Settlement Camp, down the road from the Seeger mountainside home near Dutchess Junction, N.Y. I had never even been to a camp as a kid, much less worked at one. But I loved playing banjo and guitar, and leading singing, and that’s just what the directors of the camp wanted. We had sings every night after the evening meal, and during the day I had sings with different groups, one group at a time.

That first summer was a wild experience, we not only had days and evenings of singing, but several counselors and I put on shows for the campers. And from two very talented fifteen year old twin girl work campers, Ellen and Irene Kossoy, I learned the two camp songs which would assure my future as a camp song leader. They were The Ship Titanic and Sipping Cider Through a Straw. Those two songs went right to the heart of every sing I did from then on, and Sipping Cider in particular to this day seems to ring in the ears of some of those former campers. Words cannot express my gratitude to the Kossoy sisters for giving me the gift of those two blockbusters, they made for a nice, long career in camp song leading.

The Settlement Camp was governed in a rather primeval style. For instance, one summer the boys in my cabin did something (I forget what) that evoked the wrath of the camp’s director. It happened just three days from the end of one of the three week trips. The boys were ordered to stay in their cabin except for meals until someone stepped forward to name the purveyor of whatever it had been which caused the uproar. In my view this is not a realistic handling of such an event. The chances of someone unveiling the perpetrator and suffering the ire of his peers was to my mind slim to none. And such a punitive measure sounded more like a reform school tactic rather than one practiced by a three-week children’s camp supposedly dedicated to children’s fun in the outdoors. Of course, no one came forward, and the boys spent the last three days of their trip in their cabin. No sings, no shows. No other campers. They were soundly punished.

I was upset by this, and applied to the camp run by Pete Seeger’s older brother John, Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont. What a beautiful, scenic state Vermont is. Everywhere you look it seems as if you are looking at a scenic post card. Killooleet was no University Settlement Camp. It was a full eight week camp, and consequently was much more evenly paced than the Settlement Camp had been. Most all of the children there were from decidedly upper middle class families, mostly from N.Y. City. When I first went there John and Ellie Seeger were employed as teachers at the Dalton School during the non camp months, but by the time I left John had become headmaster of Ethical Culture’s Fieldston Lower School in the Bronx.

I loved Killooleet so much I talked my younger sister Mary into applying for a job there, and for at least three of my six years she was the shop counselor. One summer, my second and her first if memory serves, it was cold and it rained constantly, day and night, for the first four weeks of camp. And unknown to any of us at the time, one camper had come to camp carrying an undiagnosed case of the whooping cough, a malady rarely seen these days as most of us have had shots to prevent it. But for some reason on that cold, rainy summer it tore its way through the camp like a wildfire. By the third week fully half of the children and counselors had contracted the disease, and the sneezing and coughing was so bad that in the lunch room campers no longer sat at tables with their own group. The tables became “Whooper” tables, and non “Whooper” tables. That summer Life magazine had a two page headline, “Only 7 Whoopers survive the flight to Texas,” referring of course to whooping cranes. One of the kids cut that headline out and taped it on the bulletin board in the Main House.

At Killooleet I was witness to a condition I had never seen before, that of homesickness. Some children got it really bad, for camp was less rushed and kids had more time to themselves in which to get homesick. When I remarked on one particular boy having a bad night, another camper turned to me and said, “don’t pay him no mind. When he goes home he gets just as homesick for camp.”

We had one ten year old boy who was particularly homesick, and who was especially expressive in displaying his condition. His name was David Bloomgarten, and his father was a Broadway Show producer who had a giant hit show running at that time called “A Most Happy Fella.” (You can read Wikipedia’s writeup of it here)!

We had a jolly local doctor who took care of our children when they were ill. We’ll call him Dr. Whitmore. One day David, on one of his particularly down days, went to see the doctor for an illness either real or imagined. The doctor, being ever friendly, asked David what his father did for a living. David replied, “he’s a Broadway Producer.”

”Oh,” said the good doctor with just a touch of skepticism, “and what did he produce?”

With a perfectly straight face David replied, “A Most Happy Fella!” The doctor’s jaw almost hit the floor, as he surveyed the producer’s most unhappy offspring.

Homesickness is a strange malady. David had a bad case of it, but his younger brother was chronically happy and never had a touch of homesickness the entire summer. And this was true in several other brother and sister situations. Oddly enough, it was usually the older one who had the severe case.

The children at Killooleet were always fashionably dressed. I didn’t realize just how fashionable they were until I went to Blueberry Cove camp and then returned to Killooleet for a visit. Blueberry Covers were completely unconscious of how they looked, girls would go shirtless until they reached the age where mother nature begins to augment their upper chest contours.

Every year the late photographer Diane Arbus used to take a group of children to the Bahamas and photograph them in the latest kid fashions, and the shoot would appear as an annual late summer feature in the N.Y. Times Magazine. Looking at the Killooleet children from the perspective of Blueberry Cove I was amazed at how well dressed they all were. Even the youngest girls looked like they had just stepped out of one of the Arbus’ preteen fashion magazines.

Most of Killooleet’s campers were from above average but otherwise undistinguished families. We did have one or two children of exceptional parents, the most impressive being Deena Kaye, the daughter of Danny Kaye and his wife, Sylvia Fine. Deena was an extremely quiet, shy child. She came first at age eight, she was in my sister Mary’s bunk and among other things took guitar lessons from me.

But the most extraordinary quality I remember about her was her reaction the night her father almost saved the longest, most tedious talent show I have ever participated in. First though, I should tell you more about Mr. Kaye’s visit. Deena’s mom had visited earlier in the summer, and there was some question as to whether her father would be able to make it at all. Make it he did, though. He was an effervescent man who went about the camp taking his role of a camp parent very seriously. I saw him for the first time as he was playing ping pong with a camper just outside the Main Building. While I was standing there two boys walked up and checked him out. I went inside the building, and a minute later so did the two boys.

“God,” said one of the boys, “he looks so old.”

”Yeah,” said the other, “he looks old enough to be my father.”

Of course he looked old enough to be your father, I wanted to say. He is a parent of an 8 year old girl. The comment did make me appreciate the anti aging miracle that Hollywood’s makeup artists can and do perform to circumvent the aging process of the stars. In person Kaye looked every one of his forty some odd years, but in his latest movie he looked to be in his mid twenties.

Anyway, back to the longest and most tedious variety show ever staged. It must have featured fully a third of the Camp’s campers and counselors. It went on and on. Fortunately it was emceed by one of the campers, and not by me. At any rate at around 11 pm, the last thirty or so minutes having been, well, frightful, no other phrase quite describes it, in a stroke of inspiration Ellie Seeger, the camp’s co-director, asked Danny Kaye if he would possibly favor us with a song?

Kaye lit up noticeably, knowing full well that after what had preceded him his performance would as a meteor lighting up the night sky. But for me the shock was in his daughter Deena’s reaction. When Ellie made her request Deena turned beet red and kept violently shaking her head as she began silently pleading with her dad not to do it. But Kaye could no sooner have resisted this than he could have walked on water. He went up to the stage, and completely acappella, began the most scintillating performance of “Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones” that I have ever heard. Kaye kept time with his finger snapping right hand, and as he began the song, he got the audience to join with him. It was as riveting a performance as I have ever seen.

However even more interesting to me had been daughter Deena’s reaction. She went from being uncomfortable and embarrassed to not being able to stand it any more, and she made a hasty retreat, spending the rest of Kaye’s remarkable performance by herself in the outdoors.

I was later to learn that when she went back to Hollywood that summer she got her parents to get her guitar lessons from a $25 a half hour teacher. Would that I could ever have charged that?

In thinking back on my first two camps, they could be characterized by the different terminology each used to describe their nude swimming program. At the Settlement Camp it was called “B.A.” (for bare ass) swimming. At Killooleet it was known by its slightly more polite and childlike moniker, “skinnydipping.”§

– ☯ –

So there you have the first installment of my camp memories. Come by again next week for more of this and that, topped off with more summer camp reminisces. Meantime bye now. And sweet dreams all.§

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blog # 82: Vaporware, a Sinking Ship, etc.

– ☯ –

Did Your Computer Catch Conficker?

The much touted threat of Conficker worm’s causing millions of computers to emulate et and phone home for instructions on April Fool’s Day, turned out to be so much vaporware, or as old Will might have put it, “much ado about nothing.” Last Sunday on 60 Minutes Leslie Stahl gave an excellent report on the worm and its possible effects on infected computers, but there was one very important fact she just happened to leave out. The Conficker worm only infects Windows computers. Macintosh and Linux are completely threat free. So for worm and virus free computing next time get a Mac.

– ☯ –

If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Buy ‘em!

The website Torrent Freak reported Thursday that, gosh, geewillerkers, Warner Bros, which failed to beat The Pirate Bay in the Swedish Courts, has, gulp, gulp, bought the company. Torrent Freak puts it in a more newsworthy style.

After years of hostility, lawsuits, police raids and heated invective between the two groups, the Pirate Bay today announced they have settled their differences with US media conglomerate Warner Bros. The largest BitTorrent tracker has sold out to Hollywood and the two have agreed a deal.

The deal, worth over $13 billion (10 billion euros) came about after the recent performance at The Pirate Bay trial gave strong indications that the judgment would go against Warner Bros. For the Hollywood movie studio, it seems that acquiring The Pirate Bay was the only option left.

In the press release, both groups gave a positive outlook to the deal. “The Pirate Bay team has built an exciting and powerful media platform that complements Warner Bros’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” said Jim Kjeyzer, Chief Executive Officer of Warner Bros.”

Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm was similarly forward looking saying “Our community has played a vital role in changing the way that people consume media, creating a new hip culture. By joining forces with Warner Bros, we can benefit from its global reach and technology leadership to deliver a more comprehensive entertainment experience for our users and to create new opportunities for our partners.”

Will wonders never cease? and other clichès of a similar vent. For the complete story point your cursor and click here!

– ☯ –

The Simpsons

Would you believe?

How’s about this bit of news? A chunk of genuine counter culture is about to go mainstream. As mainstream as you can get. It’s going Postal as a matter of fact. Postal, as in stamps.

Honest injun, we kid thee not. Reuters reports that the U.S. Postal Service plans to issue stamps featuring the Simpsons later this year. The 44-cent first-class mail stamps will feature the nuclear family — Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie — and will be designed by the show’s creator and executive producer, Matt Groening. The Simpsons is currently primetime’s longest-running comedy and will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. The stamps will be unveiled on April 9. Odd, this British news service getting a story about Simpson stamps out before the AP.

– ☯ –

Let’s Hear It for Hair!

Speaking of the counter culture, Hair the Musical is in revival on Broadway and all’s well again in the world of the 60’s. In fact, according the review in the N.Y. Times the kids are getting along splendidly. Here are a few words from the Times review:

You’ll be happy to hear that the kids are all right. Quite a bit more than all right. Having moved indoors to Broadway from the Delacorte Theater in Central Park — where last summer they lighted up the night skies, howled at the moon and had ticket seekers lining up at dawn — the young cast members of Diane Paulus’s thrilling revival of “Hair” show no signs of becoming domesticated.

On the contrary, they’re tearing down the house in the production that opened on Tuesday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. And any theatergoer with a pulse will find it hard to resist their invitation to join the demolition crew. This emotionally rich revival of “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” from 1967 delivers what Broadway otherwise hasn’t felt this season: the intense, unadulterated joy and anguish of that bi-polar state called youth.

For the complete review of the new production of Hair go here!

When I was living in New York I saw Hair twice during it’s original Broadway run. It was a searing experience, with great songs, and a billowing spirit. Even the nudity, which comes during the simulated “Be-in” at the end of the first act, seemed appropriate for the times. Or should I have said especially, for let’s face it, nude young people make delightful eye candy. Incidentally, I don’t know about now but if memory serves back then a cast member got paid extra for every time he or she participated in the nude scene. I seem to remember the amount being in the neighborhood of $40, and if so an extra $280 a week on top of their regular salary would have made a rather nice bonus for abandoning ones inhibitions for a few minutes at the end of act one.

The second time I saw Hair the head of New York’s Transit Authority happened to be in attendance. Both his driver and bodyguard had asked if they could watch the show from the wings, thereby alerting the cast of the man’s presence in the audience. At the end of each performance the cast members would leave the stage en masse and exit by way of the aisles and the audience, and that night they roamed up and down the aisles until they found MTA head, whereupon they gathered around the hapless man and proceeded to assail him with pleas to not raise subway fares. I’m not sure how much good it did, I seem to remember the price of tokens going up shortly thereafter, but it made for a lively finish for that night’s performance. It even made the next morning’s papers.

Six Examples of Cool

graphic from

– ☯ –

The Great Texas Child Grab – One Year Later

If you read a news story about 460+ children being swept up in a raid on a religious compound, and being forcibly removed and put into foster care by the state, children of all ages, even nursing infants (although the court later softened its stance by allowing nursing mothers to remain with their infants), where would you think such a monstrous incursion of human and familial rights might have taken place? In the former Soviet Union? Communist China? Iran? Perhaps a modern day dictatorship the likes of Myanmar? Would you believe Texas? As in deep in the heart of.

I wrote the above in a blog in April, 2008. It is one year ago Friday that the State of Texas pulled off the most massive child kidnapping case in the history of the Republic and you’ll be happy to learn that according to a high official in the Texas Child Protective Services, “the dramatic removal of 439 children a year ago from a polygamist settlement was a sound decision and the state would not hesitate to respond the same way again.” On April 3, 2008 Officers of the CPS entered the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, guns drawn, and seized all 439 children living in the polygamist community, including toddlers and babies. CPS claimed that this was done for the “protection” of the children, that the girls were being groomed for early marriages to older men, and the boys were being groomed as future perpetrators.

The fiasco cost more than $12 million in taxpayer dollars on everything from foster care and genetic testing to security, hotels, transportation, and overtime pay for hundreds of state workers. When the dust had settled, the Appeals Court determined the seizure had been illegal and ordered the judge to return the children, a ruling that was concurred in by the State Supreme Court a few days later. And when all was finally settled CPS workers determined that only 12 teen girls among the 439 children had been sexually abused by marrying adult members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

Sect members had access to better-than-average legal counsel and the church had assets once valued at $100 million, which put them in a better position to fight the state agency than most parents investigated. Despite their hold on 19th century dress, members of the cult were quick to use cameras and cable news television and the Web to plead their case.

“They were trying to pull another Waco. They didn’t bring in all those guns for looks,” said Willie Jessop, the spokesman for the 800 or so living at the compound when CPS and law enforcement took the children, an act that would spark around-the-clock media attention for months. “When there weren’t any guns, they changed their story to ‘The belief was the problem.’ ”

The number of children involved, their unusual lifestyle — one where even processed modern food made them physically ill — and their difficulty in identifying which family they belonged to, defied any Texas legal playbook. “I don’t think anyone’s seen a case like this or ever will see a case like this again,” said Randy Stout, a San Angelo attorney.

The state’s unique reasoning for taking all of the children — that the sect’s polygamist structure and unique communal living arrangements put all of the children at risk — was quickly defeated by attorneys for the children’s parents which appealed all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. “Removal of the children was not warranted,” the Appeals Court said in its five-page ruling last May 29. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling a few days later.

In assessing blame for this debacle you would do well to go beyond Judge Walther and the nameless officials of the Texas Child Protective Services, and include the Republican Governor of the State of Texas, Rick Perry, or Mr. Good Hair as the late Molly Ivins used to call him. His office was supportive of the raid, and it is unthinkable that CPS would have pulled off so massive an operation without first getting the Governor’s okay. But after the verdicts came down favoring the parents the governor’s office clammed up. The statement at the top of this article is from Anne Heiligenstein, commissioner of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, leaves no doubt in one’s mind that the Texas CPS has learned nothing about the rights of parents and the due process of the law. If you disagree with this policy of disregarding due process we suggest that you keep this in mind when the next governor’s election rolls around.

– ☯ –

Monsieur Hulot a True Classic

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about downloading a film called Mr. Hulot’s Holiday via bit torrent. Well, it arrived a week ago Friday, and I snuck a peek at it because I couldn’t wait. But the view was rushed, I had last week’s blog on my mind, and I didn’t open myself entirely to the movie. On Monday night with no posting deadline hanging over me, I took a leisurely step back in time (the 1950’s) and gave the film the attention it deserves. Jacques Tati, Monsieur Hulot’s creator, is a very funny man, and the film is filled with funny happenings at a seaside resort during France’s traditional vacation period.

Seeing the film reminded me of the other two great comedians in Jacques Tati’s corner, a corner where visual comedy rules. The greatest (although he didn’t invent the art he certainly brought it to its highest level) was Charlie Chaplin. When I was nine years old I got a little movie projector, and with it came a reel containing the escalator scene from Modern Times. I used to view it incessantly, marveling at Chaplin’s skills in his footwork, easily the equal of the most talented of ballet dancers.

In his autobiography Chaplin remembers the creation of his little tramp character. He wrote: "I had no idea what makeup to put on. I did not like my get-up as the press reporter [in Making a Living]. However on the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression. I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on stage he was fully born."

In Gene Fowler’s biography of the legendary actor John Barrymore, Goodnight, Sweet Prince, he tells of Barrymore seeing Chaplin’s Modern Times in a movie theatre. A few seats down from him sat W.C. Fields, no slight a comedian in his own right. When Chaplin began the escalator scene, trying to go up on a down escalator, his footwork a marvel in frustration, Barrymore reported that Fields was getting ever more agitated. Finally he could stand it no more and he stood and shook his fist at the screen and roared, “you son of a bitch.” The ultimate complement from the ultimate competitor.

Chaplin was part mime, although his later films added sound and dialogue. His humor was primarily visual, which was not surprising since he honed his art during the days of silent movies. He created a character which even though it differed greatly from most people, it was one with which they could identify with. In short Chaplin created a level of humor in his movies which was untouched at the time.

In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the United Artists film distribution company with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith, all of whom were seeking to escape the growing power consolidation of film distributors and financiers in the developing Hollywood studio system. This move, along with complete control of his film production through his studio, assured Chaplin's independence as a film-maker. He served on the board of UA until the early 1950s

Chaplin was a liberal. He thought of himself as an international citizen, and therefore never sought US citizenship, although he made his home in Hollywood from the mid teens to the 1940’s. Unfortunately for him, the country was going through an hysterical right wing phase after World War II and when Chaplin had taken a brief trip to London for the premier of his film Limelight, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made arrangements with the Immigration department to keep Chaplin from reentering the country. Afterwards Chaplin wrote: ".....Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America's yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States."

Chaplin lived out his life in Switzerland, sending his wife Oona O’Neal Chaplin to Hollywood when business needs called. Chaplin entered the country one more time, in 1972, coming out of his exile to accept an Academy Award for "the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century." As he accepted it he received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history, lasting a full five minutes.

Back track with us to the 1950’s. It was a Sunday afternoon. My memory is hazy as to what network it was on, I keep thinking CBS, but it might well have been NBC. On the DVD upon which his work survives, his friend Jack Lemon remarked that Ernie Kovacs bounced around all of the networks.

In the 1950’s television was black and white. That Sunday much hoopla was made over a half hour comedy program featuring Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, and all of the other characters in Warner Bros. cartoons. The program generated a giggle or two, mainly from fans of his cartoons. But it was pretty flat if you were seriously into humor. Then there came on the strangest half hour I had seen on television. There was no audience, no canned laughter. Neither was there any dialogue for the entire half hour. It was Ernie Kovacs creating a new kind of television comedy, one that was in a direct line to that of Charlie Chaplin. It had been a visual half hour, like nothing television had seen before.

At one point on the program Kovacs was in an oh so haughty private club, one he very much didn’t belong in. He kept making the noise of one passing gas. Old men would look on him with stares that could kill. He decides to eat his lunch. He opens his lunch pail and takes the top off of his thermos. He pours his milk, the milk falls to his left splashing on the table, missing his cup completely. He does it again and again, trying to compensate, but it was not to be. (The table was sitting on a platform slanted at an angle. The camera was tilted at the same angle. And so the milk sailed past the glass to puddle on the table.)

The only sound in the entire half hour, other than that of occasional crepitating and other appropriate sound effects, came from the Nairobi Trio, three men garbed in monkey costumes, the one on the right playing xylophone, the one on the left standing and handing something to the one in the middle, Kovacs. All of them were moving in a jerky, mechanical manner, as though they were wind up dolls. Kovacs at one point knocks what the one on the left is handing him out of his hand, and they both look distressed. At the end of the song the one on the left strikes Kovacs on the head with a hammer. It was hilarious, especially in the context of that completely silent half hour.

Kovacs final shows were on ABC, and after his death his wife, Edie Adams, checked with the network and was assured that the tapes would be kept intact. Later on she got a tip that ABC was overwriting the tapes for local weather reports. She sued the network, and got possession of the tapes, which were made into a PBS series, and presently reside on a two-DVD set issued by White Star at: www.whitestarvideo. com

American comedies were peppered with plots, usually translucent and predictable. In earlier times one of the Marx Brothers, Harpo, used visual humor along with grunts and honks, but Groucho and Chico used fast moving dialogue. And the comedies of Danny Kaye and Bob Hope were always done to a strict formula, involving Kaye or Hope in a plot line, frequently casting them as spies, in plots that were hardly believable, but which Hollywood seemed to think were necessary.

It was these same 1950’s that Kovacs had flourished in. I was very much into foreign movies back then because they seem to have a greater impact on me as I had not identified the actors with previous roles. I was particularly impressed with the films of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and I enjoyed the French comedies of Fernandel. Then I happened to see a French film with the American title: Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. It blew me away.

Mr. Hulot had no plot, other than several weeks at a French beach resort. There was character development, a great deal of it. An elderly couple who continually roamed the beach, the woman leading, the man several steps behind. The woman would pick up a seashell, admire it and hand it to the man, who would toss it without giving it a glance. A little boy almost a toddler buys two ice cream cones, and manages to not spill either as he has to reach high to open a door with a cone in the hand. The gruff proprietor looking darkly at the footprints Monsieur Hulot has just laid on the floor, the inevitable good looking young lady, and of course monsieur Hulot himself, an exceeding tall and awkward individual, always trying his damndest to do what was right and usually failing miserably. Only in tennis does he find fulfillment, as he serves so hard he drives his partners to distraction.

Wikipedia describes Tati’s films thusly: “His films have little audible dialogue, but instead are built around elaborate, tightly-choreographed visual gags and carefully integrated sound effects. In all but his very last film, Tati plays the lead character, who - with the exception of his first and last films - is the gauche and socially inept Monsieur Hulot. With his trademark raincoat, umbrella and pipe, Hulot is among the most memorable comic characters in cinema.”

I saw one other Tati film, “Mon Oncle,” but it was filmed in color and it did not have the impact on me that Monsieur Hulot had had. I later concluded that Mr. Hulot, like two other classic films in different genres, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane,” and The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” gained from being in black and white. Shades of gray rather than color gave all three films an spartan quality that each in its own way required. In Hulot’s case, it allowed one’s attention to be focused on the comedy at hand giving it all the more impact, as the eye did not get soothed or softened by a spectrum of colors.

From the website Films of comes this description of Tati, and his alter ego, Monsieur Hulot:

In 1952, Tati released his second full length film, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. The film proved to be a huge success, particularly in the United States, and it earned Tati an international following. It was this film which saw the first appearance of Monsieur Hulot, Tati’s alter ego who would feature in four of his six full-length films.

The names Tati and Hulot are now virtually synonymous, and it is interesting to speculate how much of Tati’s persona is revealed in his portrayal of Hulot. Like Chaplin’s tramp, Monsieur Hulot is a brilliant cinematic creation. An inoffensive, ordinary-looking middle-aged man, he unwittingly sets off a series of disasters wherever he goes and then saunters away, totally oblivious to the mayhem he has caused. A silent loner who attracts neither malice nor glory, Hulot is an adorable yet elusive character who could scarcely be a more fitting self-portrait of Tati himself – but with at least one obvious difference. Whereas Hulot appears to be a bumbling accident-prone good-for-nothing, Tati, as a director, was the opposite – a creative genius who was an obsessive perfectionist.

All in all, watching Mr. Hulot on my computer screen was like taking a step back in time to an earlier, less harried age. It was certainly worth every moment of my time. And like my collections of Saturday Night Live’s first three years, going back in time is something I’ll be doing again and again.

– ☯ –

Before we wear out our welcome we would like to thank you for visiting Little Eddy’s blog, and suggest that if you return next week, we’ll be here with a brand new effort. We promise. Meantime, bye now, and how was that we used to sign off with during World War II? Bye now, and buy bonds.

The Real Little Eddy